I Saturday’s episode of ‘The most surprising team in college football’, the Florida Gators got off to a pretty quick start scoring touchdowns on their third and fourth possessions of the game.
The Florida offensive staff is very determined to start games this way, even if it doesn’t work out all the time. As a matter of fact, they try and practice that mindset every day.
“Well you know we try to start fast every day in practice,” Florida sophomore quarterback Treon Harris said shortly after the Gators dispatched South Carolina on the road 24-14. “That’s all we preach: start fast. You gotta get points. You can’t leave points until the second drive you know. So whatever points we get we’re just good with them.
“We had to put the pedal to the metal and come into every game we got our mindset on winning. You know we just had to play each down a play at a time, four seconds at a time and do our assignments and we’ll be very good.”
Harris had a pretty good day statistically going 19-33 for 256 yards and a touchdown. He did make a critical error at the end of the first half throwing an interception in the end zone where points would have put the gators up three scores.
Instead they took a 14-0 lead into halftime and was able to build it to 17-0 with a defense that didn’t allow the Gamecocks more than 70 yards through three quarters of play. But stagnant play on offense and a valiant comeback allowed South Carolina to get within three with 4: 49 left in the fourth quarter. The Gators needed to stop the rally by getting some points of their own.
Starting at their own 25, a first down play netted just one yard. With the South Carolina defense playing run knowing Florida also wanted to run some clock. The Florida offense dialed up an outside throw to Demarcus Robinson for 18 yards and a first down.
The next set of downs netted just two yards on first down. A pass try on second down netted an incomplete as Harris was pressured and threw out of bounds. On 3rd and 8, an obvious passing down, the Florida staff dialed up a run play that didn’t quite go as planned, but needed a 53 yard run for Kelvin Taylor who ran to the play side of the line first (the right side) before cutting back and seeing a huge hole vacated by both linebackers who were following the play. Then he made a safety miss about five yards down the field before ending up just three yards shy of the end zone. The next play Taylor took it in for the final score of the game.
“Well you know we just, offensively we just had in our heads ‘let’s go get some points’ you know keep the defense off the field for a little bit, eat up the clock you know the 4th quarter,” Harris said of the drive. “At that moment we needed a touchdown, we wanted a touchdown and we got our touchdown.”
It goes back to the motto of this team. They needed that drive and that score to ice this game away. In the closing minutes of the Tennessee game they needed to convert a 4th and 14 and wound up with a 60+ yard touchdown strike.
Last week against Vanderbilt, the offense needed to move into position in order to give much maligned place kicker Austin Hardin a chance to win the game. The offense does and Hardin nails a 45 yard field goal for the final points of a 9-7 win.
Even in the Gators lone loss of the season, Harris found Antonio Callaway in the end zone on a play that would have tied up the game really late. An excellent play by an LSU defender knocked the ball away, but the Gators did everything they could to get it done.
They got the game solidifying drive when they needed it on Saturday.
“Well you know coach Mac preached to us all week in practice and all day ‘play the next play, play the next down’,” Harris said. “Football is not gonna be perfect, you know there’s gonna be some bad games, some great games, some OK games. But our mindset is ‘play the next down.’”
The thing about this team and everything they have overcome to be in national championship playoff contention is that they work together and they believe in one another that the other guys around them are going to do their job.
“We’re very confident you know, we trust in ourselves like coach Mac says,” Harris said. “We knew how to win. We knew how to find ways to win the game.”
Harris said that the belief in the coaching staff and Jim McElwain from the players came early on when they all got to know the man that is no doubt the SEC Coach of the Year if not the national representative of the award in 2015.
“No doubt we believed in Coach Mac from day one when he stepped on campus,” Harris said. “The drills we were doing in the offseason, you know the leaders we had like when the team (dies together). We just saw everybody come together as a family, working hard and just getting better every day the whole summer (and) offseason.”
And they have just recognized a lot of the fruits of their labor with the completion of a 7-1 SEC season and a berth in the SEC Championship game in three weeks in Atlanta. It is enough to make Harris and his teammates want to pinch themselves.
“Oh it means a lot to me,” he said. “Second year in college, feels great you know. The locker room was very happy, guys jumping up, running around, yelling, and laughing.”
Then Harris paused, because he knows… it’s on to the next play.
“But we’ve just got this stage done; now we’re moving on to the next stage. It’s playoffs from here on out. Every game is a playoff game for us.”