No acceptable explanation for Florida’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad opener

By Adam Silverstein
September 2, 2017
No acceptable explanation for Florida’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad opener

Image Credit: GatorVision

It was believed the No. 17 Florida Gators could beat the No. 11 Michigan Wolverines on Saturday. It became apparent one quarter into the contest that expectations needed to be shifted to Florida simply being competitive in the game. And despite the Gators somehow leading at the half, minutes into the third quarter it was clear they had to find a way not to get blown out.

At least Florida accomplished that … for the most part.

UM triumphed over UF 33-17. Florida’s two touchdowns came on pick sixes. It missed a field goal. Had Michigan not missed two of its own or played conservative at the end, “blowout” would have been the appropriate term for a potential 22-point-or-worse victory. Instead, the Gators lost by 16, mustering just three points achieved via offensive means and getting completely shutout in the second half at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Since we already broke down the entire game here, let’s cede this space to head coach Jim McElwain, who can tell you in his own words how and why Florida had its ass handed to it by a team it swore would not repeat its dominant performance from the 2016 Citrus Bowl.

McElwain’s explanations do not ring hollow. He makes plenty of good points and accurately addresses what went wrong for the Gators. However, the fact that there are so many reasons Florida played as bad as it did makes it unfathomable that all of this could have gone wrong in a single game for a team that should be much better than this.

“They physically took it to us. Give them their due. They beat us every which way they could up front, and we never had an answer. Quarterbacks obviously didn’t play great. You usually don’t play great when you’re playing off your back foot, so we’ve got to do some things that way to help. Disappointed in the lack of being able to run the football. Defense gave us opportunities and wore down a little bit, but I still believe in this football team. I believe in these guys. The guys that weren’t here, that was a chose. That had no impact on the outcome of this game. We’ve got some ball games ahead of us that we got to get ready for. Plain and simple, take your whoopin’. I’m taking it.”

OK that’s a good start. Now let’s talk about pulling a redshirt freshman quarterback in Feleipe Franks, who was making plays with his arms and legs, for graduate transfer Malik Zaire after Franks made an untimely fumble and never inserting him back in the game despite the contest being close and Zaire clearly not being up to the task.

“I just thought we needed to try to shake up the batting order there a little bit. I thought Malik might come in and give us a little change of pace at that point — obviously [we were] still in the ball game. Weren’t able to really generate anything. I was thinking maybe his feet might be able to help us and make a few plays for us. He had some jitters, but you know what, he had a good look in his eye. That was a heck of a throw he made [down the sideline]. … Proud of him, really. Just disappointed.”

Moving on to the offensive line, which McElwain boasted was a strength for Florida entering the season for the first time in eons yet a position that got absolutely dominated by a strong Michigan front.

“Their guys were bigger and stronger. They whooped us. That’s plain and simple,” McElwain said … “We got to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do in the weight room.”

McElwain said Saturday was not indicative of how Florida played and prepared during fall practice, but “[Michigan’s] strength overtook us.” He still “can see the pieces” of an improving offensive identity but now realizes he has to sit down and clean up “that get-it-to list and let those guys make some plays.” Of note, neither redshirt junior wide receiver Dre Massey nor freshman Kadarius Toney made an impact in the game despite McElwain saying they were a “big part” of the game plan.

Now, on to the defense, which was absolutely rocked to the tune of 433 yards. The defensive front seven was unable to contain the run and gave up multiple long gains on the ground during third-and-long scenarios. The young secondary, which got even younger as redshirt senior Nick Washington and sophomore Chauncey Gardner got banged up during the game, was torched again and again for deep plays that never would have happened a year ago.

McElwain basically admitted that his defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon, was outcoached without saying as much.

“I thought [the Wolverines] did a really good job with their kills from the standpoint of the run to pass, pass to run. I think they did a good job reading our luggage there a little bit there in the secondary, not sure we disguised the way we needed to,” he said. “The big runs, I think they had a really good plan.”

