Too Little, Too Late

The Gator offense sputtered and stuttered through the first half before recovering in the second half. It's been 15 years since a Gator team was shut out in the first half in The Swamp, but in that game against South Carolina, they were able to come back and win. This time, they weren't so fortunate.

Whether it was poor execution or poor communication, the Gators can't afford to have another night like Saturday night, especially next week against the No. 2-ranked LSU Tigers.

"We had some injuries up front," Urban Meyer said after the game. "Maurice Hurt has had a shoulder stinger and hasn't practiced much this week and Maurkice Pouncey is basically playing on one leg. We didn't block well upfront. We tried to make some plays down field, but we were never able to get it going."

Auburn held the Gators to 131 yards in the first half, most of which came in the second quarter. In the first 15 minutes, Florida went without a first down and gained just 14 yards. The offense that had so many weapons and looked so explosive at the beginning of the season has come down to earth in the last two games.

"It's not good to get shutout in the first half," quarterback Tim Tebow said. "We just have to keep working and get better. We can't have that happen. We were moving the ball pretty well in the last two drives and then did some silly stuff to get off track."

The longest Gator drive of the first half went for 66 yards, but ended solemnly in a 34-yard blocked field goal attempt off the leg of Joey Ijjas. Ijjas has nursed a sore leg for the last two weeks, and his second quarter effort really never had a chance.

Florida's next drive went for 55 yards and started off as the Tebow running show that was so prevalent against Ole Miss last week. The sophomore quarterback ran on three of the first four plays for 16 yards. He then went to the air, connecting with Cornelius Ingram on a 17-yard strike and a few short passes to Kestahn Moore, Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin. But faced with a 3rd-and-17 from the Auburn 45, the Gators turned the ball over after Murphy fumbled while trying to pick up extra yardage after a catch.

Tebow's first half numbers looked solid, completing 11-of-14 passes for 82 yards, but the stats don't tell the true story. Auburn took away Florida's passing game and forced Tebow to check off to his secondary receivers for most of the night.

"They did a good job of mixing things up," Tebow said. "Our game plan was good coming in. We pretty much knew what they were doing. They did show us some different looks."

Florida was able to turn things around in the second half, gaining 181 yards while scoring 17 points, but the offense still lacked the kind of potency it showed through the first three weeks of the season. A 52-yard pass to Harvin put the Gators at the Auburn 3-yard line in the third quarter, but they were unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal.

On their next possession, Tebow threw an interception on a pass intended for Riley Cooper.

"We tried to take another shot," Meyer said. "They were trying to play man coverage on us, but it wasn't good execution of the play. It was a mistake."

On the play, Cooper went one way and Tebow threw another way. It was reminiscent of the pick Tebow threw against Tennessee that was returned for a touchdown. If it was indeed a miscommunication, it wasn't the only case for the Gators.

"We didn't do our job today," offensive tackle Carlton Medder said. "We just weren't communicating. We couldn't get the cadence right. There was no communication in the first half. We had the right calls at the right time, but we had guys hearing different things. We had guys doing different things."

"We were running a lot of people in and out and trying to get them to the line of scrimmage," Tebow said. "We weren't able to be as sound with our calls and checks and when that happens it can blow a play."

Florida was able to get things straightened out by the fourth quarter and put a pair of touchdowns on the board to tie the score at 17-17. But with a chance to go ahead late in the game, the offense sputtered one last time allowing Auburn to drive for the winning field goal.

After Harvin lost six yards on a first down effort, Florida ran a speed option right with a pitch to Moore who had only two carries in the game before the play. Given the down and distance, it was a questionable call, but Meyer said it was a check based on what Auburn was showing.

"We didn't block it very well," Meyer said. "It was a bad series. The thing that hurt was the second down. If we could have just picked up three yards or so and stayed on track, we could have been alright."

Florida's offense has been hurt by injuries to the receiving corps and upfront with the offensive line. Even though Meyer said the week leading up to Saturday was the best week of practice this season, the absence of key members of the offense throughout the week was just enough to slow it down. They'll need a healthy offense with a full week of practice if they expect to get back on track with a win in Baton Rouge.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski


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