For a young offense, it’s all about improvement. With a redshirt freshman quarterback and an offensive line with 10 scholarship players that hadn’t played a down in college before this season, the offense continues to grow. Saturday night’s 38-10 blowout of No. 3 Ole Miss (4-1, 2-1 SEC) was just the latest example.
The Gators (5-0, 3-0 SEC) piled up 355 yards with 296 coming in the first half. Florida spent the second half with slow, methodical drives aimed at eating time off the clock. But the first half showed an offense that looks to be ahead of schedule.
“Offensively, we did an OK job,” McElwain said. “I thought (we) took some shots, were aggressive. We’re growing up offensively, we’re getting a little bit better and that’s what we want to do.”
The shots came early and often. Some of the shots were on purpose, some were dump downs that turned into explosive plays.
After both teams went three-and-out to start the game, Florida opened its second drive by rolling Will Grier out to take some pressure off him. He delivered a strike to Demarcus Robinson for 14 yards, but after back-to-back run plays and a quick pass to Robinson, the Gators dialed it up deep.
They worked on the play in practice, running Antonio Callaway across the middle of the field with hopes of drawing the Ole Miss safety to that route. It worked to perfect, opening up the deep middle portion of the field for Robinson to haul in a perfectly thrown 36-yard touchdown with Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche bearing down on Grier.
With a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter, Grier through into a tight window and hit Brandon Powell for a third-down conversion that turned into a 77-yard touchdown with 70 of the yards coming after the catch.
It looked too easy for a Florida offense that looks well ahead of the learning curve.
“We’re growing up, we’re getting a little bit better,” McElwain said. “We’re learning to compete. I think the biggest thing we’re learning is we’re learning how to go about our daily business. It’s OK to play hard, to practice hard. It’s OK to care. Bit by bit, I see these guys growing up.”
Leading the charge with the improvement is the Florida offensive line. Mike Summers was tasked with piecing together a unit that lost four players to the NFL last season and returned only one player with any starting experience at Florida. The early games posed problems on the ground, and although Florida averaged just 3.0 yards per carry, the offensive line kept a clean pocket for Grier to do his work through the air.
The Gators tinkered up front, moving Trip Thurman to center and using Martez Ivey at left guard some during the second quarter. They’ve moved bodies around the keep them fresh and try to find the right mix. They allowed just two sacks on Saturday against a stout Ole Miss defensive line.
“Yeah they were good,” McElwain said. “We’ll get better. They’re still growing. Not a bunch of starts there compared to the guys we’re playing.”
Outmanned and out-experienced on paper, the Florida offense has found different ways to make it work on its way to a 5-0 start.