He continued, in speaking about the secondary: “I don’t think they did bad, and yet, [Michigan] took advantage of it on some pretty big throws. They did what any normal coach would do [by going after the freshmen]. … This was a good football game for them. It was a physical one. They needed to be able to cover deep balls, and you know what, they did a pretty decent job.”

McElwain wrapped things up Saturday night by relating that he really likes the team he has this season and believes Florida will get things worked out with “an opportunity to grow and be a really, really good team.”

That may prove to be true for the Gators, who should eventually get juniors wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett in the fold. Florida may not face a team with as much defensive line talent again this season — or if it does — it may be much more prepared for it. By the time UF gets a couple more games into the season, maybe Franks is entrenched at quarterback, the linebackers have figured out how to contain, and the secondary has matured to the point it’s not a liability.

Or maybe not.


  1. 1974Gator says:

    It would have been better for me if Mac hadn’t been so pragmatic about the results tonite. I’m not ready to throw Shannon under the bus yet. The linebackers are young and few. The secondary is getting younger and less experienced with what looked like some serious injuries. Shannon can’t be blamed for those two realities. Now, Brad Davis and his O-line ….that’s a different story, no excuses.

    • Michael L. Jones says:

      I understand what you’re saying and appreciate the restraint. But Shannon took too long to bring extra pressure and whatever defensive coach was responsible for not letting the new freshman safety know that they would immediately run a play action deep pass behind him really dropped the ball. Inexcusable at this level of football.

      • 1974Gator says:

        Nussmeier is not the answer he is starting to remind me of my Charlie Weis memories/nightmares. Can him and bring in Spurrier!

  2. Mg says:

    Can someone just say it already. McElwain is a mid major HC at best. Opens year 3 with the same useless offense. Nothing changes but the defense getting weaker. Look at where Michigan is in Harbsugh 3rd year. They were a mess when he stepped in. Damn the SecE titles. I’ll take some wins against FSU for a change. Need to lose McElwain by mid season.

    • Lawrence Williams says:

      I agree with you about mcelwain he’s not gonna take the gators to the next level it’s time for a change they were awful against Michigan they were dominated on both sides of the ball being a gator fan I was embarrassed and pisd

    • GATOR-6 says:

      Mg: As depressed as I am at the moment, as sick and tired as I am of the same old same old, I can’t agree c your assessment of Mac. Granted, if this thing doesn’t turn around by next season, maybe I’ll be in your corner. Thing is, being a “C” team under Muschamp for so long hurt us badly in recruiting. Mac has gotten us to at least “B-” and sometimes a “B” team. That has helped recruiting +/-, but not enough. 5-Star players are going to the consistently “A+” teams (like we used to be). I think until we get back there, the handwriting is on the wall. You can fire the HC, sure, and maybe even bring in a big name, hot coach. That may improve recruiting temporarily, but unless they get the job done on the field……well, it won’t be enough to bring the Gators back to relevance, other than actually getting some media attention for a while. Eg, South Carolina twice so far. I’ll keep the faith, of course, but that may be impacted by the now annual beat down by FSU.

  3. Michael L. Jones says:

    You cannot consistently recruit 3 star offensive linemen and be content with that and expect this not to happen. Physical teams consistently manhandle us and its embarrassing and it gets old.

    Malik Davis and Kadarius Tony looked good the one time each got to touch the ball. The jet sweep looked good the only time we ran it. I hate to say this, but while Muschamp is somehow scoring 35 points in his opener, our offense scored 3 points in our opener. . against a better team, yeah. . but we scored 3 points and our play calling looked a hell of a lot like ol’ crazy eyes himself was wearing the headset and ranting and raving along the sidelines.

    Do we not have a draw play or a middle screen in our playbook to slow down that heavy rush when they started to bring it? And after watching Bama v. FSU, teams light years ahead of us, just exactly WHAT did McElwain and Nussmeier learned under Saban? Because his offenses have imagination. . ours do not.

  4. Alex says:

    Another year and another blow out loss to a team with a pulse. Rinse, wash and repeat.

  5. Luke says:

    Mac and Nusz are over their heads and Brad Davis needs to be replaced. We’ll see what kind of AD we have if this product they’re putting on the field doesn’t get better quick.

