The Gators went into the game without starting right guard Tyler Jordan. Although there were some communication issues and a few misses here and there, McElwain really liked the way his guys up front competed.
“First and foremost, to kind of recap last week… there were an awful lot of good things,” McElwain said of watching the film. “Rushing the ball the way we did, still, I would like to make a safety miss and finish as we’re getting out. You know, that was a great effort especially without Tyler Jordan. I thought the guys did a really good of getting in there, Fred (Johnson) moving down to guard, obviously Richerd (Desir-Jones) did a good job starting there and Kavaris Harkless came in and really played well too. That was really a real positive.”
The television cameras caught the action of tight ends DeAndre Goolsby, Cyontai Lewis and even Moral Stephens. All three were really working hard up front in helping the offensive line do their jobs as well.
“I think our tight ends, really for the first time I saw them finishing blocks and doing some things,” McElwain said. “And obviously getting involved in the passing game, that’s something we need to continue to do moving forward.”
With All-American receiver Antonio Callaway on the bench with injury and starting quarterback Luke Del Rio injured during the contest and out for at least a couple of weeks, the gators are going to need those facets of the offense to really step up.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators were setting records. Giving up just 53 total yards, this defense set the new school record for the least amount of total yards allowed in a game. The defense leads the nation in scoring giving up just 14 points total in their three games. They are playing on another level at this point.
“Defensively, shoot, any time you can hold somebody to negative yards rushing and force somebody to be one dimensional, that was pretty awesome,” McElwain said. “I think the beauty of the whole deal was that statistic, in being what somebody said like being the best in the history of the Florida football...That being said, it’s because of the unselfish nature in which the guys played. Our players of the game on defense were the whole defensive line.”
With Josh Dobbs at quarterback for Tennessee, the Gators know they have their work cut out for them. A year ago, Dobbs tore through the Gator defense like a hot knife through butter. Dobbs threw for 83 yards a year ago but torched the Gators on the ground for 136 yards. Against North Texas and their running quarterback, things were different holding the Mean Green to -13 yards on the ground and the two quarterbacks to -55 on the ground.
“To be honest, we had guys trying to do too much,” McElwain said of a year ago. “And, not as an excuse, this guy is a good player, so he makes you look bad. He’s a great player and we never stopped him an ounce last year. I’m sure in their minds this is a walk in the park for them and probably should think that based on how we performed against them a year ago. We’ll see. That’s really what makes them tick. He’s a great player. I go back to their production. They’re putting the ball in the end zone. That’s what is helping them win games.”
The Florida pass defense has allowed just nine completions in the last two games, compare that to the 12 sacks the Gators have posted and you can see that the pass defense is on another level as well.
“We’ve got a great challenge and you know what, guys did their job (this week),” McElwain said. “In the backend, they challenged receivers. Obviously, some pass interferences, and you know that’s going to happen. That’s part of the game. We’ve just got to continue to be aggressive both offensively and defensively as we move forward.
You can see it on the field, but also sense that McElwain believes he might have a very special group of defenders. He gives credit to the previous staff for having a bunch of them on campus and his own staff for not changing things up too much on that side of the ball.
"You've got to give credit to what Will (Muschamp) and his staff did putting and assembling the type of players there,” McElwain said of the defense. “Then obviously a lot of those guys are making plays, and what has happened is those guys have been great teachers of the newer faces. I mean, what did we play last week? Twenty-something new guys, whatever it was. I think what they've done is instill a mindset and that's been great. Our defensive staff, we're not reinventing the wheel when we put that together. We knew that that's something that was successful, so there's not a big reason to change, but rather just keep going. What I like is how hard they're playing, but more than that, how disciplined and how well they're playing together. It's just great to see."
The Gators’ head coach also kind of challenged the special teams’ units as well. They came away with good grades after watching film.
“In special teams, which you know was a big emphasis for us the week before, we had some guys really doing their job in an up-tempo fashion,” McElwain said. “We didn’t get much of a chance on the return. They went the rugby kick and kinda kicked it away from us and yet, I kinda look at that as a sign of respect. That’s ok. I’ll take that. I think we did a good job there. Eddy seemed to kick the ball pretty well. We’re going to need that this week because
Closing practice from the media…
With a new quarterback starting the game and maybe some new wrinkles McElwain wants to install for the big thing, he has decided to close off practice for the few minutes on Tuesday and Wednesday that are normally open. He called it giving the media a rest for all of their hard work.
“Because of what we’re doing and what we need to do in preparation, I know you guys have had a long, already kind of long season,” he started. Talk about covering through two a days, covering through the first three games. I think it’s important to give you guys a bye and rest you up a little bit to go on a road trip, because it’s been at home. We’re going to go ahead and close our practices this week.
“Not that I don’t trust anybody in here. I trust each and every one of you, all right? But there (are) some things we kind of need to do to that I’d just appreciate that we kept to the Gators and go on from there… nothing drastic. But obviously we have some new things we have to work on.
“I look at it more for your guys, being able to get a little extra rest. I think that’s it. Sometimes you become grump, because you haven’t had enough sleep. You know what? I think you ought to thank me. I brought you ice cream to fatten you up a little bit, now I’m going to give you a little bye week here to get you to Tennessee.”
McElwain will continue sharing the load at running back…
Florida had four running backs carry the ball against North Texas. Three backs carried it 11 times and a fourth carried it nine times. All four backs averaged over five yards per carry and all four scored a touchdown.
The fans are always going to have a favorite and want one guy to carry the load, but McElwain doesn’t see it happening that way.
"You know, I go back early in coaching and you kind of had that one guy,” he said. “You just fed him, and you know, by game seven they're beat to heck, trying to get them through a game becomes hard.
“Probably where we really kind of got this philosophy was when I was at Alabama, and I think about when we had Eddie Lacy as our fourth-team running back. That was a pretty good option, and yet we were able to mix those guys in and come the fourth quarter, we wore people down.
“Wearing them down a little bit was something that I like. Rotation, we have kind of a set way of going and then we kind of look at it in the fourth and kind of go from there a little bit. I think every guy's kind of done some things pretty good. Kind of an unsung guy, everybody talks about the four guys, but Mark Herndon's done a heck of a job in our split back stuff as well. Obviously not as much production running it, but really unselfishly has helped that be a pretty decent package for us. So it allowed us to get a couple running backs on the field at the same time, and it'll continue."
He would like to see the backs break more of the long runs McElwain said the guys up front this past weekend did a good job of getting to the second level and the backs need to cut off of those blocks in order to get the big plays.
“You know what, they did a pretty good job,” McElwain said of the offensive line and tight ends in the running game. I think we need to make guys miss. We're blocking it to the safety at times. We missed some cuts, and yet, that's just continuous playing. They did all right.”
Keep it here at Fightin’ Gators as we bring you more from Monday’s press conference interviews.