Florida 20, FAU 14, Game Recap: Gators win, but struggles and concerns mount

As Jim McElwain’s first year in Gainesville progressed, the mantra seemed to grow stronger and stronger: it’s ugly, but the Gators are winning.

No more. Not after the Gators’ most recent, and by far the ugliest, escape.

Treon Harris’s 13 yard touchdown pass to Jake McGee and a defensive stand on fourth in goal gave Florida a 20-14 overtime victory over Florida Atlantic in the Swamp. The win improved the Gators’ record to 10-1, and made Jim McElwain the first Gator coach to ever win ten games in his first season. That tenth win also means that McElwain has won as many games in his first year at Florida as Will Muschamp won in his last two combined.

But nobody really cares about any of that. Florida struggled tooth and nail and needed overtime to beat a paltry FAU team that’s 2-9 in Conference USA. And even that record doesn’t come close to describing just how embarrassing it was.

The Owls rank in or near the bottom fifth of the country in every offensive and defensive statistic you can find. Or at least they did before they played Florida. Would you believe this FAU team was giving up 428 yards per game (against mostly fellow C-USA teams) going into the Florida game? The Gators’ offense made the Owls’ defense look like Alabama’s, generating a measly 253 yards of total offense- 94 of which came on three plays. The Gators ran 60 other plays in the game that combined to gain 159 yards. Against a defense that was giving up 428 yards per game.

Even worse than the offense’s overall ineptitude was the fact that Treon Harris went out of his way to help FAU. A failure to escape an FAU rush- or do something smart, like throw the ball away- resulted in a strip sack, which the Owls recovered in the end zone. He also elected, on a first and ten deep in FAU territory, to throw a wounded duck into double coverage. Take a wild guess as to how that turned out.

To Harris’s credit, he did do a few nice things. He floated a perfectly thrown deep ball to Antonio Callaway for a touchdown late in the third quarter, and he took off on multiple runs of 15+ yards. But the sum of his effort yesterday can’t be looked at as a very strong one. In fact, if not for a spectacular effort by the defense,  he would have been the main cause of what would have rivaled Georgia Southern as Florida’s most embarrassing loss in school history.

Florida began the game by punting on its first three possessions. Luckily, the Gators’ defense forced FAU to do the same, and then they got a big break on special teams after the third one. Antonio Callaway took the punt and returned it 52 yards inside the FAU red zone to set up the Gators with tremendous field position. What did Treon Harris and the offense do with it? They wasted it, of course, going nowhere and leaving it up to the Gators’ frighteningly inconsistent kicker, Austin Hardin. And of course Hardin missed the 37 yard field goal, clanking it off the left upright. The special teams giveth and the special teams taketh away our sanity.

But Florida got a break when FAU returned the favor with a missed field goal of their own, a 45 yarder that flew several yards to the right. This came after the Owls’ only decent drive of the first half, in which a holding penalty on the third down play before the field goal might have cost the Owls a touchdown on the drive. Neither team did anything the rest of the half, so the halftime score read #8 Florida 0, FAU 0. Yep, that’s embarrassing.

The defense had played well for most of the first half, but they hadn’t made any real big plays to speak of. That changed when Antonio Morrison laid into FAU quarterback Jason Driskel (yes, Jeff’s brother) and popped the ball out. Florida’s Taven Bryan snatched it and returned it 48 yards to the FAU 2 yard line. As bad as Florida’s offense is, especially at capitalizing on opportunities, they couldn’t waste this one. Kelvin Taylor banged into the end zone on his second shot at the old goal line dive play, and Florida led 7-0.

Then came a miracle. Pinned at its own nine yard line after an FAU drive that went nowhere, Florida’s offense drove 91 yards in four plays for a touchdown. Granted, FAU helped with a pass interference, but Harris found Jordan Cronkrite in the flat for a 16 yard gain and then hit Callaway for the aforementioned 53 yard touchdown:

Say what you want about Treon Harris- I don’t think he’s any better than most of you do- but was a pretty damned good throw. And it put the Gators up 14-0 near the end of the third quarter.

But that’s when things started to get really scary. With all the confidence of Alabama, FAU mounted a 9 play, 75 yard drive that ended with Jaquez Johnson finding Kalib Woods for a ten yard touchdown strike. I don’t know what it was, but the defense suddenly looked disinterested in playing football. Florida’s front seven stopped getting push in the trenches, which also helped open up running lanes for FAU’s Greg Howell, and a bust in the secondary allowed Johnson to find Jenson Stoshak for a 28 yard gain down the sidelines. To its credit, Florida’s defense would then step up and look like itself again for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, the offense would, too.

