UF offense finding its identity

Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio hands off to freshman running back Malik Davis during the second half Saturday against Kentucky in Lexington, Ky. Florida won the game 28-27. [David Stephenson/Associated Press]

Florida may have found more than just a way to win in the fourth quarter Saturday night in Lexington. The Gators also may have found their offensive identity. And their quarterback.

Led by former starting quarterback Luke Del Rio and a balanced offense that included a power running game, the Gators rallied from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Kentucky 28-27 to move to 2-0 in the SEC and extend UF’s winning streak against the Wildcats to 31 games — the longest active winning streak over a major opponent in an annual series.

Although Del Rio appeared to have possibly taken away the starting role at quarterback from redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who was benched midway through the third quarter, UF coach Jim McElwain said the situation at quarterback would be evaluated during the week.

Up next

Who: Vanderbilt (3-1, 0-1 SEC) vs. No. 21 Florida (2-1, 2-0)

When: Noon Saturday

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

“We will sit down and evaluate it and look at the video,” he said. “Luke threw it to the wrong color jersey once and missed it to Tyrie (Cleveland). It would have been a home run, but I thought he moved around. I thought that fourth-down play (a 10-yard pass to running back Mark Thompson), obviously it was a veteran move.

“They had good coverage on him. You know, he found the mark. That

was a good play. It’s one of those that you never throw across your body late inside, right? But it worked.”

Del Rio’s entrance into the game did seem to spark an offense that had ground to a halt earlier in the third quarter, with back-to-back three-and-outs to open the second half.

After throwing an interception on his first possession, Del Rio settled down and the offense put together two touchdown drives to pull out the victory. The winning TD came on a five-yard pass from Del Rio to a wide open Freddie Swain with 43 seconds remaining.

Del Rio benefited from a steady power running game in the fourth quarter that took some of the pressure off the passing game and kept the UK defense off balance.

“I think we hopefully gained a little confidence up front,” McElwain said. “I was proud of the last drive that we didn’t go to thinking we had to throw it every down.”

In the decisive fourth quarter, the Gators rode true freshman running back Malik Davis, who finished the game with 93 yards on 21 carries.

On the winning drive, the Gators converted two fourth-down plays, one on the 10-yard pass from Del Rio to Thompson and the other on a seven-yard run by Davis on a fourth-and-one.

McElwain was asked if Del Rio, with his experience and knowledge of the offense, gets more of the playbook to run than Franks, who seemed limited to short passes and screens in Saturday’s game.

“I think, again, continuing to get some of these guys touches has got to be big,” he said. “I think B.P. (Brandon Powell) came up big when we needed him. Obviously, Kadarius (Toney), you know, bit-by-bit, getting a little bit more and more where he stays comfortable. Tyrie came up big. I really thought Freddie Swain did some stuff that didn’t show up in the box score that, guys, I’ll be surprised that he’s not our player of the game.”

Del Rio, who appeared very poised for someone who had not played in a game since last Nov. 5, and the offense seemed to gel when they needed to most, in the decisive fourth quarter.

Del Rio definitely helped generate a spark.

“When you get put in in the middle of a game, it’s fun to go in and play, but it’s not easy because everyone else is kind of in the rhythm of the game,” Del Rio said. “So I tried to settle down as best as I could, move the ball,

which was encouraging. The pick was just a miscommunication on my part.

“It’s a long game. I knew we could move the ball on them. It wasn’t like we were going three-and-out, three-and-out.”

Notes: Florida owns a 51-17 record against Kentucky, its most wins against any opponent. The Gators have won 15 games in a row in Lexington. The Gators have outrushed the Wildcats in each contest since 2004. …The Gators fell a spot in the latest Associated Press poll.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com



  1. I agree LDR is the next QB to get a trial, but we have not found our Offensive identity unless that is running Gator tail a lot. KY changed its defense that allowed some of the running and almost nobody is going to give you two TDs for free. Very poor coaching in many ways, we won but did not earn it.

  2. Let’s be honest, this season is not what we (Gator fans) expected in year 3 of Mac’s offense. But it isn’t as bad as losing to Georgia Southern (knocking on wood). ”Florida’s identity” is most definitely the young bucks! From Toney to Davis, it can only get better with all of them playing more.
    I am, however, not surprised by Toney, as we saw glimpses of his potential in the spring game. But Davis at R.B. is a pleasant surprise! Keep on keeping on, Gators! One week at a time… our hearts (cardiac kids) couldn’t handle any more!

  3. I’m proud of the character demonstrated in the comeback. I think the elements are in place, no doubt. But so much as pertains to “finding identity”? Withholding buy in on that one. I’ve just heard that far too many times over the past 6 seasons to take it at face value. Unless coming out the next week and doing the same thing again while expecting different results is the definition of progress, let’s just wait and see what happens next week. Would love to see some old fashioned Gator football played, then I’ll believe it. Regret sounding like a crank here, but that’s the deal for me now.

