FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Florida Gators wanted to have a statement game Saturday, but they sent the wrong message at Arkansas.
The UF offense took a giant step backwards and the defense gave up 466 yards as the Razorbacks (6-3, 3-3) rolled to a 31-10 win.
Florida (6-2, 4-2) is now tied for first in the SEC East standings with Kentucky, but holds the tiebreaker on account of its win over the Wildcats earlier this year. However, a Kentucky win over Georgia (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday) would give the Wildcats a half-game advantage because of conference games played — Kentucky has played one more conference game than Florida.
When the Gators gave up a 10-play, 87-yard touchdown drive just before half. Had they kept Arkansas from scoring, it would have been a 14-7 game going into the locker room. Instead, the Razorbacks took a commanding two-touchdown lead that UF couldn’t come back from.
The Gators were looking for a big road win Saturday after struggling in their first two away games at Tennessee and Vanderbilt. But Florida faltered once again, falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never recovering from the early deficit. Coming off a 131-yard passing performance against Georgia, quarterback Luke Del Rio had another poor outing at Arkansas. He threw a pair of picks and struggled to move the ball through the first three quarters. Del Rio led the offense on a late scoring drive, but the outcome was decided by then.
Is it time to try someone else at quarterback? Fans were calling for graduate transfer Austin Appleby on Saturday, but UF coach Jim McElwain chose to stick with Del Rio. The offensive issues are not all his fault, but he’s been a disappointment and very unproductive since his return to the starting lineup. The Gators still have a chance to win their division, so they would likely go with Appleby if a change is made next week. But if Florida loses another game, perhaps it would be beneficial to start grooming one of the true freshman quarterbacks for 2017.
UF led the SEC and ranked No. 6 nationally in third-down conversions prior to Saturday’s game. Against Arkansas, however, the offense converted just one of its 11 attempts.
What it means:
A victory Saturday would have put the Gators one win away from clinching the SEC East. But if they keep regressing offensively, there’s a strong chance they could lose their final two conference games.