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Thursday, May 23, 2024
<p>UF coach Jim McElwain watches on during Florida's 19-17 loss against Texas A&amp;M on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.</p>

UF coach Jim McElwain watches on during Florida's 19-17 loss against Texas A&M on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

It’s finally happening.

After skirting his way to consecutive SEC eastern division championships in his first two seasons at Florida, the same games that once elevated Jim McElwain are starting to destroy him. The story for this Florida team through the season’s first three weeks was that it was built to win close games. That was McElwain’s narrative. The last two weeks have proved it false.

“I just can't tell you how proud I am of our players, our staff and happy for the Gator fans,” McElwain said last season after beating LSU to advance to conference title game, “that, you know, don't think we're very good, but all we do is end up back in Atlanta, right?

Right? Right?

Probably not.

While it’s still mathematically possible for Florida to reach Atlanta, it would take a win over No. 4 Georgia in two weeks that seems borderline impossible, as well as Georgia suffering another loss to either Auburn, Kentucky or South Carolina while Florida wins all of its remaining SEC games.

“We’ve got a lotta ball ahead of us,” McElwain said after Saturday’s two-point loss to Texas A&M. “A lot of good teams.”

He’s right about the good teams — especially Georgia. But a lot of ball? The regular season is more halfway over, and with a 3-3 record, there’s not much left to play for.

This is a team that’s off to its worst six-game start since 2003. It’s a team that’s two bounces away from being 1-5. It’s time for changes, whatever they may be.

Look, I’m not in the locker room. I don’t know whether it’s the quarterback or the offensive line or the play calling. But this offense is bad, and whatever the team is doing isn’t working. It hasn’t worked in McElwain’s two and a half years in Gainesville, and it’s time for something new. Not the cliche needing to work harder, needing to execute better or needing to communicate more effectively. Real, tangible change.

Maybe that means firing Doug Nussmeier. Maybe that means starting Malik Zaire. Maybe that means the long-anticipated debut of McElwain’s dog Clarabelle at quarterback. Something. Anything. With a bye week coming up before the showdown with Georgia, the time to make changes is now.

“These two losses give us a lot of momentum going into the next game,” defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson said.

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I’m not sure how, but if that’s true, then great. Use it to make changes. Use it to light the fuse of an offense fans were promised would be improved.

Quarterback Feleipe Franks said after Saturday’s loss that motivation won’t be a problem despite the fact that Florida isn’t playing for much at this point. He said the team’s leaders will lead them through the tough times, hence their being called leaders.

But fans aren’t players. As Franks observed, they can’t see the leadership. They can’t see the locker room camaraderie. They can see only what’s on the field, and what’s on the field stinks.

No amount of perfume in the form of blaming tired cliches can mask that. A new approach can, even if the team is playing for moral victories.

You can follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri, and contact him at ebauer@alligator.org.

UF coach Jim McElwain watches on during Florida's 19-17 loss against Texas A&M on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

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