Florida football: Offense looks to continue finding success without running game

By Michael Phillips
November 29, 2019
Florida football: Offense looks to continue finding success without running game

Image Credit: Twitter / GatorsFB

One of the first things you learn about football is that balance is key offensively. If you can find as much success running the ball as you can throwing it, your offense can keep the defense on its heels and remain creative throughout a game. However, if you struggle in either phase of the game, it makes it significantly more difficult for your offense to put up points.

That’s not the case all the time, though. The No. 11 Florida Gators have defied that logic. This is a team that simply cannot run the ball effectively — at least not consistently. The Gators are tied for 115th nationally in rushing offense at 124.2 yards per game, which also ranks last in the SEC.

Still, somehow, Florida has managed to average over 30 points and 400 yards per game on the way to a 9-2 record as head coach Dan Mullen seeks his second straight 10-win season. As far as how Mullen adjusts his game plan knowing that the Gators struggle to run, he was matter-of-fact in answering that Monday.

“It’s very easy. Call other plays,” Mullen said. “You guys have heard me. There are so many plays and so little time, you know? We’re still, probably, we have a whole list of every play that’s been in all the game plans this year, and if I just called plays that we had in game plans but hadn’t run this year, we could probably get through two to three games with just those plays. It’s pretty easy.”

Mullen has said time and again that he molds his offense around what the players on his team do the best. This season, the Gators have a young and inexperienced offensive line that struggles to consistently open up running lanes along with the best group of receivers the team has sported in a decade.

As such, it becomes easy to see why the run game is often abandoned.

“I think one of Coach Mullen’s things is to play our strengths, and I think passing the ball’s been a positive one of our strengths this season,” redshirt junior quarterback Kyle Trask said. “I think him and his staff have done a great job of using that to our advantage and using the athletes that we have and really focusing on the passing game and how that can help us.”

Florida currently ranks 19th nationally in passing offense at 292.3 yards per game; it has thrown 28 total touchdowns to 10 different pass-catchers. 

“Well, when you look at us, I think we have unbelievable balance,” Mullen said, jokingly. “We throw it equally to all the different receivers.”

The Gators’ offensive success doesn’t make sense. Defenses should be able to tee off on the passing game, but they haven’t been able to do so.

The amount of options Florida has at its disposal makes it tough on defenses, but the passing plays continually put stress on opposing secondaries, and Trask has been able to dial up accurate passes on time to his receivers. 

Even senior running back Lamical Perine has gotten in on the passing success since he hasn’t been able to find success toting the rock. He’s third on the team in receptions with 32 and has four receiving touchdowns to boot.

“Coach Mullen does a good job of scheming up plays to help us be successful,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “He puts us all in great position to, you know, make plays when the ball comes our way, and I think we’ve been able to make those plays, which is why we’ve been able to win ball games without being able to necessarily run the ball. Guys are excited. 

“Perine doesn’t get mad about not getting so many amount of carries or anything of that nature. He won’t mind going out wide and catching the ball. So there’s none of that going on. I think a lot of guys are just excited to go out there and make plays, and I think Coach Mullen does a good job of putting people in the right position to make those plays.”

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