Florida’s worst offensive performance of the season came at the most inopportune time this past weekend in Jacksonville. The Gators put up season-low offensive statistics across the box score in their 24-17 loss to Georgia, which dropped them to second place in the SEC East.
Up until the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, the UF offense was a thing of beauty, and, by recent standards, rarity. Even with its slip-up, this is still the best offensive start for the program in a decade.
But that’s what makes the implosion against the Bulldogs so surprising. Florida’s offense is averaging more than 400 yards per game through nine contests for the first time since 2009. It didn’t come close to that on Saturday.
Here’s a look at some of the offensive failures exhibited against UGA:
Time of possession battle
Florida isn’t necessarily dominant in time of possession. In nine games this season, the Gators have won the TOP battle five times. UF’s largest gap in possession time came against LSU, when Florida had the ball for almost 17 more minutes than the Tigers. This game, though, is largely an outlier because LSU scored so quickly, so the TOP stats were not representative.
Against Georgia, Florida only had the ball for 24:12 — its second-lowest mark of the season. The lowest TOP by the Gators was against Miami. Not surprisingly, that was tied for UF’s second-lowest scoring output of the season, the Georgia game being its lowest.
UF only had one three and out, but its drives did not chew up much clock. Up until its final drive of the game — which took up 6:50 when the Gators did not have time to blow — Florida did not have a drive longer than four minutes. Conversely, the Bulldogs had three and scored on all of them.
Number of plays
According to teamrankings.com, the Gators run 66.6 plays per game, which is in the bottom half of the FBS. Against UGA, Florida ran a season-low 52 plays to Georgia’s 67. Not surprisingly, because UF trailed the entire game, the vast majority of those were passing plays.
To go with its season-low play total, Florida went to the run just 19 times and ran for a season-low 21 yards. Its previous low for rushing plays in a game this season was 27 against Kentucky and in all other games the Gators had at least 30 rushing attempts.
Florida’s eight drives against Georgia were a new season-low. Granted, the Bulldogs only had the ball eight times as well, but they came up empty-handed only three times, as opposed to Florida’s five scoreless drives.
On average, UF has about 12 drives per game. The nature of the game being low scoring and the defense being unable to create turnovers — something that has plagued it for a few games now — naturally limited the Gators’ number of drives.
Florida scored just once on its first six drives — a field goal in the second quarter. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the offense caught on and by then it was too late.
Running a low number of plays, only having eight possessions and not having the ball for very long takes its toll on even the best offenses. And the Gators are not an elite offense by any means. (They’re No. 31 in passing offense and No. 107 in rushing offense.)
Unsurprisingly, Florida put up a season-low yardage total to go with its lowest scoring output. UF gained just 278 yards against Georgia. That was Florida’s first time under the 300-yard mark this season, and it had been over 350 in seven straight games.
The Gators are 5-0 in games that they score first in and 2-2 in game they do not. Their past three games against LSU, South Carolina and Georgia, UF has let its opponent get on the board first. Against LSU and UGA that proved costly as Florida never regained the lead in either game.
It’s difficult to assess how much of these offensive woes are an indictment of the Gators offense or an endorsement of Georgia’s defense — which is at the top of the SEC in every major defensive category. But Saturday was a sign of regression into the Florida offense of old and not the renaissance that quarterback Kyle Trask and coach Dan Mullen have led this season.
Follow Kyle Wood on Twitter @Kkylewood. Contact him at [email protected]