Focusing on Short Yardage Run Game

The problems have existed for all three games this season. When the Gators get near the goal line or in a third-and-short situation, the Florida running game hasn't been able to convert. The team rushing stats have been impressive over the first three weeks of the season, but it's the inability to get the tough yards that has Florida head coach Will Muschamp rethinking the focus in practice.

"We obviously need to improve on third down," Will Muschamp said on Monday morning. "Short yardage and goal line we've addressed every week. What we're doing is not good. We need to (improve) or change personnel. We're studying ourselves again as we speak to make sure we're getting in the right spots in those situations.

"What we're doing is not working. To continue doing the same stuff, you're going to get the same results."

The season got off to a rough start in short yardage situations when Florida went 1-for-8 in converting situations that were 3rd and 2 or less against Bowling Green. Since that first game, it hasn't been much better. Florida converted in just one of three situations like it against Texas A&M and didn't convert any in two opportunities against Tennessee, including once at the one-yard line.

On the year, the Gators are 2-for-13 in third-down situations where they need two or less yards to get a first down or get into the end zone.

The big one on Saturday came right before halftime. Florida had the ball at the Tennessee one-yard line on second down with all the time needed to punch it into the end zone. Mike Gillislee was stopped on back-to-back plays before the Gators settled for a field goal.

"We need (touchdowns) on the road early in those situations," Muschamp said. "At halftime, I'm sitting there thinking about those two times in the game where we needed touchdowns and you're kicking field goals. That's tough to do on the road. Those are certainly some things we've identified we need to improve."

Muschamp said after the game that he didn't want to be forced to trying tricking opposing defenses, but he might have to. The ideal situation of running the ball hard between the tackles hasn't worked early in 2012.

There are options to change things up.

The Florida coaches were vocal about Jeff Driskel's running ability playing into him winning the starting quarterback job. He's also second on the team with 113 net rushing yards this season. The Gators could start involving him more in the running game, just as they did at Texas A&M when he used a play action bootleg to run for a key first down.

"A one-back set is a two-back set now. A two-back set is a three-back set," Muschamp said about having a quarterback that can run. "You create a lot of issues for a defense when a guy has legs at the quarterback position and all of the zone-read opportunities and the different things that you're doing in the misdirection off the run game, which is very difficult."

The Gators also found a different look to the running game on Saturday. Driskel was split out at receiver while Trey Burton was in the shotgun as the wildcat quarterback. Andre Debose or Solomon Patton were put in motion on a jet sweep, giving Burton the option to hand it off or tuck the ball and run.

Burton scored two touchdowns out of the formation on Saturday in Knoxville, and it could be an addition to the running game for the rest of the season.

"We're blocking well up front," Muschamp said. "Then you've also got the issues of the quarterback pulling the ball. All of that simplifies things defensively."

LOOKING AT Kentucky: The Gators are preparing for a Kentucky offense that leads the Southeastern Conference with an average of 322 yards through the air per game. Maxwell Smith is leading the Wildcats to a 51% conversion rate on third downs, the best in the SEC.

"They're working an up-tempo huddle, no-huddle situation, much like we've seen in the first three ballgames," Muschamp said. "They're all on the line of scrimmage, they will have some look-backs and some tempo things that they're doing offensively. Randy Sanders, being their offensive coordinator, has been in this league for a long time."

The Gators are riding a 25-game winning streak against the Wildcats into Saturday's game, but Muschamp is doing his best to not let his team think about that.

"You only have 12 opportunities a year," Muschamp said about playing, downplaying the importance of the streak. "You need to prepare well and play well and that's what we plan on doing."

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