Yet another offensive shortcoming became obvious in Florida’s loss to LSU this past Saturday.
The Gators have a tempo problem.
When they need to play fast, they tend to slow down.
That was never more evident than on Florida’s final offensive possession of the game, where the Gators stood around and wasted precious time before failing to convert a fourth-and-three that effectively ended the game with 1:39 to play.
In their two-minute offense, the Gators seemed to have no sense of urgency, or time. They ran just six plays for a mere 21 yards — and it took them an almost inconceivable 2:22 to do it.
There were several factors involved, but two main ones. Quarterback Feleipe Franks and the players seemed in no hurry to get lined up. Once the Gators were at the line, Franks was kept waiting for the play to be signaled in from the sideline, which originally came from offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier in the press box.
“I think part of it is getting the signal and getting it called and go,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “That obviously was evident in that last four minutes, especially when we were down there backed up.
“It’s on me. It’s on me for ultimately not having, from the communication piece, making sure that it’s not too big, right? And yet big enough to give you an advantage. I’ve got to continue to work on that.”
The slow pace of play was costly at the end, but it was also prevalent at times throughout the game. The Gators seemed in no hurry to get to the line and run the offense. As a result, the offense had only 54 plays in the 17-16 loss and the Gators are now 124th in the nation in plays run per game with 60.8.
“We’re one of the last teams nationally in running offensive plays, and I think we need to speed up the tempo on offense,” junior offensive guard Tyler Jordan said. “Some series you’ll see it, we get up to the ball and we’re rolling, we move the ball efficiently. And there’s other series where we’re slow getting to the ball, and then the series doesn’t turn out as well as we want it to.
“The first thing we have to do is push the pace. After the play is over, we have to run to the ball. I think that was one thing that was somewhat lacking at the end of the game. Obviously, (tackle) Martez (Ivey) was over there yelling at us to get to the ball, get to the ball. We were getting there, it was just a little slower.”
Florida’s failure on third down — both on offense and defense — also contributed to the low number of plays Saturday, McElwain said.
LSU converted six of 14 third downs, which allowed the Tigers to control the clock and finish with an almost eight-minute advantage in time of possession. Florida’s offense converted only two of nine third downs, which contributed to the Gators having five drives of four plays or less.
“Our numbers had a lot to do with the third-down piece, both not winning on offense and not getting the ball back on defense,” McElwain said. “They did a good job of controlling it. You see how they huddled and really were snapping late in the shot clock, which shut down some of those opportunities. I think the key is staying on the field on third downs.”
Florida’s offensive tempo wasn’t always slow against the Tigers. The pace of play was much quicker on the two touchdown drives in the third quarter, and the offense seemed to fall into a nice rhythm.
“The tempo and fluidity in which it goes, you could see at times it was good. And yet at times it wasn’t,” McElwain said. “There were questions instead of just flowing right into it. We’ve got to continue to work on that.”
The offense will work on the pace of play in practice this week. Tempo is something the Gators can control. There are other factors involved in UF’s overall offensive lack of production that cannot be controlled — inexperience at quarterback, injuries and player suspensions.
Who: Texas A&M (4-2, 2-1) vs. Florida (3-2, 3-1)
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
“They’re not excuses,” McElwain said. “The expectation, I would say at this point, is to play at a faster pace. Not every play is going to be perfect, but we need to be perfect on those got-to-have-it downs. That leads back to the third-down piece, especially against good teams.
“Those are things that I expect to get better, and yet we need to continue to grow with those guys and we need to have a plan to put them in position to (be successful).
“Some of the one-on-ones we get beat on up front, we have to have better help with chips and those things to have an opportunity to push the ball downfield. We just need to continue to build on those and get better out of it.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.