Quarterbacks shine in Gators’ blowout

Florida coach Jim McElwain promised an aerial attack that would excite the fan base and bring energy to the stadium.

On Saturday night, he delivered while blasting New Mexico State 61-13, setting the school record for points scored by a Florida coach in his debut.

The Florida offense posted 606 yards with 382 of them coming through the air as Will Grier and Treon Harris continue to battle for the full-time starting role. Harris earned the start for Florida and played the entire first quarter, finishing out a touchdown drive that lasted into the early second quarter. Grier entered on the next drive and didn’t come out until past the midway point of the third quarter. Harris played until Josh Grady took over with 3:02 remaining and the game all but over.

Harris went 14-19 for 215 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while adding five rushes for 23 yards. Grier went 15-17 for 164 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions with four rushes for 44 yards and one touchdown while also losing a fumble. Of Grier’s two incompletions, one came on his first throw of the game -- which McElwain deemed “just a bit outside” in his best Bob Uecker voice -- and the other came on a drop by Ahmad Fulwood.

Who played better? That’s still up in the air, a question even Jim McElwain wasn’t sure of after the game. However, McElwain did say it was likely that they would continue to play both quarterbacks next week against East Carolina.

“I could see that,” he said. “We’ll take a look at this and probably do something similar next week, I’m thinking right now. We haven’t sat down and talked about it, obviously, but I could see us do that. Both guys are doing a great job. They looked comfortable.”

Harris started out on fire. He completed his first eight passes of the game in an offense designed to move the pocket and get Harris on the perimeter. With his athleticism, there’s an argument to be made that he’s the better fit at quarterback because of his elusiveness.

Grier wouldn’t be outdone in that category. During his third drive of the game, he realized no receivers were open while stepping up in the pocket. The redshirt freshman tucked the ball, outran two defenders in the middle of the field and picked up 38 yards before keeping the ball on a four-yard rush for his first career rushing touchdown.

“For the most part, the quarterbacks were at the right spot. They’ll see a couple they missed but both guys played really well. I thought they both did a great job. They really did. We moved the ball with both of them. The whole team responded well to both of them. For the most part, both of them did a pretty good job and I’m glad we have both of them.”

Grier was also able to lead a two-minute drill after the Florida defense gave up a touchdown with 1:46 remaining in the first half. The seven-play, 75-yard drive ended on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Grier to C’yontai Lewis, who was running open up the seam.

The redshirt freshman was also able to come out of halftime and start with the offense, giving him a chance to simulate what life as the starting quarterback could be like if he wins the job.

When Harris came off the field at the beginning of the game, Grier was there to give him a high five and talk about what he saw on the field. When Grier was coming to the bench after a drive, Harris was there to do the same thing.

“We talked about a partnership in this,” McElwain said. “Whoever came off the sideline, there was interaction from the get-go. Both of them were really into the game and we’re going to need that as we go forward.

“We’ll get in, grade the film and set a plan for next week as we move forward.”

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