Florida’s win over the LSU Tigers did more than just cement the Gators top spot in the polls; it put to test two myths that have been dogging the Blue and Orange all season…
Myth No. 1– Florida, with Tim Tebow at the helm, can’t win close games… especially on the road.
An interesting thing has happened over the last seven games for the Gators (that’s five this season and the SEC championship and national championship games last season).
They won four of these games by 11 points or less.
They also won three of them on the road.
For the most part, Florida’s matches with Alabama, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and most recently LSU resembled bar fights rather than blitzkriegs. That’s not great news if you’re used to blowouts, but it’s excellent news if you’re interested in seeing your team mature.
Sure, the Gator offense is lackluster this year but instead of panicking over the lack of a big play passing game Meyer and his crew have hunkered down and built a winning strategy focusing on rushing, ball control, and wicked defense.
Tebow has bought into this methodology and contributes by executing his runs in a predetermined fashion instead of in an egocentric urge to overcome.
He’s learned to win with his team instead of winning for his team.
The result is that the Gators now know how to play a full 60 minute game.
They’re also learning how to win ugly.
Myth No. 2 – The offense is the star of the 2009 squad.
It’s time to say it and to say it loud...
The Gator offense is but a shadow of what it was last year and there’s not much Urban Meyer can or will do about it.
All due respect to the offensive players and the coaches of the top ranked college football team in the nation, but scoring points has become a challenge for the Gators this year against SEC teams.
Gator squads have been defined by their offensive brilliance in the past. This season what identity the offense has beyond Tebow is an association with issues concerning a very suspect passing game.
Yes, Florida’s rushing is superior. Jeffrey Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody have done an outstanding job of running with the ball—and thank goodness, too! If it weren’t for them, Meyer would have to force a more balanced rush/pass attack and that would lead to disaster.
The issues surrounding the passing game have also influenced the play of Tebow. His role this year more closely resembles that of 2007 when he was tasked with practically shouldering the offensive load with his ground presence.
Gone is the 2008 version that confidently executed deep throws to open threats like Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy.
So, with the offense a bit less than mighty, the Gators have been winning games by keeping the other team from getting into the end zone.
The star of this year’s squad is Charlie Strong and his defense.
The Gators have only played one ranked opponent this year, but still, Charlie and his squad have only allowed three touchdowns in five games.
More stats could be rattled off, but it’s unnecessary to do so. Charlie and the Big Blue Wrecking Crew have done all that has been asked of Meyer and the Gator Nation.
The Gator defense has kept teams out of the end zone, turned red zone threats into field goals, and stuffed the opposition’s drives on crucial third and fourth quarter surges.
In other words, everything needed to allow the offense the time and opportunity to find the end zone without the pressure of playing from behind.
It’s not a stretch to say that the defense has been winning the close games this year for the Gators.
Continued defensive dominance will be THE key to the Gators repeating as conference and national champions.