GAINESVILLE — Nine games into the season, Florida has won eight, yet the Gators can't seem to escape the criticism of that struggling offense.
From social media to local sports talk radio and media sessions, the prevailing question is: Why isn't the offense better?
No. 7 Florida is ranked No. 102 nationally in total offense (332.8) and No. 114 in passing offense, and the Gators seem to have regressed in the past couple of weeks. In the past two games, Florida has gained 542 yards, scored two touchdowns (23 total points) and is 9-of-29 on third-down conversions.
Coach Will Muschamp said the team remains much as he described it in Week 2 against Texas A&M: an offense that would be a work in progress all season, unlikely to blow out opponents.
"It is what it is," Muschamp said. "We're where we are. We're 8-1, all right? It's easy to go pick at that (the offense), and that's what everybody's decided to do at this point. We're not scoring 60 points a game, so obviously we're all upset. I want to score 60, too, but I want to win first of all. That's really what's important, and that's what we're trying to do."
Quarterback Jeff Driskel said it's not as if the Gators aren't trying to improve. Florida went no-huddle early in Saturday's 14-7 win over Missouri because "we feel like we play better and move the ball better when we have a good tempo."
Driskel acknowledged the offense still needs work.
"We have to start better, and we have to play better throughout the whole game," he said. "The offense has to be more productive, and we'll work on it. … "We're going to have to be more explosive, that's what it comes down to. And being more effective on third down."
Florida will face Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State before closing out the regular season at intrastate rival Florida State. The Gators may have a good opportunity to work on the passing game this week with Louisiana-Lafayette, which is ranked No. 114 in pass defense (294.6).
"Obviously that's a stat that you look at and say, 'Well, they've given up some stuff,' " offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. " … We should get it going, I guess. Those stats are saying that you can."
With the passing game struggling, opponents have focused on stopping the run. Injuries to the offensive line also haven't helped. Heading into the next two games, Pease said consistency and finally putting everything in play in one game will be critical.
"I think catch the ball," he said as an area of concern. "We had some drops we shouldn't have. There were a lot of good things (vs. Missouri), but when you look at the one thing that was glaring that could have kept us on the field longer was our third-down opportunities. We were in a pretty manageable situation. We have to get back, we've been good one week and not good the next. It's just a matter of putting it all together."
What he won't do, Pease said, is force things just to say the offense has improved. The object is still to win — period.
"Being in my position you kind of get to a point where not everything is going to be perfect through the whole scheme of the game, and you kind of play based off some field position, the timing of the game, the flow of how it's going," he said. "So you're always trying to put the kids in a good situation, and you know sometimes you might think, Well, he gets conservative.
"Well, yeah, but we know our defense is playing well. We know we got Christy (Kyle, UF punter) to get us out of a situation or something, and not make a risky throw where our defense has a short field or something like that. So we're trying to play manageable spots, that's what we want to do."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]