The battered, bruised yet still 10-1 Florida Gators are headed to a fish market.
At least that’s what head coach Jim McElwain claimed would be on tap for the team this week after being “very disappointed” in Florida’s effort Saturday against FAU.
“We didn’t play great, obviously,” McElwain began his post-game press conference. “Defense played its tails off, gave a lot of opportunity for us offensively [but] they beat us to every punch up front. They had more energy. They played the way the game should be played – physical, point of attack and beat the heck out of us. That’s just the way it is.”
While the Gators’ defense stepped up time and again Saturday, McElwain only found one comparison for the lack of energy and life on Florida’s offense.
“When you go to a seafood market or you go to the grocery store and you see all those dead fish on ice: That’s the energy they’re playing with right now,” McElwain said in reference to the offensive line before later extending that comparison to describe the entire offense. “Now think about that visual. How excited are you to hang out with that dead fish? … Look in the fish’s eyes. That’s what bothers me.”
Specifically mentioning that Florida’s offensive line “mope[s] around when something bad happens” and needs to affect each other more positively, McElwain made sure to not that it was not the only offensive unit that was not up to snuff. “I don’t think anybody on that side of the ball should be real happy with how they played,” he said when asked about the effort of sophomore quarterback Treon Harris.
The problem for the Gators on Saturday was not that they came out slow against the Owls; it’s that Florida never woke up. FAU had more total yards, first downs, and third downs and nearly beat its hosts despite averaging 4.1 yards per pass and 3.1 yards per rush.
“We got some energy vampires that need to understand that’s not how we’re going to do things around here,” the coach said.
So while McElwain gets prepared to count the Gators’ next victory on his toes after becoming the only first-year coach in team history to win 10 games in his debut season, he’s also trying to figure out how to get the rest of the team to play more like freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway and senior linebacker Antonio Morrison, who exude so much passion and energy that it should be contagious by now.
“It’s tough to get them off ice sometimes, those dead fish. When they’re laying there, the guy’s got to pick them up, wrap them up and fold stuff around them. … They aren’t just jumping out there to go. You know what? We got to work on that this week,” he explained.
Now it’s all about how Florida will respond with Florida State coming to town. A game that just a couple weeks ago looked like one the Gators should win as it continued its tear through the regular season is now a home contest in which UF is barely favored.
According to McElwain, the Gators should be heavy underdogs.
“I’m sure the guys next week are going to look at this and maybe go on vacation, because they should beat the heck out of us,” he said. “Based on that, I’m sure they’re going to probably feel pretty good about coming into The Swamp, knowing how dinged up we are, feel pretty good about putting them on us. So you know what, let’s enjoy Thanksgiving.”
During his Saturday presser, McElwain reminded his wife to pick up a ham for Thanksgiving, noting that some players that can’t go home for the holiday specifically requested it. Looks like there will be plenty of grocery shopping going on in that household this week.
“We’re gonna take a field trip this week to the fish market,” he said. “I’m gonna find it.”
The big play: Florida’s overtime touchdown was premeditated. Well, at last the play call was as much. “It’s one that we have in the red area. It’s an Oh-[Shit] play,” said McElwain, leaving out the expletive. “It’s something we had in the game plan for that area of the field. We were hoping to run it closer, but we couldn’t get it closer. The kind of kept us out of there. Great execution. Treon solid it real well. Obviously, Jake [McGee] might be a contestant for Dancing With the Stars; that was a pretty good move he made on those two guys.”
McElwain referred to Harris as “spooked at times” during the game, which he did not completely blame him for considering the lackluster effort of Florida’s offensive line. “That’s tough. He made a heck of a throw to Jake – he made a guy miss – and it was the game-winner, so that’s kind of cool.”
Notes and bits:
On senior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, who injured his knee early in the game: “Bullard had every opportunity to pull himself from that ballgame. The guy, because he cares so much about the Gators and because he cares so much about his teammates, came back and played his tail off – had every opportunity to say, ‘You know what, I don’t want a piece of this.’ I think that speaks to what kind of person he is. As you get into this part of the season, sometimes that goes on in guys’ minds, whether you like it or not – you have guys in their ears and this and that. He came back and gave us everything he had.”
On redshirt sophomore punter Johnny Townsend’s great day: “The guy’s gold, man. There’s your best punter in the country, in my opinion. Look what he’s done time in and time out. They’re covering him well, too. Not only operation but his hang-time has been excellent and then he understands the importance of putting the ball inside the 10. Wow. The guy’s a weapon. And he’s the holder, too, does a great job of holding.”
On the continued struggles of redshirt junior kicker Austin Hardin: “The guy’s a good kicker. He really is. And yet, for some reason he keeps thinking too much rather than just go kick it. You see his leg, right?”
On the fumble recovery of redshirt freshman DL Taven Bryan: “There are faster guys down here chasing him. I think he would’ve scored in Wyoming with that one.”
On redshirt sophomore LB Matt Rolin not just playing but starting: “Got some plays today. Did a good job hanging the edge. … I thought he did a good job. … He cares. He wants to play. It was great to to see when his name was called he was able to step up and do his job.”