A promising drive by Florida following the FAU touchdown ended with Harris floating a wounded duck into double coverage. Predictably, it was intercepted in the end zone. Why he forced a ball into double coverage on first down is something you’ll have to ask him, because we’re at the point now where I’m done trying to understand what he’s thinking. Florida corner Jalen Tabor tried to make up for Harris’s pick by ripping the ball away from Greg Howell after he caught a screen pass and grabbing it for a weird interception, which set Florida up at FAU’s 21. But the Gators’ offense said, nah, no thanks: a failure to get a first down brought on Hardin again, who of course missed the 34 yard field goal attempt.

And then came the strip sack touchdown. As usual, FAU went nowhere, but Dalton Schomp pinned the Gators deep with a great punt. On the second play of the drive, Harris was nailed from behind and the ball flew out of his grip and into the end zone. FAU fell on it for a touchdown. The offensive line certainly isn’t without blame here, as they seem to be regressing after showing some promise during October, but Harris can’t hold the ball for seven seconds and expect anything good to come out of it. He just can’t.

So now it’s tied at 14. Neither offense does anything the rest of the way, and so we go to overtime. Yes, really. 9-1 Florida, who went 7-1 in the SEC, is going to OVERTIME with an FAU team that’s 2-8. Thankfully, Treon Harris had one more “big play” in him, floating a throwback to Jake McGee, who shook off two defenders and scored. FAU then picked up a first down, but was then driven backwards and Jaquez Johnson’s desperation fourth down heave into the end zone was poked away by Brian Poole. Game over. Florida survives.

It’s always better to win a game than it is to lose it. Just ask South Carolina. But that’s about the only positive to take away from this game. The frustrating thing is, the Gators have a defense that’s good enough to keep them in every game they play, but the offense has disintegrated into a unit that’s so bad its best bet may be taking knees on every offensive snap and hoping the defense or special teams scores for them. My hopes and patience for Treon Harris, once unlimited, have been reduced to close to nothing. It’s reached the stage where I just beg him not to do something stupid every time he takes a snap because that’s the only way Florida can lose a game if the defense plays as well as it has the last month.

All Florida has to do to beat FSU is not beat themselves; I just hope that’s not too much to ask them. This team is getting worse as the season draws to its conclusion, and not better. Regardless, they’re one win away from finishing the regular season having accomplished everything anybody could have asked them to do in the offseason. And so until we get to watch them take the field Saturday night to try to do that, all we can do is hope that we see a totally different team than the one we saw against FAU and Vanderbilt.

If we do, maybe this story will have a happy ending after all.

10 thoughts on “Florida 20, FAU 14, Game Recap: Gators win, but struggles and concerns mount

  1. “… went 7-1 in the SEC…” I think you have missed the point that the SEC, especially the SEC East, which is probably the worst division of any Power Five conference, is mediocre this year. That hypothesis was bolstered with UF and Georgia needing overtime, at home!, to pull out wins against Georgia Southern and FAU, and South Carolina losing to the Citadel. I don’t think anyone’s eyebrow would be raised if, like last year, the ACC sweeps the SEC again this Saturday on Rivalry weekend. Face it, the SEC is no longer a dominant conference over anybody. Maybe Paul Finebaum is to blame. The SEC streak of dominance ended after he was cheeky enough to put out a book with the subtitle “My conference can beat your conference.” There is still plenty of football to be played, but the SEC is not anything to write home about, and UF, we’ve seen how mediocre they really are, winning a division crown just affirms it.

  2. Neil, I know you had to do your duty and write this.
    But, we ALL have to remember that this is not a great UF team. They came in to the season woefully bad on offense. The line is so thin its laughable.
    Go back to 2014 (hell, start at 2011 or even 2010). This has been a train-wreck for years. I refuse to bring up the previous coach anymore, we’re way past that. But, Coach Mac inherited the dumpster fire on offense. He’s worked wonders getting it to be a competitive one, too. Losing Grier was monumental. But, Mac still kept things together for the most part. And, technically, he still has. UF has won games they should have lost. They could easily, really easily, be 7-4.
    Let’s recall that the expectation in the spring was for this team to be in a 2-year rebuild. Nothing has changed. They haven’t gone into free agency and loaded up on talent. No trades. This isn’t the NFL. The only thing that has changed is how great we all realize Coach Mac and staff are at getting the absolute most out of this really horrid offensive team.
    You can break down the nuances of the failures on Saturday, and rightly so. We all need to understand clearly WHY this is a terrible offense. But, we also need to keep our eye on the ball. They’ve overachieved in the W-L standings, that’s it. But, the reality is, they need more time to put together an offense that will put some fear into opposing defenses.
    Nothing has changed for me since last December when Mac stepped off the plane. I still see UF as an average team with an outstanding defense. I still see them needing a laundry-list of recruits on offense before being taken seriously. I still see them needing another season to put together that offense, one that can contend for more than a 6-point win over a bottom-feeding FBS team.
    In spite of their record and their trip to Atlanta upcoming, I still see them not ready to compete for the SEC Championship.
    The FSU game will be a low-scoring slop-fest. Defense will rule the day.
    The Bama game (yes, I expect them to beat Auburn and punch their ticket) will be similar, except I believe the Tide will overwhelm the Gators at some point and pull away by double digits, leaving the monday-morning quarterbacks to ridicule the Gators for not being worthy of playing on the same field as Bama.
    I just hope we collectively think before knee-jerking and blasting these players and staff afterward. They aren’t ready. And, it’s not their fault. Be patient. It’s coming.

