Jim McElwain taking blame for Florida’s shortcomings in loss to Michigan
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Jim McElwain is shouldering the blame for his team’s latest lopsided loss against a “real” program.
McElwain defended offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on Monday, expressed belief in his offensive line that got manhandled in a 33-17 loss to 11th-ranked Michigan and decided to stick with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks at quarterback.
“Put the ire towards me,” McElwain said. “I mean, I’m the one responsible for it. I plan on getting it fixed.”
McElwain said he has no plans to take over play-calling duties, something he did during his first season as head coach at Colorado State.
“No, we’re not doing that right now,” McElwain said. “We need to make sure that the guys that need to touch it, touch it.”
Nussmeier has been Florida’s offensive coordinator in each of McElwain’s three seasons in Gainesville, and the offense has looked far from smooth in any of them. The Gators ranked 112th in total offense in 2015 and dropped to 116th last year. They currently rank 121st out of 125 teams.
“I’ve seen what he can do,” McElwain said. “I’ve seen what he’s done. He takes a lot of it personal and sometimes in this business that’s the way it is, whether it’s the quarterback or the coordinator, whatever, that’s part of the gig. And yet we also have to step up around him, too, and make sure we’re getting some things accomplished in some other spots.”
The 17th-ranked Gators have looked overwhelmed in six games against Alabama, Florida State and Michigan. They were outscored 215-70 in those losses, and 32 of Florida’s points were scored by defense or special teams. The Gators failed to score an offensive touchdown in three of those games, including Saturday against Michigan in Arlington, Texas.
McElwain said it’s fair to lump those games together because they came against “real programs.”
“It also I think shows what we’ve got to build for,” McElwain said. “And no doubt about it, you know that’s where you know we strive to be and that’s where we are going to get. But I don’t think that’s unfair at all. I really don’t.”
The Gators host Northern Colorado (1-0) on Saturday night, a chance to rebound from a loss that ended the nation’s longest streak of season-opening wins at 27.
It’s also a chance for Florida to gain some much-needed confidence on both sides of the ball, especially offense.
The Gators finished with 192 yards against the Wolverines, the program’s fewest since a loss to Alabama in the 2015 Southeastern Conference championship game.
Franks remains Florida’s starting quarterback despite a lackluster performance. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards, fumbled twice and was sacked once. McElwain benched him early in the third quarter and turned to Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire.
Zaire completed 9 of 17 passes for 106 yards and was sacked five times.
McElwain said the biggest issue for both quarterbacks was a lack of protection from a shaky line that the coach praised all offseason and even called the “true strength” of the team.
“I am not going to sit here and tell you that I thought it would be like that,” McElwain said. “I knew it would be a physical game. Our opportunities, especially on first-and-10, and then getting behind the sticks like we did, that’s something I knew was going to give us trouble if that occurred, and that sure as heck is what happened.”
Florida will get freshman receiver James Robinson back from a one-game suspension that followed a marijuana possession charge. But McElwain said there’s no new information on the nine others, including standout receiver Antonio Callaway and leading rusher Jordan Scarlett, who are suspended indefinitely for their roles in an alleged credit card fraud scheme.
McElwain has made it clear that he doesn’t believe Callaway and Scarlett would have altered the outcome against Michigan — or changed all the finger-pointing.
“I think it’s one game, you know,” McElwain said. “I just love the fact we have fans. I think that that’s a good thing. I don’t take that as a negative at all. That’s one of the things that drew me here was the fact that there’s a lot of passionate people out there for the Gators.
“We’re all entitled to our opinion, and I appreciate it. I just know we’re working to build this thing into something great.”
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