  4. I will believe Florida has an offensive identity when they come out next week and run and pass the ball down the throat of Vanderbilt and win big. And, has anyone seen Mike Winter or any of his aka’s. Go Gators.

  5. Good article…
    I feel like the offense is getting better. The o line is blocking better. The young guys do make the future bright.
    Any above average offense is going boat race our defense this year. We have delusional fans that think we are the only players on the field that determine the outcome of these games. We looked bad against Michigan because they have a better team. Let’s all be supportive of our Gators as they and the coaches figure it all out. Missing nine players gives us an incredible disadvantage on the field and practice. In all kinds of weather…

    • David, good post. I agree, Michigan is a better team. My question is: why? Even with Scarlett and should-be-expelled Callaway, none of those suspended were on the O-line. Even with timid Nuss-plays, why did Michigan embarrass our O-line? I am thrilled – if shocked – by our win against KY, which included tricky throwbacks and wildcat (irony) formations, but that alone will not beat UGA, the clowns, or the Tide. We won the line on our last drive in Lexington. Can that be sustained against the big boys?

      Go Gators!

      • Our O-line still lacks talent. That is why Summers was let go, he wasn’t getting it done in recruiting. Think about this statistic, if you look at the top five OL recruits from the state of Florida in each of the last five recruiting years, UF has only gotten a total of three of them. That is three top OL prospects out of 25 from inside our state. We aren’t going anywhere without better OL talent.

  6. time to give the team and the coaches a break, the suspensions were huge and yes the T E A M at every position was challenged to regroup after that blindside shot. They are getting there and winning, good enough for me!

  7. With Powell and Toney – every play should include the threat of a jet sweep, left or right. That would seriously confuse and loosen the defense and open up the center of the field. Florida is the only football team I have ever seen that does not complete passes down field over the middle. That has to be coaching. And if two players have to cover Cleveland – someone else has to be open. Franks has been around too long to be operating on a limited playbook.

    • Gator Steve. Watch a replay of the game when Florida is on offense. Then, look at the Kentucky defense. They rarely blitzed on obvious passing downs (and blitzed on most of the Florida running plays….as if they knew when Florida would run….almost always on second down), and they almost always had seven in coverage on every Florida passing play. Then, watch the Florida receivers. 85 percent of the time, Florida would only send three receivers out in patterns, leaving the TE and WR almost always in pass protection. That meant, three Florida wide receivers were in pass patterns against seven Kentucky defenders in pass defense. Please explain to me how it is even possible to complete down the field passes or over the middle passes against that kind of coverage and only three receivers trying to beat that coverage. Obviously, Franks was not allowed to audible at the line based on that kind of coverage and go to a run or audible to send more receivers into the secondary. Also, Kentucky was often in 2 deep coverage that would allow for completions on 10 to 15 yard patterns that do out to the sidelines, or even wheel routes. Florida ran one of those out patterns with Powell. It was completed by Del Rio (barely due to a poor throw to the wide open Powell). They completed, easily, two wheel routes, one to Goolsby and one to Powell (ruled a penalty due to Powell running out of bounds on his own….go figure). Why Nussmeier did not call more of those passing plays just amazes me. They would have been open all night. But, obviously, McElwain and Nussmeier have no confidence that their offensive line can blow with five OL on four DL because they have proven over and over again that they have no idea how to pick up a middle blitz or any kind of blitz for that matter. The problem is coaching first and the offensive line second. Both have to get fixed with better players on the offensive line and better coaching and play calling up in the booth by the OC. Period.

      • The OL only gave up one sack against UK in spite of more offensive plays. That’s progress if not near perfection. The TE’s and RB’s may have figured out how to communicate and pick up blitz’. I’ll have to rewatch the game and verify that.

  8. I think moving forward we should stick with del Rio. The simple fact is he knows the offense knows how to call protection. While I think Frank’s will be good next yr he still has a lot to learn and that’s changing protection before the hike.. While del Rio might not have the strongest arm he does give more options play book wise.. also why are we not taking more deep shots we don’t need to be like Oklahoma state but shoot at least give like 5-10 a game keep the defense of the opponent guessing.. we take one deep shot then that’s it the rest of the game

  9. So Mississippi State whips LSU, then gets crushed by UGA. Right now UGA is the best of the East, while Bama continues to be the best of the West (and overall). For Florida to beat either or both of these teams, the O-line must create holes that our backs can run through. Agreed that our play makers need to get more touches. How did we do with time of possession against UK? Guess UK’s defense is not yet dominant, and the 4th quarter fatigue worked to our advantage (for a change). I am sure that our wildcat package includes a pass option – if LSU and UGA are looking for Toney to run, someone will be open. Maybe a two QB system is the best we can do right now. Whatever we need to win, I am sure that Coaches Mac, Ness and Shannon will put the right combination of plays and players to get the job done. GO GATORS!!!