No. 4 Florida winning in new ways Print
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Thursday, 25 September 2008 09:27
NCAAF Headline News

 GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Blame the new clock rules, dazzling special teams or coach Urban Meyer's game plan. Whatever the reason, Florida's offense hasn't looked very much like, well, Florida's offense this season.
Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow has been ordinary. Speedster Percy Harvin has barely been involved. And all those other weapons - guys like Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and Deonte Thompson - have seemingly been relegated to the sideline.
The result? The fourth-ranked Gators rank 86th in the nation in total offense, averaging a meager 331 yards a game. Vanderbilt is the only other undefeated team with a lower offensive ranking (110).
``We certainly don't manage the game with statistics in mind or Heisman Trophies in mind,'' said Meyer, whose last two teams ranked 14th and 19th in total offense. ``We just want to win the game.''
those gaudy numbers everyone got accustomed to seeing from Tebow have dwindled significantly.
Tebow has thrown for 489 yards and five touchdowns and added 118 yards on the ground this year. In the first three games last season, the big left-hander had 835 yards and eight TDs passing, and 192 yards and five scores rushing.
``You love being able to run around and make big plays and score a bunch of touchdowns,'' Tebow said. ``But if the game doesn't call for that ... it's not like we can't do those things. We're just going at it with a different approach. For me, it's just managing games.''
Managing games doesn't usually get quarterbacks invited to New York for the Heisman presentation. But the Gators believe it can get them to Atlanta for the SEC championship game and maybe even to Miami for the national title game, especially if they continue following Meyer's plan.
Meyer wants his team to play great defense, have outstanding special teams and avoid turnovers. So far, so good. But it also has kept the offense from opening things up.
The Gators, who host Mississippi (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday, rank fifth in total defense, have forced nine turnovers and returned two interceptions for touchdowns. They lead the conference in punt and kickoff returns and have scored twice. They also haven't missed a field goal or an extra point and lead the league in punting and have even blocked a punt for a safety. And they haven't had an interception or lost a fumble in three games.
``You have no chance of winning if you have to score every time you get the ball,'' said Meyer, whose team often had to outscore opponents to win in 2007. ``I understand that the way you win is playing great defense, take care of the ball and have an extremely strong kicking game. Right now, as far as the plan to win, our guys are playing very well.''
Meyer believes the offense is just fine, too.
He said the execution has been solid and the play-calling has been conservative only because the Gators opened against tough opponents and didn't need to sling the ball all over the field after jumping out to early leads against the Warriors, Hurricanes and Volunteers.
Meyer's only concern is with college football's new clock rules, saying they are robbing his offense of nearly 20 plays a game and shortchanging everyone involved.
Beginning this season, the clock continues to run after players step out of bounds except in the final two minutes of each half. A 40-second play clock also begins ticking the moment the previous play blows dead instead of on the referee's signal.
``I'm wondering what the hell's going on with our plays,'' Meyer said, pointing out that Florida had just 51 offensive plays at Tennessee. ``I'm not a fan of the clock rule. I think it's wrong. I think you're cheating the fans. More importantly, the players deserve more plays.''
Throw in the loss of possessions from two punt returns for touchdowns and a few defensive scores, and Florida's offense just hasn't had a chance to be nearly as dynamic as last season.
``It's all there. It's all in the game plan,'' Tebow said. ``We haven't used it quite as much as we did. We haven't needed to. ... Sometimes as a player you want to go out there and make plays and throw it down the field and all those things, but you've got to be smart and content with managing the game. That's something I've gotten a lot better at.''
While Florida's offensive dip has been a topic of debate in and around Gainesville, not every one has noticed a drop-off.
``They look pretty good to me,'' Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. ``They're probably getting every team's best shot. They're probably getting maybe even a few more wrinkles and different deals that they probably haven't seen on film. ... I just see a team that's very, very explosive.''
 

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