    But, I’ll also say that I’m never one to criticize powder puff season openers. Practicing with a goal in mind for a big season opener hasn’t really worked out for us. Go Gators.

  6. SL says:

    As always great write up.
    Unfortunately what’s very sad, is that you could have “copied / pasted” much of this from past loses under Coach MAC. I.E. inept offense, defense that got worn down, questionable play calling etc. Oh and anther bizarre post-game press conference.
    What I still can’t understand nor is it forgivable is taking out a Freshman whom we can build a program around for a SR Transfer, with a weak arm and no upside whatsoever.

    Bottom line I truly feel there games in which the team can learn and program can grow, move in the right direction, but this is NOT one of those.

    Sad day in Gator nation.

  7. scott says:

    I am certainly one not to jump on the angry mob with torches atmosphere—but, the college football game has increasingly come about the coach and not the area. We will not (and are not) keep the best Florida players in state without a big name coach. It is not like the old days where many would out of blind loyalty stay in state to play locally- way too much competition today in recruiting. So, I have to agree that it looks pretty bleak with the current coach and that we will be in a rut. We need a coach that can get recruits excited and put some points on the board. We have fast guys here in the state- so, we will have pretty good defenses—it is all about improving this offense. It is sad when the two best offensive players who were missing yesterday were recruited by Muschamp. Have we seen enough?

    • JC says:

      I think that the current staff recruited those two guys—but, I see the point that you are making and agree. Muschamp had excellent recruiting classes and very talented teams, although his offense (and scheme) could not not muster enough to be successful at the highest level. I do not remember seeing a Florida team that has looked so seriously out manned as I have in a few games (FSU, BAMA, Michigan, etc.) the past few years. Mcelwain’s admitted so much yesterday after the game. Well coach–are you going to give the current guys steroids or do you have a plan to have stronger and more talented athletes to join your ranks? Do tell….

  8. Anthony says:

    I see many issues with the play calling on both sides of the ball yesterday. Starting with offense given that the online could not block anyone by the end of the first quarter. Mac or nus should have switched to a shutgun approach that’s the best way to slow up a pass rush. Especially since Frank’s kept having issues getting set. Next instead of malik I would have put dek Rio in while he may not have the arm strength or running power he knows the system could have made better checks at the line instead of putting in a guy who just got here and is very limited. I’ll take experience and knowledge over anything. Secondly they are using wide receiver wrong why use our big body straight line speed guys on bubbles instead of massy Tony or Powell. Needed more deep shots again working shotgun qb could have had more time to scan field but time running. With the speed of Michigan and our o-line issues being under center was not the way to go. If they wanted to run it should have used more jumbo packages. Now to defense the secondary I am not mad at they are young and getting the feet wet but What I don’t like is that we did not blitz enough I mean hell when we did they couldn’t stop us. Shannon was to conservative he needed to be more creative because the basic 4 man rush was not working. That is where I feel losing Collins hurts us he kept offenses guessing so we were more

  9. GATOR-6 says:

    Les Miles? Art Briles? Chip Kelly? Just who? Not arguing c any of the comments made so far about changing the head coach, those are good, solid opinions I just happen to disagree with right now. Just remembering all those big names who quickly opted out between Myer and Muschamp, and Muschamp and Mac. And the mysterious conditions under which Myer left c two national championships already in hand, only to show up again c enormous success at Ohio State in relatively short order. Did all those guys know something the rest of us didn’t? That’s what all gives me major pause in this dynamic.

  10. M Palmer says:

    NO acceptable explanation ……sure year 3 same results: No Offense !!!!! Unacceptable play calling !!!!! Do you think Nick Saban would put up with this mess for this LONG !!!! Mac needs to take over play calling; if he won’t: time for a change. Appoint Randy Shannon interim coach. Get Spurrier to call the offense the rest of this season. Lets not talk about waiting for the next game or next season. This Program needs adjustments now. Come on Gator Nation lets get this fixed !!!!!

  11. 20/20 says:

    mac is a con artist. a good one. but his act is over. cant see him making it after georgia or kentucky loss. good riddance.

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