That sound you hear is all of Gator Nation breathing a collective sigh of relief. Boy, it was not a pretty sight for the third straight week. Florida needed overtime to beat Florida Atlantic 20-14.
But the most important thing about those three games is that Florida won all of them. Jim McElwain keeps on saying the Gators are finding ways to win, and he’s right. He’s now the first coach in program history to win 10 games in his first season. Spurrier didn’t do it. Neither did Meyer. This Florida team, with all of its flaws, did it for McElwain. That’s a testament to the winning culture he has created.
When McElwain said Florida has 15 opportunities to play games at the start of the season, everyone looked at the coach like he had horns growing out of his head. Fifteen opportunities meant the Gators would be playing in the national championship game. What do you know? That’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Before we get to the Florida State game this weekend, here are the grades Florida earned based on its performance against FAU.
Florida’s offensive line was atrocious Saturday in arguably the unit’s worst performance of the season. Florida Atlantic had a total of zero sacks in its previous three games, but the Owls sacked Treon Harris five times. The offensive line created minimal holes all game with Florida averaging 2.9 yards per carry.
Harris could help the offensive line a bit if he were able to make plays to keep opposing defenses honest. It’s clear Harris isn’t progressing like he should be. For the most part, he zones in on his first read and misses lots of open receivers because of it. Until Harris is able to go through his progressions, teams will stack the box. Unlike the Gators’ past three opponents, though, Florida State’s and Alabama’s defenses will be able to make plays without stacking the box. It may get ugly the next two games for Harris and the offense.
Once again, the defense stepped up and secured a victory for Florida. Without an elite defense, the Gators would have lost to the Owls because the offense is horrific.
The only negative was allowing a 75-yard touchdown drive in the second half. Other than that, the defense was lights-out.
Florida forced three turnovers and set up the offense nicely with great scoring opportunities, but it’s not like that unit did anything with its chances.
Special Teams: D
This unit is hard to judge because Florida is really good at at punting and returning punts, but it’s really bad at kicking. Austin Hardin is statistically one of the worst kickers in college football, with Florida fifth to last in field goal percentage. On Saturday, Hardin missed two short field goals and had his extra point blocked in overtime. The Gators added walk-on kicker Neil MacInnes, but it’s clear the coaching staff has no faith in him; otherwise he would be playing over Hardin. The kicking situation won’t be resolved this season.
There’s lots of room for improvement, and the Gators will need to get better before their last two games of the regular season. If Florida continues to play like it has been the past two weeks, it’s going to be extremely difficult to beat Florida State on Saturday and the SEC West winner in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 5.