FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — To preface, nothing worked offensively for Florida on Saturday.
Not a running game that totaled 12 yards on 14 carries (including 25 negative yards charged to the quarterback) — OK, especially not the running game — and not anything the Gators tried through the air.
Luke Del Rio’s longest completion was a 25-yard pickup on Florida’s final drive. In fact, four of his six longest completions came on that last possession. The team’s longest drive through the first three quarters was five plays.
That’s one way to sum up Arkansas’ 31-10 demolition of the Gators.
But there has been a key element missing the last four games that Florida must address if it’s going to be any threat offensively down the stretch.
Star sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway needs to be more involved, whichever way the Gators can manage to do that.
Through his first three games this season, Callaway had 17 catches for 335 yards and a couple touchdowns.
Since then, he has been held under 50 yards four straight games while totaling 14 catches for 150 yards and no receiving touchdowns. Rendered a non-factor Saturday, he finished with 4 grabs for 44 yards.
As Del Rio noted after the game, defenses game-plan to minimize Callaway and it’s working.
“They obviously keyed on him a lot today. They were playing man across the board, but they moved the free safety just to him. I have never seen that before, ever,” Del Rio said. “It was a unique look and it worked to an extent; we still got him some touches. I thought our game plan was fine. I just need to do a better job of not trying to force the ball to him and just take what the play is. Not every play is going to be a 60-yard gain. I need to realize that.”
Callaway only caught 2 passes for 21 yards through the first three quarters while the Gators were still at least in the game.
Again, far from the only problem.
The passing game is struggling across the board, and coach Jim McElwain admitted he thought about yanking Del Rio from the game. The quarterback finished 19-of-37 passing for 229 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions and put the blame squarely on himself.
“Our play designs are perfect for whoever’s defense we go against. It’s my job … We design the plays so if they cover one, then two should be open. And if they cover both those then three is definitely open,” Del Rio said. “It’s my job to notice that and take what the defense is giving you.”
Added left tackle David Sharpe: “I felt like we’ve played much better on offense and I just felt like nothing went our way today.”
The Gators have a lot to fix on that side, but finding some creative ways to get the ball to their best offensive playmaker should be a priority.