Florida's red zone issues linger
Published: Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 12:10 a.m.
The area of the field where an offense finds itself closest to scoring points was a disaster zone for Florida on Saturday night.
No. 22 Florida was 1-for-3 inside Mississippi State's 20-yard line on a night where 10 points was all an unranked Mississippi State team needed.
Senior center Mike Pouncey said his team works at red zone situations in practice "more than any team in the nation," but that's where the Gators lost Saturday night's game.
For a team that has lost three straight regular season games for the first time since 1988, there were no immediate answers for the immense struggles near the end zone, but coach Urban Meyer had an idea for why it happened.
"It's lack of execution," Meyer said.
Florida's ineptitude where it matters most began at Alabama, where the Gators were 1 of 4 inside the 20 with two turnovers and came away with only a field goal.
The Gators improved against LSU a week later, going 3 of 4, but a 25-yard missed field goal by punter Chas Henry proved critical with LSU's late-game heroics.
Saturday, Florida's first trip inside the Bulldogs' 20 came — on a drive that started at Florida's 37-yard line with 13:12 remaining in the second quarter — ended after 15 plays and a 38-yard field goal attempted missed wide left by Henry.
It took the Gators 14 plays to make it to the red zone, but not after some bumbling by the offense just outside it. After Florida got to MSU's 21 on a first down, a false start and a sack on quarterback John Brantley gave the Gators a second-and-19 at the 30.
The Gators finally broke inside the 20 when Brantley hit senior receiver Carl Moore on a 14-yard pass to the Bulldogs' 16-yard line. Brantley then lost 5 yards on a rush to the right.
Pushing Henry just beyond the 20 appeared to be too much for Florida's second-string place-kicker.
"We work on (red zone situations) every day, but it's something that we're struggling at," Pouncey said. "People think it's (offensive coordinator) coach (Steve) Addazio's play-calling, but it's definitely not that. The plays are there for us, but we just gotta get better."
But Henry's first miss didn't sting as bad as Florida's final trip to the red zone.
After redeeming themselves in the third quarter with a 5-yard touchdown option run by receiver Omarius Hines, the Gators choked away a chance to pull ahead in the fourth quarter.
Florida didn't need 15 yards to throw away a drive this time. It only needed seven.
Two plays after Hines took an option 31 yards and one play after he rushed for a gain of 6 to put Florida at MSU's 17, the Gators turned it over when defensive lineman Fletcher Cox ripped the ball from junior running back Jeff Demps' hands after catching a pass in the flat from Brantley.
The Bulldogs took over and took a crowd of 90,517 to its lowest point under Meyer.
Poor execution has become the theme for Florida in the red zone, but even Brantley couldn't decipher why UF under-performs when closing in on a score.
"We practice it a lot, but I don't really have a good explanation right now," he said.
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