Florida coach Dan Mullen experienced what many would consider every playcaller’s worst nightmare Saturday in Jacksonville.
Too few plays.
The numbers were astoundingly low.
The Gators ran only 20 plays in the first half, just nine in the second quarter. For the game, they ran only 52 plays and had just three offensive possessions in the second half. Before UF started a 17-play touchdown drive with 10:01 left in the game, the Gators had run a mere 35 plays.
With those scant numbers, it’s difficult for a playcaller to get into any kind of rhythm.
“It hurts,” Mullen said. “I think I’ve probably grown through the years with it, that you can get really frustrated with it.”
If Mullen was frustrated, it didn’t show, at least in his play calling. He stuck with his game plan and when the Gators desperately needed a touchdown to get back into the game in the fourth quarter against Georgia they drove 75 yards in 17 plays for a TD to make it a 24-17 game with 3:11 left to play.
He was more of a patient playcaller than a frustrated one.
“You see some guys get frustrated with it and try to really press instead of just know the situation, manage the situation, what is the game going to call for us and not get frustrated,” Mullen said. “We’re not getting a lot of plays so I’m just going to scrap everything and we’re going to try to force things.
“The game dictates a certain way that you want to go, but I don’t think we just kind of start going crazy, ‘Hey let’s try to score on every single play.’ What does the game call for, what’s going to allow us to execute.”
There was one main reason why the Gators had so few plays in the 24-17 loss to the Bulldogs: third down. Georgia converted 12 of 18 third-down plays, while Florida was just two-of-nine on the money down. As a result, the UGA offense was on the field almost 12 minutes longer than the UF offense.
It all adds up to just 52 plays.
That means a sizable chunk of the plays in the game plan that weren’t used.
“I can’t tell you an exact number,” Mullen said. “Let’s say we had 130 plays going into the game. We ran 52. That means there are 80 things we wanted to do that we didn’t get to do during the course of the game.
“You have that many (going into the game) because you don’t always know how the game is going to to play out, what’s going to happen out there on the field.
“You can’t plan for only having three possessions in the second half. When we’re writing up the game plan we don’t expect to have three possessions. Sometimes that happens. That wasn’t part of our game plan, but it happened and we had to adjust over the course of the game.”
The Gators had success on their final two drives, both ending in fourth-quarter touchdowns. But before that it was tough going for the offense, especially on third down.
Penalties and a big sack (minus-19 yards) contributed to UF’s failure to sustain drives and score points through most of the first three quarters.
“When you get a limited number of opportunities, the margin for error is that much smaller,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “Having penalties, taking bad sacks, things that we can’t just have. That definitely hurt us and cost us.
“You can’t really make any errors, you have to try to be the best that you can in every possession that you get. We need to get back to our identity, trying to call as many plays as we can.
“Having limited snaps and having limited possessions you can only do so much. The more plays you run, the more possessions you have, the better chance for you to try to get the ball in the end zone.”
Regardless of the number of plays — high or low — the Gators need to be more efficient than they were Saturday, quarterback Kyle Trask said.
“We just have to do a better job of taking advantage of our opportunities,” he said. “We’re very explosive on offense and I know people want to take the ball out of our hands, so we just have to do a better job of taking advantage of our time on the field.”