Based off the way his quarterbacks played Saturday vs. No. 11 Michigan, Florida coach Jim McElwain wasn’t kidding when he said he didn’t know who his starting quarterback would be entering the game.
No. 17 Florida’s offense struggled with both Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire at quarterback in a 33-17 loss to the Wolverines. The Gators’ two touchdowns came on interceptions of Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, who found himself on the bench in favor of backup John O’Korn for two series after throwing his second pick-six.
While Speight hardly looked fabulous, he at least helped the Michigan offense produce more than three points. Zaire and Franks combined to be 12-22 passing for 133 yards.
Florida somehow stayed in the game thanks to the sudden struggles of Michigan kicker Quinn Nordin.
Nordin made his first three field goals, including two of over 50 yards. The second long kick made the game 26-17 in the third quarter after Michigan trailed 17-13 at halftime. But he missed his next two field goals.
The Gators couldn’t do anything with those chances as they were shut out 20-0 in the second half. As the Florida offense sputtered to begin the third quarter, Zaire became the team’s primary quarterback after Franks started and played the first half.
Zaire only produced one play of note, a 22-yard pass to Tyrie Cleveland. And that play was made by Cleveland skying for the football. To deepen the QB struggles, Zaire was sacked and fumbled in the end zone for Michigan’s final points of the game.
Speight finished the game 11-25 for 181 yards a touchdown and those two picks while USC transfer running back Ty Isaac emerged as a force for the Wolverines. Isaac, a five-star recruit in the class of 2013, had 11 carries for 114 yards. Michigan ran for 215 yards while Florida ran for 20.
During preseason camp, McElwain said the quarterback competition was among Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, Franks, a redshirt freshman, and Luke Del Rio, who missed spring practice because of shoulder surgery, was very close. Del Rio didn’t play on Saturday, but it’s fair to wonder if he will in Week 2.
Florida’s defense is still good. But if the Gators are going to win a third-straight SEC East title, the offense has to be competent at times. Yeah, 10 Florida players — including leading receiver Antonio Callaway and leading rusher Jordan Scarlett — were suspended for the game. But that doesn’t excuse the ineptitude.
It’s way too early to write Florida off. But it’s not too early to not be optimistic about Florida’s offense.
More college football coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Refs take away Missouri TD for excessive celebration
• Picture this: Clemson band trolls Ohio State
• Michigan State WR hauls in incredible one-handed TD catch
• Wyoming punter’s epic blooper costs team dearly
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