Gators have no answers for offense

Published: Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 12:31 a.m.

Gone was the excitement.

Gone was the diversity.

Gone was any sort of hope.

After averaging 465 total yards with an up-tempo, three-quarterback offense against Georgia and Vanderbilt, the Gators reverted back to their old sputtering ways in a 36-14 loss to South Carolina Saturday.

Facing the SEC's ninth-best defense and worst passing defense, Florida gained just 226 yards, most of which came in the fourth quarter.

The three-headed quarterback monster that left Vandy dismantled in Nashville was nonexistent in Gainesville. Starter John Brantley went into the half with 32 passing yards, while backups Jordan Reed and Trey Burton combined for four rushes for 17 yards. All told, the three registered 204 total yards on the night, and the pre-snap quarterback shift seemed all but deleted form the playbook.

By the time the Gators had finally passed the century mark in total offensive yards in the fourth quarter, South Carolina's mind's were firmly set on the Gamecocks' showdown with Auburn in the SEC championship.

Execution, South Carolina's blitzing packages and plenty of "don't knows" were all Florida coach Urban Meyer and his players could muster for any sort of answer for the offensive woes. One thing was clear — reasons for the offense's regression are an enigma.

"Why? If I had an answer for that then we wouldn't have struggled," Meyer said.

Meyer's only description for his offense was that it was "nonfunctional."

Though Florida's longest completed pass of the game came on a 26-yard touchdown from Jordan Reed in the fourth quarter, Meyer said the plan was to exploit South Carolina's pass defense by stretching the field. Because of the numerous Gamecock blitzes, Meyer said that plan was quickly scrapped, forcing Florida to use its underneath game.

Brantley, who finished the night 130 yards and an interception on 16 of 31 passing, looked lost in The Swamp. The senior-laden offense line once again seemed to crumble at key moments, but even when Brantley had time, his passes sailed over or past his receivers.

Adding to Florida's struggles through the air was the lack of a running game. Junior running back Jeff Demps was limited yet again with what Meyer called a stress reaction in his foot. Demps had two carries for 5 yards. Junior Chris Rainey was Florida's leading rusher with 32 yards on five carries.

The answer to jump-start the offense apparently wasn't Debose. His opening kickoff return for a touchdown only led to two catches for 13 yards Saturday. Still, he was lighthearted about his lack of use but wasn't sure why he hasn't been more of a factor.

"I have no clue," Debose said when asked why he doesn't get the ball much on offense. "I have no answer for that."

Answers were hard to come by from anyone.

While Brantley said the play-calling Saturday was the same as from the last two games, the creativity was gone. Burton, Florida's most agile running threat at quarterback, carried the ball just once for 1 yard and caught three passes for 29 yards.

Reed's contributions mainly came in the fourth quarter, when the game was out of reach. When asked if he thought about replacing Brantley with Reed to start the second half, Meyer said, no, adding that Reed isn't "functional at everything yet as a quarterback."

He might not be functional, but the more Brantley struggled, the more the boos rained down upon him and the more fans roared with delight each time Reed replaced Brantley.

Meyer reiterated that Brantley is Florida's starter and Brantley is convinced he hasn't lost his spot. What he's unsure of is how Florida's offense sank so low, again.

"There's really no explanation right now," he said. "We just couldn't get things going. You can't do that, especially against a good team like South Carolina."

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