This Florida offense is easy to play against


Published: Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 16, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
With five words, Urban Meyer said what everybody had been trying to tell him since he took the job as Florida's football coach whether it be to his face or in cyberspace.
"This is a tough conference," Meyer said.
Obviously, it's too tough for his offense.
At least it is right now. Suspicions that the spread option would sputter when faced with the kind of athletes you face in the Southeastern Conference have been confirmed for even the most patient of Gator fans.
Florida has played three big games and has one, count it, one legitimate touchdown drive in 12 quarters.
On Saturday against LSU, Florida's offense looked inept and confused for most of the game. You get five turnovers and give up none and you have to win the game.
Don't you? I mean, the media isn't allowed to watch practice so we have to assume the Gator offense is practicing. But there has been little we've seen against Tennessee, Alabama and LSU to indicate that there is anything going on at the UF practice field other than defensive and special teams workouts.
Not only have the Gators put themselves in a deep hole in the SEC East, they haven't been much fun to watch. All of that discipline off the field isn't translating to discipline on the field either.
Against the Tigers, which have a suspect secondary that was victimized by Arizona State and Tennessee, Chris Leak completed 11 passes. His longest completion went for 20 yards and that was a screen to DeShawn Wynn.
The bottom line - Florida is really easy to defend right now.
When they go to a no-back offense, the defense blitzes. LSU did it almost every time on Saturday and almost every time got to Leak forcing off-target passes, ineffective scrambles or quarterback sacks.
Secondaries continue to crowd Florida's receivers because the Gators seem more concerned with stretching the field from side to side rather than goal line to goal line.
There were a couple of plays - no about 40 plays - that illustrated how bad this offense is right now. One was an option play where LSU had three unblocked defenders waiting for Leak and his running back. Another was a passing play where Dallas Baker would have been wide open for a touchdown but Leak couldn't trust his offensive line to give him protection and threw too early.
That Florida scored 17 points was a tribute to a defense that kept setting them up with great field position. And after falling behind, Florida had four chances to drive for the winning score.
Instead, those four drives netted 17 yards. The Gators also had five penalties on those possessions.
Pretty pathetic. "We're still not executing offensively," Meyer said.
Which brings to mind the famous line of the late John McKay, who was asked about the execution of his Tampa Bay offense.
"I'm all for it," he said. It's no wonder Meyer broke down at the post-game news conference.
Because as you watched this game unfold, you couldn't see any way other than a turnover that Florida could put points on the board. Meyer has his plan for winning, but he might want to add scoring more points to the mix.
There are plenty of reasons why the Gator offense is looking like it did when UF went 0-10-1 in 1979. The receivers aren't getting open, the play-calling has been shaky, Leak seems to be regressing and the offensive line is porous.
Did I leave anything out? So what's a coach to do? Bench Leak for Josh Portis? Not going to happen. Abandoned the spread option? So after selling your team on believing that this would work you're going to tell them, "Never mind?"
Florida should have won this game, could have won this game with an average offense. Instead, the only average that mattered was .367. That was Leak's passing percentage. The quarterback who had thrown a touchdown pass in 23 straight games has now failed to do so in two of his last three.
It is a tough conference and you can't win many games in this league with 107 passing yards and a quarterback who doesn't trust his offensive line. You can't win many games with 11 first downs and 10 penalties.
Florida has already failed twice. And with a 3-2 record in the league and Georgia unbeaten, it is clear that an old Gator cry will resurface for both the team and the offense.
Wait 'til next year. You can reach sports columnist Pat Dooley by e-mail at dooleyp@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5053. You can hear The Pat Dooley Hour each weekday from 11 a.m. to noon on The Star 99.5-FM.

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