Chomped! Gators Hoping to Fix Offensive Mess

Associated Press
October 17, 2010

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — 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.”