5 biggest surprises (good and bad) from first half of Florida’s season

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Gators are 3-3 heading into their bye week.

After a three-game stretch during which it looked like the Gators would always find a way to pull out wins late, the luck ran out with losses to LSU and Texas A&M.

There have been highlights and lowlights throughout the six-game stretch to open the season. Here are five of the bigger surprises thus far. The Gators finally established the run game…

Florida’s rushing offense was virtually non-existent in coach Jim McElwain’s first two seasons, with the Gators ranking in the bottom two of the conference both seasons.

It has changed for the better in 2017.

After a dismal performance in the season-opener against Michigan, Florida has averaged 201.6 rushing yards over the past five games. That mark would rank 32nd nationally and sixth in the SEC if the performance against the Wolverines wasn’t included.

And Florida is accomplishing this without junior Jordan Scarlett, the team’s starter from last season who is one of nine players indefinitely suspended while being investigated for credit card fraud.

Instead, it has been the combination of freshman Malik Davis and sophomore Lamical Perine carrying the load.

Davis is averaging a team-best 84.33 yards per game and is the only freshman in the SEC with three runs of at least 30 yards. Perine has scored 6 rushing touchdowns in the past three games. The offense overall is still struggling

Florida QB Feleipe Franks has yet to establish himself as a viable quarterback option six games into the season. (Jordan McPherson/SEC Country) Even with production from the run game, Florida’s offense still hasn’t been able to turn the corner.

The Gators are ranked 10th in the SEC in total offense (351.2 yards/game, 106th nationally), 12th in scoring offense (23.7 points/game, 97th nationally) and last in third-down conversions (33.3 percent, 103rd nationally).

These struggles stem from Florida’s inability to get something — anything — going in the passing game with redshirt Feleipe Franks at the helm. Outside of two plays — the game-winning touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland as time expired against Tennessee and his blistering 79-yard run against Texas A&M — Franks has underwhelmed halfway into his first season as a starter.

He is averaging 132.3 passing yards per game (99th nationally), has 3 passing touchdowns to 3 interceptions, was benched in the second half of two games and regained the starting job midway through the game against Vanderbilt only after Luke Del Rio suffered a season-ending collarbone injury.Despite the cannon arm and ability to stretch the field, he has relied heavily on check-down passes. Just 6 of his 67 completions have gone for more than 30 yards. Where did the fourth-quarter magic go? Tyrie Cleveland catches the game-winning touchdown against Tennessee. (Jordan McPherson/SEC Country) Four weeks into the season, when Florida was sitting pretty at 3-1 and undefeated in conference play, it looked like the Gators would just continue to find ways to win games late.Just look at how those three wins finished: A last-second, 63-yard touchdown from Franks to Cleveland […]