Have Gators found winning edge?


Florida's Trey Burton gestures to the crowd before the start of the Florida Georgia football game at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Oct. 30, 2010. Florida won 34-31 in overtime.

Brad McClenny/ Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 5:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2010 at 5:33 p.m.

After searching and searching, it appears the Florida Gators have finally found the offensive edge they've been seeking all season. Now, the goal is to sharpen it, refine it.

The 34-point, 450-yard performance against Georgia on Saturday is just a start, UF coach Urban Meyer said.

"Four-hundred-fifty total yards of offense is what we have to do to get this thing going," Meyer said after the Gators' 34-31 overtime victory. "Obviously, we have a lot of improvement to do. We still had penalties in that no-huddle stuff, but we are going to continue to do that because we need an edge.

"If that is our edge, which I am kind of a fan of that right now, we are going to go even harder at that."

Florida's slumbering offense awakened Saturday with a new no-huddle, up-tempo attack that featured alternating quarterbacks (John Brantley and Trey Burton) and the return of some of the Gators' dynamic speed (slot receiver/tailback Chris Rainey and tailback Jeff Demps).

With Brantley and Burton in the game together, the Gators would quickly get to the line and then one of the two would line up in the shotgun for the snap. Tight end Jordan Reed also lined up at quarterback and had runs of 12 and seven yards on back-to-back plays. The fast-break offense kept the Georgia defense off balance and guessing for much of the game.

And it produced an offensive explosion compared to what the Gators had done offensively before Saturday's game, especially during their three-game losing streak. UF came into Saturday's game averaging only 329 total yards a game.

Meyer said the coaching staff started implementing the no-huddle offense three weeks ago, and used the open date last week to get it ready for its debut Saturday. Meyer said wide receiver coach Zach Azzanni played a pivotal role in installing the offense. He coached in a similar offense at Central Michigan.

"He came from Central Michigan where they had lightning speed," Meyer said. "Part of the problem is if you don't know it, if you don't have a guy on your staff that knows it, then it looks like it did a little bit.

"Coach Azzanni did a great job helping us install this. I made the decision we're doing it. We started this about three weeks ago. It looks awful if you don't have time to get going with it. We're getting ready for it."

Meyer said he wishes he'd gone to the no-huddle, fast-break offense sooner.

"I could kick myself for not doing more of that this summer," he said. "I didn't know Trey Burton was that good of a runner. He's dynamic. Jordan Reed also did a nice job with two plus-yardage plays.

"We have to find that edge. Florida always had that edge. In 2005 we didn't have one. In '06, we had some when we recruited Percy Harvin and had Dallas Baker. Tim (Tebow) went crazy in '07, and in '08 we had a bundle of them - edge all over the place.

"We're still trying to find what that edge is. You can't play offensive football without it. You can sit and run between the tackles or you can run perimeter plays or you can throw it. But if you don't have that edge, it's just a mess. That's kind of where we've been."

After Saturday's performance, it's obvious the Gators believe their edge is the no-huddle offense. They were nowhere close to being flawless in the up-tempo (UF had multiple motion penalties), but they are going to continue working on it and expanding it the rest of the season, Meyer said.

"We're looking at tempo as an edge, multiple quarterbacks as an edge and development of players," Meyer said. "And we got that speed back (with the return of Rainey and Demps)."

In Saturday's victory, Brantley and Burton both had big days. Brantley threw for 193 yards and Burton rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

Brantley said the no-huddle put pressure on the Georgia defense.

"It's tough when Trey starts out at quarterback and then I shift back in there," Brantley said. "It's tough (for the defense) to make checks. We were trying to get a little confusion in the defense and do a little mismatching."

Brantley said Rainey and Demps also made a difference.

"It was huge (having them back)," he said. "They're playmakers, they know how to make plays. To have them back and have that depth, it's real good."

With dynamic speed back in the lineup, and the Gators going to the no-huddle, maybe UF has finally found its edge.

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