Dead Zone Offense is Killing the Gators

There's nothing wrong with the Florida offense between the 20s. Florida has moved the ball against every opponent and earned plenty of chances to score. But when the Gators cross the opposing 25-yard line the Florida offense becomes, well offensive.

A terrible day in the red zone against Arkansas was met with the assurance that the problems would be corrected. Just not right away. Florida was miserable in close offensively, and Tim Tebow threw a pair of pick-six TD for the Bulldogs as Florida escaped with a 29-19 win over Mississippi State. It was the Gators' first in Starkville in 25 years but it should not have been this difficult.

Florida used its speed to move the ball against State getting Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey plenty of running room outside the tackles. But inexplicably the Gators abandon the speed game and go for raw power in close. It didn't work last week, and it didn't work Saturday in Starkville either.

Florida's only touchdown in red zone situations last week was a 12-yard "jet sweep" to the outside with Jeff Demps. Five other trips inside the 25 ended up with field goals, missed field goals and turnovers. Amazingly on this evening the Gators again went 1-for-6 in scoring TD in close, this time the only score coming when Florida went to an I-Formation with Tebow under center.

Last year the Gators scored TD in the red zone 56 percent of the time against SEC teams. This year they are now less than half of that at 27 percent. It's hard to imagine this team running the table if that doesn't get fixed.

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Florida Passing Attack Troubling

It was another night where the Gator passing game was minimally effective and totally dependent on Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper. Those two caught nine of Florida's 13 completions on the night. Deonte Thompson got one catch for 19 yards and each Gator running back had one short catch apiece and that was it. Tebow carried the ball 22 times while throwing it just 23 times. He threw two TD passes, but both were to Bulldogs defensive back Johnthan Banks. You have to believe Tebow's Heisman chances took a dramatic turn for the worse if they weren't eliminated entirely.

It was troubling to listen to the telecast of the game and hear that the Bulldogs defensive coordinator told them that Florida runs only two plays out of the single back set. If opponents are figuring it out, Florida's self scouting needs a lot of work.

The Gators simply have to find a way to create more threats in the passing game. The tired old answer that the young receivers aren't quite ready can't last forever, can it? Besides, David Nelson isn't a young receiver and the closest he got the ball all night was when he was about to tackle the guy on State's ill-advised fake punt.

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Looking ahead I need to acknowledge that the Gators did what they had to do and are now 7-0 on the season. Florida almost certainly will remain No. 1 in the BCS standings, especially considering Alabama's 12-10 squeaker over Tennessee. Look for Texas to make a move in all the polls since the Longhorns were much more impressive than either of the SEC powers were. The Gators boast the nation's longest winning streak at 17 and there are a lot of teams that would love to have the Gators problems.

The Gators are now one win from clinching at least a share of the SEC Eastern Division Title. The Gators need two wins, or one win and losses by Georgia and South Carolina to earn a return to the SEC Championship Game.


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