During the coach Jim McElwain years, most would have been satisfied if the offense had shown even just a little sure and steady progress.
But the needle never really moved. The offense stayed in its rut.
The Gators were 112th in the nation in total offense last season. The season before that they were 116th and the season before that 110th.
So, no visible progress.
Now, in coach Dan Mullen’s first season, the progress the fan base has been yearning for, actually begging for, is happening. The offense has made almost a quantum leap from a year ago.
The Gators are 56th in the nation in total offense, averaging 418.7 yards a game, and UF has gone from 108th to 30th in scoring offense, averaging 33.9 points a game.
And here’s a sure sign that the offense has come to life and is trending up: the Gators are coming off back-to-back 500-yard games that produced a combined 98 points.
“That’s good. I like that,” Mullen said.
The offensive system is sinking in, apparently.
“I think guys are getting comfortable with what we’re doing,” Mullen said. “We went into last week’s game and I told our guys, ‘This is how we’re going to execute. We’re going to come right out of the gate and execute.’
“I just wanted us to execute cleanly and I think we really did that last week. That’s what I was most pleased with, our consistent execution.”
That consistent execution started kicking in during the second half against South Carolina. The Gators scored 21 consecutive points to overcome a 31-14 deficit, putting together TD drives of 75, 89 and 66 yards.
The trend continued in the 63-10 win over Idaho last Saturday. The key now is to try and keep it going against Florida State on Saturday — and beyond.
“Our execution (dating back to the second half against USC), that’s where we want that to be at, where we’re consistently performing at a high level,” Mullen said.
In the past two games, sharp execution has led to lots of yards and points. The Gators averaged 32.5 first downs, 564 total yards and 49 points in those two wins.
And they showed they can move the ball equally well on the ground and through the air. UF rushed for 367 yards against South Carolina and passed for 399 the following week.
Junior wide receiver Josh Hammond said the offensive system has become second nature to the players.
“We’re really comfortable,” he said. “We’re 11 or 12 weeks in now. Guys have really bought into the system and really got a chance to understand it. It’s gotten to a point where if it’s third-and-four or third-and-five, Feleipe (Franks) already knows what play Coach Mullen is going to call depending on the hash it’s on.
“It’s gotten to the point that even the receivers know what is expected and what play is going to come. We’ve just gotten so comfortable in the offense that it has allowed us to play a lot faster and excel at a higher level.”
Franks, who never appeared comfortable in McElwain’s offense, seems to have found a comfort zone in Mullen’s offense — and with Mullen’s coaching style.
He was extremely sharp in the Idaho game, throwing for 274 yards and three touchdowns in less than a half.
“It’s an over-time thing. You keep learning and learning,” Franks said. “They do a good job each week making sure we’re prepared. Each week is different. It’s not like you go in with 500 plays. You go in and get specific plays that work against specific defenses.
“We’ve gotten better as the season has gone on. We’re certainly far from perfect, but that’s what it’s all about. In life, it’s just keep on getting better each day. And we have great teachers to help us do that.”
Together, coaches and players, the Gators are making the progress needle move on offense.