Gators, Meyer still looking for offensive identity

BY foxsports • September 13, 2010

Even after spring practice, summer workouts, training camp and two wins, Florida coach Urban Meyer isn't sure about his team's offensive identity.

The second half against South Florida provided some clues.

Led by speedster Jeff Demps, the Gators turned to their running game and found an offensive rhythm for the first time in two games.

''I think we're still searching,'' Meyer said following Florida's 38-14 victory. ''I can't say that's the answer. That's kind of how we want to be - a very physical offense that has backs that run real hard and a quarterback that can throw it in there and receivers make plays. You started to see that in the second half.''

The running game was key.

The 10th-ranked Gators (2-0) had 103 yards rushing in the third quarter and 106 more in the fourth. So 209 of the team's 244 yards on the ground came after a lackluster first half that included three punts, a missed field goal and a bobbled snap.

Florida trailed 7-0 until Ahmad Black intercepted B.J. Daniels' pass with 1:14 remaining. The Bulls could have taken a knee and headed to the locker room with the lead. Instead, they gave the Gators great field position and a chance to gain some momentum.

They did. John Brantley hooked up with Carl Moore for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds remaining.

The second half was a different story. The Gators clearly focused on the ground game, getting Demps, Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee more involved.

Demps, who ran three times for 13 yards in the first half, finished with a career-high 139 yards rushing. Moody added 54 yards on the ground, and Gillislee chipped in 29 and a late touchdown.

''The ability for us to be able to play some power football is going to be important,'' offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said. ''It was nice to see the demeanor our team in the second half. That felt really good. I think I felt really good for them as well as for us.''

With Brantley taking over for Tim Tebow and being surrounded by inexperienced receivers like Moore, Deonte Thompson, Omarius Hines and Jordan Reed, the Gators had hoped to wear opponents down with a power-running game and use that to open up play-action passes.

It didn't really work in the opener.

The Gators had too many botched snaps and fumbles to get the running game on track.

Things were not quite as sloppy against the Bulls, who used a lot of blitzes early to throw off Florida.

''It is a work in progress,'' Meyer said. ''Have we found our identity? Absolutely not, certainly not that first half. I like to score as much as the next guy, however, I think we're more of a blue-collar team that's going to find a way to get 4 yards here, 5 yards here, (then) bang, take a shot.''

Addazio believes the offense will continue to make progress, especially since left tackle Xavier Nixon is expected to return Saturday against Tennessee. Nixon had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last month and missed the first two games.

His absence prompted Florida to move right tackle Marcus Gilbert to the left side, slide Maurice Hurt from right guard to tackle and insert freshman Jon Halapio into the lineup. The shuffled line sputtered at times in the opener but worked much better together Saturday.

''When you're backed up, you're either going to come out swinging or stay backed in the corner,'' center Mike Pouncey said. ''We came out swinging.''

Florida's identity was crystal clear the last three years. It was Tebow's team, and the offense revolved around the left-handed quarterback. Now, though, Meyer is gaining confidence that the line and backs can get it done.

''It's different for me,'' Meyer said. ''It's different to turn around and just completely in the fourth quarter let the offensive line secure (the win).

''It might not be as exciting as running some of the stuff, but it's also very effective. It defeats a team's will when you can control the ball the end of the game like that.''

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