For the third time in as many games, Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators conspired to keep television audiences glued to their sets.
By morphing a potential “style” win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs into yet another stumble to the finish, Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, and the Gator offensive squad worked hard to confuse pollsters and spike the collective blood pressure of the Gator Nation.
After the “wakeup” call with the Razorbacks last weekend, the Gators were expected to travel west to Starkville and overwhelm Mississippi State with their sure footed rushing game, a revitalized passing attack, and a renewed focus on fundamentals.
Ironically, the confidence in the expected play of the offense was so high only the injuries plaguing defensive coordinator Charlie Strong’s starting lineup were of concern.
But within three minutes of play against Mississippi State, the Florida defense had quieted those concerns by forcing their first turnover.
But the Gator offense was back to slogging it in the red zone and missing field goals. Tim Tebow, among others, was starting to look frustrated.
A missed extra point, two Tebow interceptions run back for touchdowns, repeated red zone stalls, and 57 minutes later, the Gators celebrated their first night win in Starkville in decades.
But Meyer was definitely not celebrating.
Tebow wasn’t celebrating much either.
In media interviews on the field and at the post game press conference, Meyer, looking more like his Gators had lost the match, startled witnesses by being painfully frank and truthful with his responses to questions.
His comments, confessions actually, finally addressed specific issues pertaining to the performance of the Gator offense.
What Meyer did was accept personal responsibility for the Gator’s recent lack of red zone production, the season long underperforming passing game, and the on-field struggles of quarterback Tim Tebow.
What Meyer didn’t do is blame offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, his staff, his players, illness, or injury for the point scoring woes facing this undefeated and top ranked team.
At first glance, Meyers’ comments could be seen as just another post game ramble by a head coach with nothing to lose and everything to gain by being self effacing and humble.
But to followers of the Meyer press machine, his words spoke volumes.
Meyer’s confessions pertaining to his faulty coaching, play calling, and player assessments, leave the door wide open for wholesale changes within the preparation and execution of the Gator offense.
The master of the spread offense isn’t preparing us for changes in key personnel, rather expect Meyer to make changes in how these playmakers will be used.
And the timing couldn’t be better. Although Meyer has chosen to blame himself for his stalling offense, another issue is the fact that opponents are finally learning how to frustrate a spread offense. Calling Tebow’s number over twenty times a game to spark production is not the solution.
Meyer has no choice but to explore less familiar ways to move the ball.
Over the past seven games, Meyer has shown us a few plays that reflect the spirit and imagination that terrified defenses last season. Wideout Riley Cooper performing a power sweep for 14 yards in early season play, and Chris Rainey rushing from the I formation for a score against the Bulldogs are just two examples.
It’s time to see if the preseason rumors were true regarding the situational use of Brandon James, John Brantley, and David Nelson. It’s also time for Gator opponents to be surprised by the play calling instead of smiling because they anticipated it!
The Florida stable is loaded with talent that can be incorporated into most any play scheme, and Meyer has the IQ within the coaching staff to draw up the plays and perfect their execution.
Florida is 7-0, but a years’ worth of luck has already been consumed. Meyer’s offense has done the job, barely, but at the expense of Tebow’s mojo.
For Meyer and his Gators, necessity has become the mother of offensive innovation!