Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s first loss (on the road at Alabama) and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Tennessee Volulnteers, which is set for noon on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.
FIX THE GLITCH(ES)
Florida struggled mightily against Alabama, especially in the second half, but Roper – and head coach Will Muschamp – have boiled down the Gators’ issues to one particular problem, the team’s inability to convert (offensively) or get off the field (defensively) on third down.
While UF certainly has to work on its passing game and sloppiness in the secondary, the team has struggled the most when trying to execute the most important down in the game of football.
“We played too many bad down and distances. I don’t think we ever kept ourselves in good situations that way, which created a bunch of [third down situations where we had to gain long yardage]. I don’t think we were very productive, really [on] any down and distance. But I think because of our poor production on our early downs, we really struggled on our third downs against a good defense,” Roper explained.
With two weeks to turn things around offensively, Roper is confident that Florida has a good awareness about itself entering its second road game of the season. His focus has been ensuring the Gators keep their confidence high despite hitting a speed bump in their last game.
“[We do that] through the practice field. What I mean by that is: don’t change, stay the course. Here’s who we are. Here’s what we do offensively. Let’s keep getting better at it. Let’s figure out where we need to improve or figure out if somebody else can help us in this situation there,” he said. “But it’s really [just] stay the course. It’s not come in and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got to change directions.'”
It is for that reason that Roper is not only keeping Florida level-headed by practicing the same way each day but also ensuring he exudes a sense of steadiness.
The last thing he would want is for the Gators to get a sense that he has strayed away from his offseason plan simply because of one abhorrent performance from his unit.
“I hope I stay who I am and when you go to the practice field. I think the big thing is I don’t want to put out the perception that when I’m on the practice field it’s all fun and games. I mean, there is a mentality, a toughness mentality, a focus mentality, and an effort mentality. I don’t think that’s changed at all,” he said.
“I think when you get in the hallway, I’m still the same person. My whole philosophy is: if we’ve got guys trying and giving effort, then we’ll coach you; if we have to coach the effort and those things, that’s when we’re not fun to be around. … We’ve got a group playing hard, practicing hard and giving us what they’ve got. I’m going to be who I am.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On drops that have plagued Florida’s wide receivers this season: “Obviously the drops are the things that stand out. We’ve obviously had a couple of those on third down where we would have had conversions. So, it’s just a point that football is the ultimate team game. You’ve got to have 11 guys working together to make a play, and if you’re off just a little bit, sometimes it’s going to take you off the field and makes it harder to score points.”
» On returning to Knoxville, where he grew up and coached: “I haven’t thought about it much, but it is a special place to me, to my family. The first time I got there it was 1977; I was four years old. I loved it then; dad was a coach, just thought it was awesome. Then I was able to GA there in the late ‘90s and then went back early 2000s. It’s a special place, but you know, you learn in this profession where you are [coaching] is home. … Knoxville is a special place to me because I met my wife there and all that. Shoot, we’re enjoying Gainesville, too.”
» On not trying to score at the end of the first half at Alabama: “We’re always on the same page. Will and I work great together. And I was in 100 percent agreement with that and [we were in a] 100,000-seat stadium — it wasn’t like we were being productive on offense at that point that you got a chance to go in one score down to tie the game. And so, you know, I’m one of those guys that’s maybe a little bit more old school that way offensively, cut my teeth a little bit in the era where, ‘Hey, that’s just smart football.’ You know what I mean? Now if you’re being productive and you’ve got 30 points at halftime and those things, maybe you’re more aggressive. But based on what was happening offensively, that was just a smart decision that I agree with 100 percent and always will.”
» On the Gators going three-and-out with three-straight runs after the Tide’s 16-play touchdown drive in the second half: “Fourth down calls are Will’s – 100 percent. If he says go for it, we’ll go for it. If he asks my opinion, I’ll give my opinion. The whole thought process is we felt like we had gotten in bad down and distance the whole game on early downs. We knew the defense was coming off of a long drive. So we said, ‘Hey, why don’t we run the football, try to get a first down and create some momentum that way?’ … I think it was a good thought process to try and create a first down in that series before we stopped the clock or had any issues in that way in the passing game.”