“It’s all about watching our players,” Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. “Amongst everything out there, this group of guys learned how to stick together, have faith and believe… loyalty, and all those great traits. You watch them be rewarded for their effort, and it’s really cool. That’s cool about being a football coach or a competitor in the arena. That’s what it’s all about. When you get to watch it unfold, it’s special.”
The last three weeks produced an increasing sense of frustration throughout the team. They were outplayed at Alabama, but the losses to LSU and Mississippi State were games that could have gone either way. The team felt a lack of breaks going their way, but there was also improvement to be made.
Considering the importance of this game and ending the losing streak, it ranks near the top of Addazio’s moments of the year.
“It was the high point for sure… not the highest point, but it was a high point,” Addazio said. “I’m so proud of our players. They battled. It’s not about anything but pulling together, being a family and believing. That’s what happened with this group of guys. It was great to see them experience was it means to have loyalty. That’s what it’s all about.”
To improve from the previous three games, the Florida offense added an offense with increased tempo. They didn’t huddle for almost the entire first half, trying to wear down the Georgia defensive line. Addazio said the team put “a lot” of work into it throughout the past two weeks of practice.
“It’s something that’s who we are, and we’re going to grow,” Addazio said.
The Florida offense also benefited from the return of Chris Rainey. He started the season as a slot receiver, but a majority of his snaps Saturday came at running back. He was still involved in the pass game from the backfield, but it was clear the Gators wanted to add a running back that could make defenders miss. Running back Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee were also banged up, so Rainey’s presence in the backfield added another healthy body.
Rainey touched the ball 18 times for 93 yards on offense. He also lined up as the kick returner, taking six returns for 148 yards, including a long of 45 yards.
“Absolutely it helped,” Addazio said of having Rainey back. “He’s a playmaker. He did a lot of things for us out of the backfield, as a receiver, as a kick returner. He brought a lot of explosiveness back into our game.”
The increased tempo was new, but it was more difficult for this offense to implement since Florida wanted to use three quarterbacks. John Brantley was the only quarterback to throw a pass down field, while Trey Burton was the running quarterback. Jordan Reed only got three carries for 19 yards, but he was effective with the ball in his hands.
Burton led all rushers in the game, running the ball 17 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
“We need all three of them,” Addazio said. “It gives us another dimension. First of all, it brings about some downhill runs, option football and disguise. We wanted to add that element and the tempo.”
The ending couldn’t be scripted. Field goal kicker Chas Henry, who had missed four straight after his first quarter miss, split the uprights in overtime to give the Gators the 34-31 victory.
“That’s a guy who has some real something to him,” Addazio said. “I’m thrilled to death to watch him do that and have success at that. He’s a competitor. He wanted that really bad.”