Offense on second thought

UF quarterback Tim Tebow is facing a tougher challenge from defenses this season.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, October 6, 2008 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 at 5:01 p.m.

All the grumblers and grousers out there probably won't get this, but Urban Meyer is starting to feel better about his offense.

Here's why:

* The Gators had only one three-and-out in Saturday's victory over Arkansas and rolled up 514 total yards, including 278 on the ground.

* The offensive line is coming off its best and most physical performance of the season.

* The Gators involved all their playmakers in the victory, with eight different receivers catching passes and tailbacks Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps both going over 100 yards.

* Rainey and Demps have infused a home-run threat at tailback, which changes the dynamics of the offense.

* Florida leads the SEC in scoring and passing efficiency.

That's lot of good stuff, Meyer said Monday.

"You take away the penalties (12 for 110 yards) and that's one of the best offensive performances we've had," Meyer said. "We had one three-and-out because of a misread. Everything else was just methodically moving the ball down the field. It was a combination of shock plays (and spreading the ball around).

"Every time you do that, spread the wealth on offense, you're going to be more productive."

Meyer said he understands why many fans have been grumbling and grousing about the offense.

"With what's happening, I kind of agree," he said. "I complain about the offense, too, every Sunday when we come in here (and look at the tape). That's the nature of the beast.

"We expect to score points, we expect to look clean. At times, it hasn't look clean. Let's get things fixed."

After Saturday's victory in Fayetteville, Meyer said his offense was "awful" at times. He sort of took that comment back Monday.

"At times we looked awful; that's college football," he said. "After re-evaluating it, our offensive line really played physical, the physical approach they've taken all season. Take out the dadgarn penalties, and that's one (offensive performance) we'd all be happy with."

Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen said one of the encouraging aspects of the performance was the way quarterback Tim Tebow distributed the ball to his playmakers. The offense was sort of a two-man game (Tebow and wide receiver Percy Harvin) for much of the previous three games. In Saturday's game, many more players were involved.

"We had six different guys with multiple catches and two backs over 100 yards," Mullen said. "That's the balance distribution we want. I'm just happy with the distribution, the balance of spreading the ball around and making people defend everyone we have out there.

"We're the most successful when we distribute the ball that way. When you have a bunch of guys who can make plays and you spread the ball that way, it's much better for us."

On the critical touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that gave UF a 24-7 lead, Tebow completed 4-of-4 passes for 76 yards, finding three different receivers (Harvin, Deonte Thompson and Louis Murphy). Rainey also had a 10-yard run in the seven-play 83-yard drive that took only two minutes, 43 seconds.

"We started moving the ball a lot in this game," Murphy said. "When we spread it around like that, we move it up and down the field. I believe we could do that every game."

Meyer said the threat of Rainey and Demps taking it the distance, like they did Saturday, adds another dimension.

"Our object on the offensive line at Florida in the running game is to get that speed to the second level (in the secondary)," Meyer said. "When we do that, good things happen.

"We have a different type of tailbacks right now, very small, fast players. Teams have been dropping back (to prevent the Gators from throwing deep). It's little different deal now. You blink. ... You saw what happened with Demps and Rainey. Our whole objective is to get speed to the second level, and we did that."

Meyer said opposing defenses have been doing things to prevent Tebow from taking over games and doing some of the things he did last season.

Meyer seems happy with his quarterback.

"Has he had the astronomical numbers he had a year ago? No," Meyer said. "Is his misfiring on some things? Yes. You have to give credit where credit is due. Defenses are doing a better job.

"I think he is playing very good."

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