Florida Gators’ offense continues regression

The Florida offense’s struggles were magnified against one of the best defenses.

ATLANTA, Ga. -- The showing against Florida State last weekend was bad enough for the Florida offense. What happened on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game somehow managed to be worse. The Gators managed 180 yards while falling to Alabama 29-15.

The defensive dominance continues to keep Florida in games during the first half before wearing out after being on the field for too long. The same, familiar situation played out on Saturday against an Alabama team destined for at worse the No. 2 slot in the College Football Playoff.

The Gators managed 4.0 yards per play, but the bigger issue was that they only ran 45 plays, the fewest in any game this season. Treon Harris hit C.J. Worton for a 46-yard touchdown catch that completed a three-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. It’s the only offensive touchdown the Gators have scored in the last two games.

“My hat's off to an outstanding Alabama Crimson Tide team that took our offense out of it,” McElwain said.

The worst news for Florida is that it didn’t take the Crimson Tide’s elite defense to expose this. It was obvious against a strong Florida State defense last week, but disappointing performances against Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic in November made it obvious what the Gators are with the ball. They just aren’t good enough on offense. Florida squeaked out enough wins to get to 10-3 this season and could push it to 11 games with a bowl win.

No unit has been consistent enough for the offense. Kelvin Taylor has been the best player on the Florida offense, and he came into Saturday’s game needing 23 yards to become the second running back at Florida to surpass 1,000 yards since the start of the 2005 season. He’ll need to wait until the Gators’ bowl game if he wants to accomplish that after having seven carries for eight yards against the Crimson Tide. 

The offensive line has been sporadic at best. Wide receivers and tight ends played well when Will Grier was at quarterback and continue to get open, but they haven’t been able to make enough plays because of the inaccuracy of Treon Harris. The Gators have been completely limited because of the struggles at quarterback. Florida coaches and players have all said the right things about needing to play better around him, but the real problem has been crystal clear over the last three weeks. They simply need more accuracy when the Gators have to throw. 

“You can’t think (negatively) about football, you have to go out and play football, execute,” Harris said. “When we took the lead I knew we had the momentum, and right after that, Alabama went down and scored. I really thought things would go our way a lot, but it didn’t. We’ve got to get better at that. It’s a problem that we need to fix.”

The issues on offense didn’t take the Florida staff by surprise. They knew struggles were possible with their first Florida team full of players that the previous staff recruited. Because of that, there are less-than-ideal fits at multiple positions, including the quarterback spot.

In McElwain’s eyes, that is what made this season so special. After predicted to finish fifth in the SEC East with most expecting 6-7 wins, McElwain and the staff managed to coach their first time at Florida to 10 wins.

“It was hard, but you know what made it easy is the look in these guys' eyes, the want, the commitment to each other,” McElwain said. “You knew there was going to be some deficiencies here and there, but that's what makes it so special, man, are these kids. They didn't take no for an answer when we came in here, and they found a way to win some ball games.

“I just can't tell you how proud I am of these players and the commitment they've made to each other and to this university. It's a great building block for the future.”

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