Gators looking for answers

University of Florida kicker Chas Henry (17) walks off the field after playing Mississippi State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. Mississippi State defeated the Gators 10-7.

Matt Stamey/Staff Photographer
Published: Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 7:58 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 17, 2010 at 7:58 p.m.

A minute and a half into Urban Meyer's somber post-game news conference Saturday night, the sting of his first three-game losing streak as Florida's coach intensified.

Just as he was being asked yet another question about his sputtering offense, the door to the meeting room opened and Bulldog chants that echoed throughout the stadium seemed to blare in Meyer's ears as he hung his head and let out a groan.

As if watching a Mississippi State player tote a huge maroon-and-white MSU flag up and down Florida Field wasn't bad enough, Meyer had to hear one last roar from the MSU crowd that made the 500-plus-mile trek from Starkville.

For the second time in as many games, he listened to opposing fans' thunderous cheers inside the Gators' house.

With Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) falling out of the rankings for the first time under Meyer, only four words could describe his team.

"We're not very good," Meyer said following Florida's 10-7 loss to Mississippi State.

Few would argue.

Florida's offense ranks ninth in the SEC and 91st nationally, averaging 329 total yards per game. Its veteran offensive line has given up six sacks in the last two games and quarterback John Brantley is passing for just 180.9 yards a game with six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Playmakers are scarce. Junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson has 25 catches, but has become known more for his critical drops and has zero touchdowns, while Florida's backfield is constantly crippled.

It doesn't help that Florida's most threatening weapon, junior running back Jeff Demps, has been hampered by a sprained foot for the last five weeks.

The Gators have also turned the ball over 14 times this season, tied for second-most in the SEC.

"We're not very good right now. It's an obvious statement," Meyer repeated on his Sunday television show. "Instead of sacking the bats, we have to find a way to get better."

Florida's strong suit is its defense, but it allowed 212 yards rushing to the Bulldogs a week after giving up 33 points and 385 yards to LSU, which owns one of the conference's least-productive offenses.

Through all of this, Florida still controls its own destiny and could make it to the SEC Championship Game by winning its final three league games (Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina).

"The East is still wide open," Meyer said Sunday. "It's my sixth year in the league and I've never seen it quite like this.

"At times people get tired of me saying this, but all we know how to do is work a little harder, get a little closer and get better."

There are major concerns for a team that can't locate answers and keeps digging a deeper hole for itself this season.

"That's a tough one," senior safety Ahmad Black said when asked to pinpoint Florida's reasons for the struggles. "I'm not really sure, right now."

Meyer didn't have immediate solutions either, but did say it's time for an "overhaul" of Florida's floundering offense.

"We have to throw and catch better," he said.

When asked if he favored an offensive overhaul, Brantley said he'd agree to whatever his coaches decide.

"If that's what Coach Meyer thinks we need to do, we're all for it," he said. "We've all got each other's back."

Fortunately for the Gators, they'll have more time to implement necessary changes to the offense during this much-needed bye week.

Senior center Mike Pouncey, who was barely audible as he spoke, has found the low point of his playing career. Used to winning at Lakeland High School and through his first three years at Florida, Pouncey couldn't remember the last time he lost three straight games.

"We went out and fought until the end of the game," Pouncey said. "It's just tough to lose one like that. We really needed that one."

He did offer some words of hope, saying there was no finger-pointing and the mood in the locker room revolved around facing adversity as a family.

Pouncey added he's still confident winning the SEC is possible if the Gators find the right attitude.

"Around here, at Florida, we're so used to winning and we're not used to losing," he said. "The only thing we can do right now is go out and practice hard.

"We just have to stay together as a team and we'll get a win."

Injury updates: The Gators' injury list grew Saturday with linebacker Jelani Jenkins (concussion), receiver Andre Debose (sprained ankle) and defensive end Jaye Howard (sprained ankle).

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