Hanging half a hundred has become rare for Florida football, after years and years of offensive dominance. That's why it's the first thing on our wish list for the Gators in 2013.
It's been 15 games and over a year since Florida last scored 50 points in a 54-32 win over Furman. And the Gators did that because they had to do that, given the weird dimensions of that game: Furman led 22-7 at the end of the first quarter, and trailed 27-22 at halftime and 37-32 entering the fourth quarter. Florida had to put away those Paladins, who went 6-5 on the year against mostly FCS competition. And even those 54 points came with significant defensive help: Pick-sixes from De'Ante "Pop" Saunders and Jelani Jenkins each helped Florida pull away in the fourth quarter.
Florida hasn't needed 50 points in a game it was capable of scoring 50 points since, thanks to rugged defense and rough offense, but it might not have been capable of getting halfway to the century mark in 2012 anyway. Florida played its backup quarterback against Bowling Green, Louisiana, and Jacksonville State last year, and didn't score 30 points against any of those cupcakes; its highest point total of 2012 came in a 44-11 blowout of South Carolina that was fueled by destructive special teams play.
For Florida fans, that's disconcerting, because not reaching that 50-point plateau is both bad and rare. The last time Florida failed to hang half a hundred on someone was 2005, when the Gators came within a point of doing it to Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Prior to that, the last year without a 50-point game was 1992, when Shane Matthews was a senior and had an underwhelming receiving corps.
Steve Spurrier's Gators actually went 28 games between 50-point outings from 1991's opener to the fifth game of the 1993 season, but they also managed to routinely score in the 30s (11 games of 30-plus points) and 40s (five games of 40-plus) during that stretch. Will Muschamp's Gators have scored more than 30 five times since last topping 50, and scored more than 40 just once.
But their streak actually looks like the first two years of Urban Meyer's time in Gainesville. The Furman game was Muschamp's ninth game at Florida; Meyer's first 50-point day came in his 22nd game as Florida's head coach, and in a 62-0 trouncing of Western Carolina that barely mattered. (Tim Tebow came in by the second quarter, and accounted for four touchdowns on that day.) Florida was riding another 28-game streak of staying under 50 entering that game, too.
From then on, Florida returned to high-octane offense. The 2006 Gators put 38 on Arkansas in the 2006 SEC Championship Game, and 41 on Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game, and Florida scored 50 four times in 2007, five times in 2008, and four times in 2009. Meyer's final year saw just one 50-point pasting, but in the three-year stretch from 2007 to 2009, Florida topped 50 in 13 of 41 games. From 2006 to 2009, it was 14 of 55 games; from 2007 to 2010, it's 14 of 54.
That doesn't compare to Spurrier's best three (1995-97: 15 times in 39 games) or four (1994-97: 18 times in 51 games) years — and Spurrier's Gators scored 50 far more often than the 11 times they were held under 25 points from 1994 to 1997. But Meyer's teams were winning enough that subjective critiques of his team's offenses — which ran far more than Spurrier's, and far more effectively, but nulled the "We want to throw it all over the lot" carping with points and wins by the dozens — were virtually nonexistent until 2009, when talent mostly masked Florida's red-zone struggles against the SEC, and chalked up to Steve Addazio in 2010, when John Brantley's inconsistency and the lack of a running game hamstrung the Gators all year.
Muschamp's 7-6 campaign in 2011 means he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt on style just yet. His share of the blame for the sputterings of his teams' offenses over the last two years depends on how much credit or blame fans give him for hiring Charlie Weis and Brent Pease, and how much control they think Muschamp has allowed his offensive coordinators to have. Weis got a 50-point day, but his offense scored 47 points in the whole of October, and seemed geared to score either 40-plus or 14 at most. Pease didn't get 50, and only got 40 once, but his offense did enough for Florida to win 11 games in 2012, despite a lack of talent and experience everywhere but running back and tight end, and there was a sense that Pease was hired in part because of his willingness to do what Muschamp asked.
And so this brings us full circle to 2013, and to a hope for half a hundred, which I beseeched Pease to provide against Kentucky last year, thanks to some chirping from Jared Lorenzen. Florida might have a chance to do that against the Wildcats again, and will probably have chances against Toledo and Georgia Southern, too. And the Gators might need those points against great offenses like Miami's and Georgia's. Beyond that, given the Gators' youth, it's unwise to predict a return to hanging half a hundred, even if you think Pease will have fuller control over what his offense does.
But we can certainly wish for it. After all, Florida's never lost when scoring 50 points.
And I will be wishing for it every Saturday.
We'll be running one item a day from the 2013 Florida Gators Football Wish List every day from now until the beginning of the season on August 31. Feel free to leave feedback or contribute ideas in the comments, on Twitter, on Facebook, or via email.