Florida report card: Gators hobble into SEC Championship game
Former Gators wide receiver Chris Doering said it best after Saturday night’s game: “It’s hard to watch offensive football that’s so inept.” The offense was downright atrocious. There’s no sugar-coating this one.
Florida scored exactly two points for the first time since 1939. The Gators needed a safety to avoid its first shutout since 1988.
Here are the grades Florida gets for its 27-2 loss against Florida State.
I was very tempted to give Florida an F here, but running back Kelvin Taylor really had an impressive game, despite the fact Florida State knew quarterback Treon Harris wasn’t going to be able to beat the Seminoles with his arm.
That brings me to my next point. Barring any injuries at the start of next season, my prediction is this Saturday in the SEC Championship game will be Harris’ last game at quarterback for Florida. He’s arguably the worst quarterback in recent Florida history. Yes, worse than Jeff Driskel and worse than John Brantley, in my opinion. Those guys could hit an open receiver. Harris can’t. What’s worse is the fact that Harris just can’t see an open receiver. He has consistently missed open receivers this season, and they were there Saturday against FSU.
Harris finished 19-of-38 for 134 yards and was sacked four times. Despite his struggles, Jim McElwain said Harris will remain the team’s starter.
“He could have played better, but so could some other guys, so could some other guys around him,” McElwain said. “He’s our quarterback and he’s going to get a little bit better this week as we go into the SEC championship game.”
The Gators had 19 first downs and had red zone scoring opportunities but the offense ended up with no points.
It’s a miracle that Florida has won as many games as it has with Harris under center. But let’s be clear, it’s not like he is a main reason for those victories.
Once Will Grier returns from his year-long suspension for performance-enhancing drugs in week seven next season, I fully expect him to take over the starting job. For the first six weeks, look for transfer Luke Del Rio to be the starter.
This Gators defense is the main reason why Florida has won 10 games this season. Through three quarters, Florida only gave up 158 yards. The unit ran out of gas in the fourth quarter, as Florida State running back Dalvin Cook kicked it into another gear. He finished with 183 yards and two touchdowns.
Like they have done all season, the Gators’ defenders gave the offense plenty of chances to capitalize on momentum-shifting stops, but the offense did nothing with its chances.
“They played their tails off,” McElwain said of the defense. “Gave us every opportunity to win the game.”
Special Teams: D
Like Treon Harris, I fully believe that this Saturday will be kicker Austin Hardin’s final game kicking for the Gators, barring injury next season.
“We’ll get a kicker,” McElwain said after the game. “That’s our responsibility and we’ll get one. And we’ll get a good one.”
Hardin, once again, had a field goal blocked and wasn’t close on a 51-yard attempt. Hardin has been abysmal this season, making just 5-of-13 field goal attempts. His woeful kicking game affects the offense because there is no field goal range with him, because he has been prone to miss from anywhere this season. It’s pretty much touchdown or bust because Hardin is so terrible.
Hardin wasn’t the only one to mess up. Chris Thompson was called for a fair-catch interference, which wiped away a chance for a good scoring opportunity. Ahmad Fulwood was called for a block in the back after Valdez Showers had a long return. Finally, Antonio Callaway found no room on any punt return.
The special teams can’t get an “F” though because of punter Johnny Townsend. Where would the Gators be without him, honestly? He flips the field almost every single punt opportunity he gets, and he gets a lot of them, because, you know, that Gators offense is putrid. He punted nine times Saturday, and he got three of those inside the 20.
It’s scary to think about what’s going to happen this weekend against Alabama. If Harris couldn’t find open receivers against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Florida Atlantic and have almost half of his incompletions batted down at the line of scrimmage against Florida State, how’s he going to fare against a Crimson Tide defense that entered this past Saturday with the nation’s No. 3 defense?
With the way Florida has played over the past four weeks, the only way I see the Gators having a chance against Alabama is a game that mirrors the Ole Miss game earlier this season. Florida forced four turnovers and played mistake-free football.
No matter what happens in the SEC Championship game, this season has been an overwhelming success for the Gators. No one thought they would win 10 games this quickly.