Roper hoping lost opener won't hurt

There’s nothing the Florida coaching staff could’ve done to change the situation during Saturday’s suspended game, but losing the chance to play the season opener could hurt the new Florida offense.

Florida’s Saturday game against Eastern Michigan serves as the only opportunity for Kurt Roper’s new offense to get on the field before the start of Southeastern Conference play against Kentucky. There are now only two chances for the Gators to get on the field before they travel to face Alabama, one of the top teams in the country.

The outcome of the game against Idaho likely wouldn’t have been in doubt, but with most coaches usually seeing the most improvement from the first to the second game of the year, the Gators will play that second game against the Wildcats on September 13.

"You obviously like to get all the games in that you can,” Roper said on Tuesday. “Obviously losing that game affects you. It also slows you down on learning what you're good at, what you're not good at, who you are, who those players are that you can really hang your hat on. So obviously it affects you.”

The person impacted the most by it, according to Roper, was his six-year-old daughter. She came to the game dress in orange and blue with painted nails, ready to watch her dad coach in his first game at Florida. As the game got later, Roper’s mother-in-law had to take her home and get her to bed, and she told the Florida offensive coordinator, “I’m just so disappointed.”

The challenge now is to avoid letting that be an excuse.

“Some teams plays SEC games in their opener,” Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “Coming out of camp, we felt like we were ready to play. We still have one game before we get into SEC schedule. No matter how your schedule lines up, you’ve got to be ready to go. There’s no excuses.”

On his way down from the press box, Roper was standing with running backs coach Brian White and defensive line coach Brad Lawing talking about their experiences with delayed and suspended games. That’s when Roper realized he was dealing with a first in his own career. He has been through delays before, specifically in his first game at Duke, but a suspended game was a new one.

Before the game got started, the coaches had a chance to walk the field and view the playing surface. It was soaked, causing footing issues for the players. The offensive coaches talked about some tweaks to the game plan, possibly looking more at the running game because of the footing issues.

“When you started looking at how wet the field was, there was obviously some discussions taking place,” Roper said. “You just wondered how hard it was going to be to exchange the football, whether it was between the quarterback and center, center and running backs. And you start wondering how wet it is when you’re going to throw it.”

That won’t necessarily be the case in future games when the weather is bad. Roper likes the advantage his offense has on a wet field when the players know where they’re going with the ball.

“We obviously had that discussion,” Roper said. “I can't sit there and say that we were going to run the ball a lot more, but we were going to get the game started and go from there."

Fightin Gators Top Stories