JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A year ago, Florida quarterback Treon Harris basically could have played Georgia – and won – while wearing oven mitts.
As the Gators were running riot – gaining 418 yards on the ground – Harris was only asked to throw the ball six times. And nothing downfield. His first career start, against a then top-10 team, was a matter of staying within the strict Hippocratic command of doing no harm.
With a new coach and a newly varied offense, Harris showed a different side of himself in the beating of Georgia Saturday. Why, he dropped back to throw six times on just Florida’s opening possession.
And when he unloaded a 66-yard touchdown completion to freshman receiver Antonio Callaway in the second quarter, the 13-0 Florida lead looked over-sized considering the overall lack of offensive production in this game. An explosive play of any sort was a thing of rare beauty.
The touchdown brought together all the elements of Harris’ skill set as well as the more creative mind of first-year Florida coach Jim McElwain (compared to predecessor Will Muschamp). Harris deftly rolled left, buying time and putting the Georgia defense on its heels. Callaway meanwhile sprinted behind Georgia’s Jonathan Abram. Harris hit him in stride 30 yards downfield, and the quick freshman did the rest.
Harris is technically considered a back-up, having stepped in three weeks ago when Will Grier was suspended for testing positive for a performance enhancer. But this was no wide-eyed sophomore dazed by an SEC East-defining game.
Harris was coming off his career best outing, granted in a loss, when he threw for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns against LSU.
Against Georgia, he threw effectively and efficiently enough, completing 8-of-19 for 155 yards, the one touchdown and no interceptions. He also kept enough drives alive with his running (gaining 39 yards net) to stake the Gators to a more than 13 minute advantage in time of possession.
“He’s always making plays. He trusts his legs, he knows how to make plays on the run and he understands this offense,” running back Kelvin Taylor said. As has been the usual practice, Harris did not speak to the media post-game.
Saturday was not a quarterbacking tour de force, but Harris was at least one big play better than anything the Bulldogs could muster.
The mitts have come off and, asked to do more with the Florida offense, Harris is now 6-3 as a starter. And one number along that theme sticks out particularly to his coach.
“Treon made some plays when he had to,” Jim McElwain said. “Guys, at the end of the day he’s 2-0 in this ballgame as a starter. Two-and-Oh. That means something. I’m proud of him.”