One-dimensional Gators keep making it work

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Florida quarterback Kyle Trask has thrown for 2,293 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

 In football, concerning offense, the conventional wisdom is that if you don’t have balance, if you can’t both run and throw and are rendered one-dimensional, your chances of sustainable success are slim to none.

 And, yet, here the Florida Gators are, defying that wisdom. They don’t have a running game. They’re one-dimensional, basically pass only. But they’ve been flying up and down the field, averaging more than 30 points and 400 yards a game, and Florida is ranked No. 8 in the nation and seeking its 10th win of the season Saturday against arch-rival Florida State.

 It doesn’t make sense. But coach Dan Mullen and his offensive staff have been finding ways to make a one-dimensional offense work.

 “It’s pretty amazing,” said former UF All-SEC wide receiver and current Gator radio color analyst Lee McGriff.

 Mullen doesn’t seem quite as impressed, downplaying the fact that the Gators are getting by so well without a running game.

 When he was asked earlier this week how challenging it is as a play-caller to not have a running game, Mullen said, “It’s very easy. Call other plays. There are so many plays and so little time, you know?

 “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, we could probably get through two to three games with just those plays. It’s pretty easy.”

 But what about balance? Coaches in the SEC say you have to run the ball and be balanced to win in this league?

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

 Mullen makes it sound so simple. But there’s much more to it, finding a way to succeed with this unconventional approach.

 “It’s so hard to do,” McGriff said. “To constantly have to be throwing the ball, on third-and-two you can’t just go to the well and say, ‘Slam this one in there.’ It’s really been an intriguing thing.”

 McGriff said Mullen and his staff have done an excellent job of coaching to the offense’s strength (quarterback Kyle Trask and a deep and talented group of receivers) and away from its weakness (an inexperienced line that is solid in pass protection, but gets no push in the running game).

 Somehow, the one-dimensional Gators keep making it work from week to week.

 “One thing that’s unusual is how well this line pass protects,” McGriff said. “If you ask any offensive line coach, any offensive lineman, what do they prefer to learn first, it’s run block. For some reason this group has done a good job of pass protecting.

 “I also think that Kyle Trask is real adept at sliding around the pocket. He just slips around and really helps those guys. When you get into the accuracy of Trask and his receivers responding to him, that includes backs, they’ve executed this passing game incredibly well.

 “There’s just enough here and there, runs, to keep ’em alive. I do find it amazing at this point in the season where there hasn’t been a meltdown because Florida hasn’t run the ball so well.”

 Other than reverses and jet sweeps by the receivers, and some designed quarterback runs thrown in, the Gators have pretty much become a pass-only offense. Florida is last in the SEC in rushing (just 124.2 yards a game) and 121st in the nation in rushing attempts.

 Under normal circumstances, having no running game likely would be crippling. But the Gators are getting by without one because Mullen and his staff are finding ways to coach around it.

 “I think that it’s a testament to do what your players do best,” UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Every team has strengths and weaknesses relative to their season. Every team is a little different. Every year’s a little different.

 “You’ve got to find ways to stop them, find ways to move the ball. What they’ve done is really taken the strength of our team, which is obviously our skills guys, and found ways to get the ball to them in space so they can make plays.”

 The Gators are averaging 292.2 passing yards a game and eight different receivers have double-digits in receptions, led by tight end Kyle Pitts, who has caught 46 passes. Van Jefferson, Lamical Perine, Trevon Grimes and Freddie Swain all have 30 receptions or more, followed by Josh Hammond with 24.

 Trask is spreading the ball around and the Gators are moving through the air.

 “One of coach Mullen’s things is to play our strengths and I think passing the ball has been one of our strengths this season,” said Trask, who has thrown for 2,293 yards and 21 touchdowns. “He 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.”

 There are a number of things factoring into why the one-dimensional offense has been effective. But, ultimately, it comes down to one thing, McGriff said.

 “Without somebody as accurate as Kyle Trask, this doesn’t work,” he said.

15 COMMENTS

  1. No knock on the Gators, Trask or Mullen! They have done the best they could with what they had and if we close out the season with a win over the Semis and our Bowl opponent we had a great season. That being said, if UF wants to play for SEC and National Championships, somethings are going to have to change and I believe Mullen’s knows this. For starters, more 4 and 5 star recruits, a running game and depth. However, you don’t get these additional components just because you want or need them, you get them by competing at a high level and creating an atmosphere that attracts the best players. In my opinion, that is exactly what Mullen’s and Staff are doing. Florida is building “A Field of Dreams” with the expectation that if we build it, they will come. Great job Coach Mullen and Staff for moving UF in the right direction. Gator Nation has been waiting not so patiently for this for over a decade. Go Gators!!

