ACK: Gators Looking To Find Balance

The Urban Meyer era continues this week in The Swamp with the second of three consecutive home games. In Florida's final tuneup before the showdown with Tennessee (September 17), Coach Meyer will be looking to get his ground game back on track and achieve some offensive balance.

Wyoming was a tough gritty team but not a run-stopping juggernaut. A combination of things contributed to the running game problems but the one word I would use is "commitment." I am not sure the line, the backs or the quarterback were 100% committed on each play call and because of their uncertainty, problems arose. I don't mean effort … I mean committing to the play and getting in the right spot to make something happen. Meyer said this week that Leak ran "tentative" and this illustrates my point that UF was not reacting in the running game but thinking.

Three things have to happen for a successful running game. First, the quarterback needs to make sure the right play is on against the numbers of the defensive front. Secondly, the offensive line has to recognize and execute their blocking assignments. Finally, the running back not only must hit the hole full speed and committed to the cut but also BYOB.(Be Your Own Blocker). In the SEC the great backs make guys miss, run guys over or move the pile forward. I don't think the offense was off by much but any combination of these and you could fail. The system takes time to master but in the meantime the athletes need to make plays. I also think Dan Mullen got uncommitted on the run after the first two series and lived with the arm of Chris Leak. That was a pretty good move to get the game under control as UF scored 17 straight points. Look for the Gators to try and get 40-plus runs this week and get the running game in better shape for the Vols.

One thing I thought was a positive for the offense was the play calling overall on first down. The Gators ran the ball 16 times on first down and threw it 16 times on first down. Now that is good balance. In the fourth quarter they evened that number up, but the bottom line is they were way ahead and that what was needed. The only third and short of the night was not converted and that was on the first two series. Another interesting trend for UF was time of possession. When is the last time the Gators had more time than the opponent this early in the season? UF held the ball for 34minutes and look for that trend to continue. Also only four penalties and zero turnovers led to some good news for the offense.

WHAT'S NEXT?: I think Deshawn Wynn needs to be a bigger player in the run game. I also think MarKus Manson deserves more of a look because of his big play capability. Kestahn Moore is going to be good and the coaches like him but they have to give the running game a chance to hit a home run with the experience of Wynn or the speed of Manson. Anytime you don't achieve a level of success, the next week that weakness becomes a point of emphasis. I really could see UF running the ball close to 50 times this week to prove a point. The offensive line must get better and the running backs need to run through tackles.

LOUISIANA TECH: The Bulldogs will see their first action of 2005 this weekend after posting a 6-6 record last season. Jack Bicknell Jr. is an accomplished passing game coach who changed styles to fit his personnel a season ago. Tech was number 19 in the country in rushing behind Ryan Moats, running mostly from a two tight end, one back set. Moats has gone on to the NFL and it will be interesting to see if the Bulldogs stay with that base offense or go back to the three-wide spread attack that was led by quarterbacks Luke McCown and Tim Rattay. Bicknell feels this team overall is more talented than last year's unit which struggled against BCS competition such as Miami, Auburn and Tennessee. The Achilles heel may be the run defense. Louisiana Tech runs a 3-4 defense that can create some problems in the pass protection schemes but should provide easy lanes for the running game. The fact that it is the first game and the Bulldogs have waited a long time to play there should be some sloppiness. UF has a game under its belt and an entire week to work on what went wrong in the first game. The Gators should look sharper this week on offense especially in the running game.

SNIPPIETS ON LOUISIANA TECH: The Bulldogs are 2-26 since 1989 vs. ranked opponents. They beat Alabama in 1989 and Fresno State in 2004. They were 1-4 vs. ranked opponents last season losing to Boise, Miami, Tennessee and Auburn. Aaron Lips, the left guard, is on the Lombardi Trophy watch list. Marcus Stewart, the center, is on the Rimmington watch list and their kicker, Danny Horwedel, is on the Lou Groza watch list.

Tech's rushing defense last season was ranked 78th in the country at 176.59 yards per game. For the record, Wyoming's was 85th in the country in 2004.

Johnathen Holland is the receiver to watch this week as he averaged 22 yards per catch last season.

DID YOU KNOW?: Coach Jack Bicknell III was the center for Boston College when Doug Flutie hit the Hail Mary to be the Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl in 1984. His dad was the coach at Boston College that year.

KEYS TO THE GAME: (1) Get the running game going ... find running room between the tackles and look for big plays in the running game; (2) continue to defend the run … make Louisana Tech one dimensional and load the stat sheet up with good numbers defensively before the Vols come to town; and (3) win the turnover margin … Meyer is quick to point out turnover margin and equate it to success … the defense should have had more interceptions and the offense needs to keep protecting the football.

KEEP AN EYE ON THESE GATORS: (1) Deshawn Wynn --- want to see him make a difference; (2) Stephen Harris --- needs to make his presence felt; (3) Dee Webb --- Vernell is raising the bar at the other corner and he needs to match it; (4) Jemalle Cornelius --- want to see him more involved with the offense; (5) Drew Miller or Jim Tartt --- whoever plays right guard needs to execute in the running game.

ACK'S PICK: Gators win 45-10 and run for 200 yards.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Shane Mathews was the first quarterback for Steve Spurrier. He's now a backup quarterback in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, where his coach is former Gator Mike Mularkey. Mathews, who is from Pascagoula, Mississippi, had his childhood home ripped from its roots during Hurricane Katrina. He has set up a website for help to those in Mississippi and it is www.bascotmccarty.org. Shane, his wife and two children still live in Gainesville in the offseason and are very active in the community.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Tennessee, which defeated UAB, 17-10, last week, led the nation in 2004 with wins by seven points or less (6).

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