The offensive issues left Florida coach Jim McElwain at somewhat of a loss for words following the game. The Gators could muster just 252 yards of offense while gaining 4.1 yards per play.
The issue that received the most attention was Florida quarterback Treon Harris, who went 8-17 for 122 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The sophomore rarely had enough time to stand in the pocket and throw, but even when he did, Harris either didn’t see open receivers or threw errantly.
“I thought he looked spooked at times, and yet I don’t blame him,” McElwain said. “There were some times that we fell down and (FAU defensive lineman Brandin Bryant) was in the backfield before he dropped. That’s tough. (Harris) made a heck of a throw to Jake (McGee), and he made a guy miss and threw the game-winner. So that’s kind of cool.”
Confidence is the concern moving forward for the Florida offense. McElwain was frustrated after the game as he watched the offensive line continue to get whipped and begin to hang its head. As light boos rang out of the stands in The Swamp Saturday, they were aimed at the Florida offense.
McElwain said that Harris will be one of the players coming to his house on Thursday for Thanksgiving, and they’ll address his confidence going into the Florida State game at that time and throughout the week. However, McElwain continued to emphasize that there’s plenty going wrong on the offense that is impacting Harris’ play.
“I don’t think anybody on that side of the ball should be real happy with how they’ve played,” McElwain said. “The team we played took it to us. Here’s the key from here -- how are you going to respond?”
CALLAWAY MAKES PLAYS
Freshman Antonio Callaway continued to help the Florida offense. Even though it was only two catches for 52 yards, one came on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Harris. Callaway continues to get open and made two long punt returns on special teams, with one being called back due to a block in the back.
The freshman is now up to 27 catches for 541 receiving yards, putting him second in school history for receiving yards as a true freshman. Reidel Anthony is still on top of the record with 615 yards.
“That guy’s a real player,” McElwain said. “He’s a true, legitimate SEC ball player. He’s done a great job learning how to play and continues to get better. You guys see this guy after practice, man, he’s drenched. He loves to play the game. This is a hard game, guys. It’s a hard game, and the key is you’ve got to love to play the game.
“He loves to play the game and it’s contagious out there. He energizes people, man. The guy smiles. It’s awesome. He’s got life, he’s got energy and that’s what we need to get.”
KICKING GAME UPS AND DOWNS
Florida punter Johnny Townsend continues to flip field position with ease, but when the Gators need points from field goal kicker Austin Hardin, the same issues started to creep up on Saturday.
Townsend punted nine times with an average of 43.4 yards, dropping six of those punts inside the FAU 20-yard line with zero touchbacks.
“The guy’s gold, man,” McElwain said. “There’s your best punter in the country, in my opinion. Look what he’s done, time in and time out. It’s amazing. And our cover unit too. What he does is he allows them the opportunity to get it because not only operation, but his hang time has been excellent.
“He understands the importance of putting the ball inside the 10. Wow, the guy’s a weapon. He did a great job. And he’s the holder, too, does a great job of holding.”
Hardin went 0-2 against FAU, missing field goals from 33 yards and 34 yards. He pulled the first kick to his left and his it off the upright. He overcorrected on the next field goal, missing wide right to leave points on the field. Hardin also had an extra point blocked in overtime that could’ve cost the Gators the game if FAU found the end zone and converted the extra point.
The frustration continues for McElwain in special teams. Hardin’s big leg is a weapon on kickoffs, but he simply hasn’t been accurate enough on field goals and extra points.
“The guy’s a good kicker,” McElwain said. “He really is. Yet for some reason, he keeps thinking too much rather than just go kick it.”