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No one needed to tell redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio he stunk up the joint in the No. 15 Florida Gators‘ 40-14 win over the Missouri Tigers on Saturday.
That doesn’t mean head coach Jim McElwain didn’t get in his ear anyway.
“He got into me pretty good. I don’t blame him. It was a bad performance,” Del Rio explained after the game.
McElwain believes Del Rio was “a little off,” obviously missing a couple reads on his way to turning the ball over three times — in a span of seven pass attempts. Lucky for Del Rio, Missouri dropped at least two other sure interceptions and two other potential ones.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It wasn’t good,” McElwain demurred.
Del Rio with 236 yards passing and one touchdown in addition to his three picks. He was also 18-of-38 passing, all of which amounts to his worst performance and lowest quarterback rating in four games as Florida’s starter.
Despite that outing, Del Rio did not make excuses after the game. He refused to blame the wet weather or his rehabilitated knee, which he claimed was 100 percent fine after the contest.
“I played terrible. I didn’t take care of the ball. It’s my responsibility to take care of the ball. As an offense, I thought we played really well, ran the ball at will. But it’s my job to take care of the ball, and I didn’t do that. Need to be better,” he said.
Sure, there may have been some rust on him, too, considering he hadn’t played since getting knocked out of the game against North Texas. But Del Rio saw other reasons for his lacking performance.
“It was not seeing guys. It was forcing it. It was just trying to make something happen when there’s no need. It’s all correctable. I’ll do my best to correct it,” he said. “… You got to take care of the ball. Three picks, that’s awful. Can’t do that. You’ll lose a lot of those games. Luckily we have a great defense and the other 10 guys played really well on offense. I need to be better, and that’s about it.”
As to how Del Rio is feeling, he looked to be in good spirits with an obvious excitement about how the other 10 guys on offense played around him.
“It was nice to get out there. It was fun. It’s always fun to play football with your friends. That’s kind of what we talked about: get back to having fun. We definitely did that,” he said. “It’s not fun to throw picks. It’s not fun to make bad reads and bad throws, but that stuff is correctable. I’m going to work to correct it. I’m glad we won. We’re first in the East and we control our own destiny.”
Del Rio also stepped up and explained that he believes being a better quarterback for the Gators goes beyond simply not throwing interceptions and making the right reads.
For a young team that is still void of leadership on that side of the ball, Del Rio hopes to step up into that role.
“It’s part of growing up,” he said of Florida getting bogged down after making a mistake on offense. “I think I need to do a better job and leading guys and maintaining positivity, even when things go wrong. It’s not easy, but that’s the reality. You can either sulk … or you can [move on].”
Though the Gators have a week off in between, move on is exactly what Del Rio will need to do in order to bounce back against a more difficult Georgia team with a new head coach in Kirby Smart who will surely have his squad primed for a rivalry showdown with Florida.