  3. I just don’t know about this team anymore. Yes Grier was a big reason for the 6-0 start, but the rest of the team has simply regressed, too. Here’s hoping they get their shit together for FSU. But I just don’t feel good about it.

  4. When are you going to tell your people on this site that you have multiple fake go fund me accounts just to keep this site running? Im sure that your fan base doesn’t care about your charts once you tell the story about not only posing on multiple go fund me accounts collecting money on someone else, (that’s not a hustler) that’s pathetic P.O.S!

    P.S. I donated just to have proof ya fraud! Really can’t wait to let the legal maters to play out!

  5. I Honestly have a hard time believing we can beat FSU and Come close to bama by 20. Harris is Awful but the offense isn’t that bad. If It wasn’t for Harris We would be averaging 25-30PPG. We Do have a Laundry list Offensive recruits tho. Just not at QB. Mac has Brought in 4 Star WR Freddie Swain and 3 Star WR Isaiah Johnson to pair with Callaway and Strengthen the WR Core. Nate Craig-Myers Also is a 5 Star Recruits Expected to Commit and is a Antonio Brown Type Talent. So We Should have 4 VERY Good WRs Next year. We also added 2 Corners, 2 Safeties and a Bunch of Front 7 Personnel to get deeper. Thompson, Perine, Taylor, Scarlett and Cronkite will be a Great RB Tandem next year with perine Most Likely Being RS. Sadly we only added 2 3 Star OL but Ivey Should Improve and hopefully those guys work out, As Far as Targets and Undecided players go, Nate Craig Meyers is expected, Feleipe Franks 5 Star QB is likely to De Commit from LSU, especially with LSU Most likely firing Les Miles. Lastly Terrance Davis and John Simpson are 2 “High Warm Choices” According to 247 Sports, Both are Guards. So We have alot of Offensive Skill Position talent coming and the usual Cluster of Amazing Defensive talent. The Real Questions is at QB where Kyle Trask or Treon harris Will Start for the first 7 Games of next year unless Feleipe Franks Re Commits to UF. Trask is a 2 star Gem Nuss Found So I am excited about him. You Can check him out here. Also if you guys could check out my blog I would be forever grateful…

    Blog: PresentedByNick.SportsBlog.Com
    Twitter: @PresentedByNick
    Trask Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXZlGtqzKTY

    I am Very Excited about this Class. One Of Best in the last few years, and Would Likely be the Best if We Could Reel in Franks, Davis, Meyers and Shavar Manuel.

    1. No, nothing has changed on offense. I see the “if” used by you, but isn’t it time to quit using “ifs” and all the other excuses? UF is now in it’s usual spot on offense, triple digits, that it has inhabited almost always since Tim Tebow left. Yes, UF is 100th in total offense right now, and I doubt that will improve after facing the two best teams it has played this year, FSU and Alabama, in the next couple of weeks. I also wouldn’t count on Nate Craig-Myers, or anyone else, because he, and others, will be in the Swamp Saturday. Believe it or not, FSU still wants him, and if FSU embarrasses UF, there’s a good chance he’ll choose a winner, not a loser. It’s very simple, UF needs to get a good quarterback before becoming better on offense. It’s now been six years since someone fitting that description has taken snaps in Gainesville. Franks, Grier, Allen, etc., there’s no guarantee that any of them, if they play for UF, will be any better than the garbage UF has trotted out the past six years.

        1. You are right, There is no “Guarantees” but our offense is a QB away form being able to put up 30 Points a game. Grier was play phenomenal and was a 3 Star from a Ohio Public School? So what makes you think Trask Wont be good in his replacement or good enough? Have you seen our schedule next year? Its a Joke.. Only Hard team is LSU and Ark and we Play LSU at home. Trask/Harris Will Rotate snaps early season like that happened with Grier and Harris this year. And May the better man win. But If Franks Does Commit Thats a 4/5 Star Qb that should again be able to get the Job done in Tandem with Harris and Or trask until grier gets back. And Meyers you are correct about But I doubt we Get embarrassed. Our Offense Will be Very Good next year if Harris Improve or If We get franks and he is the Real deal. It will still be imrpoved with out that as well. Because Our OL and WR core will be MUCH better. We have 2 4 Star WR and 2 3 stars coming in and Callaway will only get better. Same with the OL.

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