ARLINGTON, Texas — As he walked off the fake-grass field of the massive stadium, Doug Nussmeier stared up at one of the video screens where the statistics of the game just finished were being flashed.
With his jaw jutting, the Florida offensive coordinator looked as if he was trying to will a few more yards onto the Florida side as he stared it down.
Anything to get the Gators over 200 yards.
Alas, nothing — not even some late garbage time yards — could leave Florida fans with anything positive to say about their offense after a 192-yard performance that had a little bit of everything rancid.
Like a redshirt freshman quarterback playing like one, twice stumbling to the ground after he pulled away from center and fumbling himself right out of the game.
Or the much-heralded Malik Zaire coming in and doing nothing.
Or the wide receivers not able to separate from defenders all day.
But mostly, what we saw was an offensive line that had spent the summer getting blown kisses from its head coach show us that it’s still ready to fold like a lawn chair when things get tough.
Things got tough Saturday. Florida’s big guys up front did not.
“I thought we had a good plan,” coach Jim McElwain said, “but as it turned out, the plan was pretty well foiled by getting whupped by big, strong guys. And that was disappointing.”
You think you’re disappointed?
Wait until you hear how loud the Gator Nation is this week.
They tried to believe, these fans who have endured seven years of bad offenses and now appear destined to dwell in the pit of offensive despair for another year.
Yeah, I know. You can’t give up on an offense after one game.
We thought this was going to be different and instead it was more of the same. Another physical opponent, another trip behind the woodshed.
You are left with no reason for optimism, nothing to really hang your hat on except empty promises.
“You could tell they wanted it more,” said receiver Josh Hammond.
Why? Was this team so mentally diminished after the events of the last few weeks that it forgot to go to the weight room? Did the offensive players lose their playbooks?
Look, we joked about Overreaction Sunday and how a poor performance by the offense was going to drive Gator fans to the brink. And it’s only one game.
But it’s hard to feel anything other than this — Florida looks like it has looked the last two years.
Without a defense to save it.
Because while the defense was Florida’s best offense, that defense was also shredded for more than 400 yards. When Michigan got a late touchdown it was almost a good thing because, seriously, 26 points might have been the fewest points a team could possible get against the Florida defense Saturday.
It was as if the Michigan defenders were on the Florida headsets. But mostly what they did was crowd the line of scrimmage, blitzing the quarterbacks and stuffing the running backs before they could get past the line of scrimmage.
After the game, McElwain didn’t seem to have a lot of answers.
They need to make sure they are doing the right things in the weight room? It’s a little late. They need to clean up the “get-it-to list and let those guys make some plays?”
What was wrong with doing that Saturday?
Players told the media boys and girls after the game that there would be no finger-pointing. That’s fine. I’ve got plenty.
You … have a mess at quarterback. I’m not sure there is an answer.
You … have some really soft guys who better get tougher in a hurry.
You … have had 28 games of football at Florida and the East titles are nice and all but this has to get better really soon or this team is going to have to battle for bowl eligibility.
I know, you fans want me to go further. But I am willing to wait and see if this is a fixable problem or a mess that is only going to get stinkier.
“It’s disappointing,” McElwain said for the fourth time in 12 minutes.
Well, trust me. I get that you feel that way.
You have plenty of company.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.