Meyer Had a Feeling Gators Would Struggle

Urban Meyer wasn't shocked by what he saw. He spoke all week about the youth and inexperience of his Florida team. However, he didn't imagine it would be this bad. The Gators fumbled the ball eight times, losing three, while stumbling to a 34-12 victory over Miami University.

"When you see so many new guys playing, of course I did," Urban Meyer said. "I didn't imagine the offensive incompetence that we experienced today."

The inexperience started to rear its head last week in practice. In the Thursday practice before last weekend, the head coach expected things to go smoothly. He recalled Thursday practices last season with a veteran team that knew the drill.

This team isn't full of veterans. The coaching staff was forced to break down small drills so the young players could stay up with the occurrences.

"I foresaw that this thing was coming," Meyer said. "There's so much you expect to do. When you have older players, it just goes like clockwork. Two weeks ago, it was not clockwork."

Things were similar on the field Saturday. The Gators took their home field with the wide eyes of youth.

"I'm very disappointed in our performance," Meyer said. "That's probably obvious. The good thing is I don't mind coaching guys who want to work. When you coach entitlement, that's not such a hot deal. There was a sense of urgency in that locker room and there should be."

The offense sputtered out of the gates to 13 yards on 23 plays in the first half. Meyer prides his offense on the run game but saw minus-18 rushing yards on the halftime scoreboard. The numbers were affected by center Mike Pouncey's struggles with snapping the ball, sending some rolling past quarterback John Brantley.

"It's been a little bit of a problem," Meyer said. "We've got to get it cleaned up."

When the snap hit Brantley in the hands, the offense was coughing the ball up. There were three turnovers early in the game, something the Florida staff has excelled at eliminating since taking over in Gainesville.

"The thing that disturbed me the most was the turnovers," Meyer said. "It was a lot of lack of execution. The last five years, we're number one in the country. We can't start going the other way with that."

INJURY UPDATE: Meyer remains optimistic because of the players expected to return next week. Carl Johnson and Will Hill were deemed "not ready to play" but are expected to return next weekend.

Lawrence Marsh continues to battle a hamstring injury that limited his participation, but he will be back to full speed next Saturday. Terron Sanders will also return from a sprained knee. Tight end Jordan Reed is likely to return.

The big boost will come with left tackle Xavier Nixon expected to be back in the lineup.

Despite questions of injury or suspension, Meyer said wide receiver Andre Debose simply didn't play because he has things on the field to work on.

"I didn't realize he didn't play," Meyer said. "He's still got a little ways to go. He's a talented guy and a good guy. We've got to get him on the field."

DEFENSIVE NOTES: While the offense sputtered, the defense stepped up to pick up the slack. Janoris Jenkins had a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown to get the Gators on the board, and minutes later, Ahmad Black used an interception to set up a Trey Burton touchdown.

"We made some plays, but that was not a Florida defense yet," Meyer said. "I had to check the roster a few times to see who was out there."

Jaye Howard recorded two sacks and five tackles. His disruptive presence from the inside of the defensive line was something the Florida defense needed.

"Coach (Teryl) Austin said Jaye Howard played well, and I saw the same thing," Meyer said. "Same with our young backers, I thought they played okay. It's not Florida football though. Jelani (Jenkins) threw it in there a few times."

Howard's pressure on the quarterback was necessary because the pressure off the edge was almost nonexistent.

"I don't think it was great," Meyer said of the pass rush. "It was okay, but I was expecting more. I thought we could get more pressure on them. I'm a little disappointed with that."

The Florida coaches almost decided to hold Jeremy Brown out of the game because of an ankle sprain he suffered during Thursday's walk through. After not playing for the previous two seasons, Brown did everything possible to see the field. The head coach noticed.

"We almost had to DQ Jeremy Brown on Thursday because he rolled his ankle," Meyer said. "My guy was in a boot on crutches and came back today with tears in his eyes and played well today."

NEW STARTERS: The offensive line seemed to be done by patchwork because of the injuries. Florida had a guard, Maurice Hurt, starting at right tackle, while a sophomore, Jon Halapio, got his first career start at right guard.

"We had four new position starts today (on the offensive line)," Meyer said. "The good thing is, if you want to draw positives, we've developed some depth on the line."

The inconsistent snaps put Florida in a tough spot. They didn't run many plays out of the shotgun because of it.

"We probably operated under center more today than we have since Chris Leak was our quarterback," Meyer said.

BRANTLEY'S DEBUT: In a game billed as Brantley taking over the Florida team, he seemed to be a minor story. He ended the game going 17-of-25 for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

The struggles of the offense would wear on a younger quarterback, but Meyer expects his junior quarterback to handle the criticism.

"I'm glad he's an older player and has been here," Meyer said. "I sat with him on the bench a couple times and just talked to him. It's easy to hand him the MVP trophy when you win, but there are a lot of guys around him and we've got to get better."

At halftime, Brantley was averaging 2.9 yards per pass attempt. Most of the passes were close to the line of scrimmage before the Gators opened it up in the second half.

"We aren't calling the play saying we're calling for a short pass," Meyer said. "It's dictated by how the defense plays you.

"There's a misunderstanding," Meyer said. "You're going to throw the ball where the defense tells you to throw it. Every pass has a deep outlet, an intermediate outlet and a short outlet."

IMPRESSIONS OF FRESHMEN: Trey Burton lined up at fullback, tight end and quarterback while rushing for a touchdown in his debut.

"Coach Addazio said he played well and called him up in front of the team," Meyer said. "He just seems to do everything right. Trey Burton is going to be a big impact on this team."

Meyer didn't want to speak too highly of his freshmen defensive linemen before watching the film, but he liked the energy they had on the field. Sharrif Floyd made the biggest impact of the group, recording three tackles, including half of a tackle for a loss.

"The early impressions are big dudes going in there hard and hitting people," Meyer said.

RUNNING BACKS STRUGGLE: Jeff Demps struggled to find open space early in the game. He hit the 72-yard home run for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Demps finished the day with 98 yards on eight carries.

"Twice he was in open field and I thought he should have popped loose," Meyer said. "If you give him a crease, it's a good day for the Gators. We've got to utilize him more. We've got to get him and (Emmanuel) Moody going."

SOUTH FLORIDA NEXT WEEK: The consensus from players and coaches around the locker room is that they received their mulligan Saturday. South Florida comes to Gainesville next weekend, and if the Gators repeat their performance, they could be looking at a loss.

"We better be ready for next week too, because that's a good team coming in here," Meyer said.
Follow Cody Jones on

Fightin Gators Top Stories