Chomped! Gators hoping to fix offensive mess

Florida has two weeks to dwell on its three-game losing

streak.

Coach Urban Meyer said he likely will spend the time overhauling

the team’s inept offense, which ranks 91st in the nation. What that

means is anyone’s guess.

Will John Brantley remain the quarterback? Will Mike Pouncey

stay at center? Will Deonte Thompson stop dropping passes? Will all

those young receivers and running backs, guys barely on the field

in the first seven games, get a chance? Will the Gators find

solutions to their first-down and red-zone problems?

What about Steve Addazio? Is there any chance Addazio, who’s in

charge of the underachieving offensive line and the woeful offense,

relinquishes play-calling duties after another debacle?

”There’s enough blame to go everywhere,” Meyer said following

a 10-7 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night.

The Gators (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) lost consecutive

home games for the first time since 2003 and have dropped three in

a row for the first time since the end of the 1999 season. They

also fell out of both polls for the first time in Meyer’s six

seasons.

How will the Gators respond?

The strangest part is that Florida still controls its destiny in

the SEC Eastern Division. Thanks to Georgia’s slow start and South

Carolina’s stumble at Kentucky, the Gators can win out and make it

back to Atlanta for the third straight year.

Then again, anyone who’s watched Florida play this season has to

consider that a long shot.

”It’s tough, but nobody’s mad at nobody,” Pouncey said.

”We’re going to stick through this and stick through this

adversity. Around here at Florida, we’re so used to winning. We’re

not used to losing, so only thing we can do as far as right now is

go out and practice hard.”

The Gators next face rival Georgia in Jacksonville on Oct. 30.

They can only hope for better results against those Bulldogs.

Against Mississippi State, Florida had several dropped passes,

allowed three sacks and committed two turnovers. The Bulldogs

blitzed Brantley early and often, forcing the first-year starter to

make quick decisions and rushing him into poor throws.

Brantley completed 24 of 39 passes for 210 yards. The Gators

turned to backup Trey Burton after a scoreless first half, and

Burton sparked a scoring drive. Brantley returned and got the

Gators in position for a game-tying field goal, but Chas Henry’s

42-yard attempt went wide right.

Still, Brantley’s performance provided more evidence that he

would be better suited playing in an offense that doesn’t revolve

around single-wing formations, option plays and quarterback

runs.

Brantley had no answers for the team’s problems, which included

two failed fourth-down conversions and two scoreless trips inside

the 20-yard line (missed field goal and fumble).

”I don’t really have a good explanation right now,” Brantley

said.

Some of the issues are obvious:

-The offensive line, which returned four starters from last

season and was touted as the team’s strength, has failed to open

holes in the run game and has missed blocks and blitzes in pass

protection.

-Injuries to Jeff Demps (foot), Emmanuel Moody (thigh) and Mike

Gillislee (ankle) have slowed the team’s running attack.

-Thompson dropped three passes against Mississippi State, adding

to a long list of drops this season and in his career.

”We still have confidence in Deonte,” Meyer said. ”We’re not

going to throw him under the bus. He’s just got to get a little

better.”

Meyer could say the same about Addazio, whose play-calling has

come under scrutiny this season. One of his oddest calls came on a

fourth-down play Saturday night. After a timeout and facing

fourth-and-1 at the Florida 39-yard line, Addazio called an end

around to freshman Robert Clark. Clark’s first carry ended in a

2-yard loss.

”We have to be able to run the ball,” Meyer said. ”I think

the offensive line gets hammered pretty good. Whether it’s

deserving or not, we’re not just going to say that yet.”

The Gators refused to point fingers, one reason players believe

they can still get things turned around before facing Georgia.

”We lose as a team. We win as a team,” safety Ahmad Black

said. ”I told them that we’re still a family, no matter what,

through thick and thin. We always stick together and pull it

out.”