  2. I think two things need to change. One is the obvious improvement of the O-line. The RB’s are here, they just need consistent holes to run through.

    The other thing is getting bigger D-linemen. Quick and strong is good; BIG, quick, and strong is better. The current D-line is built for rushing the passer, and they sometimes get pushed around by the better O-lines in the conference. A couple of Derrick Brown types should do it.

    The Gators are right there on the doorstep. There only losses are competitive games against the number 1 and 4 teams in the country, one of which will be the SEC champion and likely national champion. They just need a couple of pieces to take the next step to Atlanta and the playoff.

  3. “Without somebody as accurate as Kyle Trask, this doesn’t work,” McGriff said.

    Am I the only one who wonders how this season without a running game may have turned out for the Gators, if fate hadn’t intervened in Lexington, KY? Don’t forget, they trailed 21-10 in the 4th quarter and looked like they were going down for the second time in as many seasons to the Wildcats.

    That passing accuracy will become very relevant next fall, when CDM will have to choose between his two senior QBs to lead the offense next season.

    • Does anybody really think Frank is coming back next year? I am not so sure, I don’t think Frank can play second fiddle and Trask has been much more consistent mentally reading the route progressions and accurate on tight thrown. Plus Trask gets the ball out much quicker than Frank which is why we are winning without a running game. Frank is also to emotional when things don’t go well and criticism arises. Maybe he plays baseball or transfers out to another school but not being the outright team leader is something I don’t think he can handle. Nothing against Frank but I don’t think UF would at 9/2 if he was not injured and we would sure as heck would not know what type of football player Kyle Trask is.

  4. “we have unbelievable balance,” Mullen said. “We throw it equally to all the different receivers.”
    That made me laugh my head off!
    ” “I also think that Kyle Trask is real adept at sliding around the pocket. He just slips around and really helps those guys.”
    This is Sooo true, people dont give Trask enough credit as to why the line can pass protect but not run block!
    ““Without somebody as accurate as Kyle Trask, this doesn’t work,” he said.”
    This is also very true!
    Now to these comments.
    “if UF wants to play for SEC and National Championships, somethings are going to have to change”
    Nothing needs to change. The only reason we are not playing for a championship this year is because we lost our 2 best defenders against LSU, and they were only 80%(which is worthless) against Ga and then we lost 1 of them in that game too. We dont lose those 2 guys and not only would we be playing for the SEC there is a VERY good chance we would be playing for the NC. So BS on that statement.
    “two things need to change. One is the obvious improvement of the O-line. The RB’s are here, they just need consistent holes to run through.”
    Would we like to have a running game? of course yes but this season has proved we dont NEED a running game to win as long as we have Trask!
    “The other thing is getting bigger D-linemen.” Here again, that would be nice but it isnt a NEED to be able to win. Our defense has done admirably this season just like they are AND once again, the only 2 games where our d line got pushed around was when we didnt have our 2 best linemen in the game or they were way less then 100%!
    So facts are stubborn things!

    • Agree about the facts, Daz, but it’s also fact that we (like you and I played) lost to the two best teams we played. LSU and UGA are Atlanta bound, and we’re not…again. Better line play, on both sides of the ball, probably would’ve made the difference. Maybe Zuniga and Greenard at 100% would’ve been enough, but we’ll never know. I think we can agree it would be nice to have more than two difference-makers on the D-line.

      As far as the O-line goes, Trask has certainly helped them. To get to Atlanta, we need the O-line to help him. I don’t think anything you’ve said refutes my claim that better O-line play is needed. We can win games without running the ball well and without excellent O-line play, as this season has proven. But to win championships, we need Trask upright in the pocket, and for that, the O-line must play better.

    • I believe you just described UGA to a tee Sr.!

      I, for one, will not be at all surprised if UGA takes LSU down in Atlanta a week from Saturday. It’s awfully hard for Joe Burrow and his flying circus to hurt you IF your OL and running game keep him sitting on the bench most of the game. All the UGA D has to do is break serve a couple of times and it’ll be game over!

      • I hope not, StL — not that I like LSU in particular, mind you. But since we’re not in it this year, I am pulling for that crazy coon ass coach of theirs to go all the way. Besides, I love it when Georgia gets beat almost as much as I love Notre Dame getting beat.

          • Still, they can put some of that N’awlins voo-doo hex on ’em, and Georgia may not ever know what hit ’em. 🤬

            Believe me, I’ll be chanting “Hot boudain, cold cous cous, come on Tigers, poosh poosh poosh!”.

  5. I think the LSU defense will do what we couldnt without our 2 best defenders healthy and that is pass rush and shut down their pass game. LSU is great on run defense so I think Ga will struggle to score because they DONT have the QB to win a game on his own, LSU does! LSU National Champions!