UF forced to scrutinize offense


Published: Monday, October 11, 2010 at 6:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 11, 2010 at 6:50 p.m.

In the throes of a rare two-game losing streak, the Florida Gators have plenty to work on and worry about. There are two areas in particular that have really grabbed coach Urban Meyer's attention.

Recent failures in the red zone, deep in the red zone, in fact. And the absence of home-run plays on offense.

"The biggest issues I have right now are the lack of production in the red zone and the lack of big plays," Meyer said Monday. "That's why we've run the reverse (in the past two games). We haven't run a reverse around here in quite a while because we didn't have to. It certainly will be in our package now more than ever."

At this point, the Gators are looking for any and all ways to spring players loose for big plays and successfully finish drives in the red zone. Nothing much has worked lately, especially in the red zone.

In the losses to Alabama and LSU, the offense had three drives to the opponents' 1-yard line that resulted in no points.

Two of those drives (both against Alabama) ended with turnovers, including a fourth-down interception in the end zone.

The killer in Saturday's loss to LSU came on UF's opening drive in the second half. In 13 plays, the Gators drove to the Tigers' 1-yard line, where UF faced a second-and-goal. But on a run by quarterback Trey Burton, center Mike Pouncey was called for holding.

Before UF could line up for another play, the Gators were penalized again for a substitution infraction. After two pass plays netted just one yard, Chas Henry came on and missed a 32-yard field goal attempt.

Henry got a second chance from 25 yards after LSU was called for defensive holding, but he misfired the second attempt as well.

"We had a 15-play drive to start the second half and finished with no points after the holding penalty," Meyer said. "That really hurt us. We also had a 10-play drive with no points. We're certainly addressing that.

"We're possessing the ball, but our red-zone efficiency is not where we were at the start of the season, when we were pretty strong. When you have only four drives a half because you're possessing the ball, you have to be very efficient (in the red zone)."

The Gators' dink-and-dunk offense is playing a role in UF getting a limited number of possessions. In the past few seasons, UF has produced many quick-scoring drives thanks to numerous big plays. But the big plays are missing this season.

Through six games, the Gators have had only three plays of 50 yards or longer — runs of 63 and 72 yards by tailback Jeff Demps and a 51-yard pass from starting quarterback John Brantley to wide receiver Carl Moore.

"The lack of explosive plays (is an issue)," Meyer said. "(Big plays) were something we set a trademark for around here. We're void of those right now. We're not having those home-run shots.

"(Scoring in the red zone, big plays) and, obviously, taking care of the football ... those are the core values of our program on how to win a game. Those are areas we have to improve on."

With Demps out last Saturday, the big-play potential was almost non-existent. Realizing it, the Tigers effectively disrupted quarterback John Brantley and the offense with blitz after blitz.

"Teams have a tendency to blitz more if you don't have the home-run shot," Meyer said. "We have got to strike when they blitz. LSU became an absolute blitzathon. We weren't able to make that home-run shot. That's something we've got to strive to improve on."

The Gators are hoping to have Demps back Saturday night against Mississippi State. UF also discovered another potential home-run hitter in redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose, who returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and had a key 9-yard run for a first down in the second half.

Meyer said the coaches will try to get Debose more involved in the offense.

Meyer said he's evaluating all phases of his team coming off the two losses, including play-calling.

Meyer was asked if Steve Addazio is being spread too thin in his dual role as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. The play-calling was booed several times in the second half of Saturday's game, including on the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

"He's got a tough job," Meyer said. "He can handle it. He showed it a year ago and he's showing it now. I try to evaluate everything. I have a lot of confidence in the offense as well.

"An offense minus big plays is tough in this day and age. How do you create big plays? You've got to get more guys loose and hit them when they're open."

Brantley also expressed confidence in Addazio on Monday.

"I trust Coach Addazio and his play-calling," Brantley said, when asked if he'd like to throw the ball down field more. "I'm going to do what he says. I'm not going to complain. I trust Coach Addazio and think he's a great coach.

"He's trying to put us in the best position to win, and I believe that. I'm going to keep doing what he wants me to do."

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com.

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