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Column: Offensive ineptitude exposed on Saturday

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Posted: Tuesday, November 13, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:36 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

The Florida offense is focused on the little things.

The little things have caused problems, but the big picture is equally disconcerting.

“It’s just guys being locked in and focused, just looking at film studying and just finding the detail,” wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. said. “It’s a game (of) inches. It may be one split second that you react late, that you miss a guy or a timing of a pass. Each play is something different. It’s the little details we just have to hone in on, and we’ll be fine.”

Sure, penalties have been an issue. The Gators rank 112th in the country with 7.9 flags per game. The timing in the passing game has been inconsistent at best. But limiting the criticisms of the unit to those areas ignores the real problem. The overall output has been shockingly bad for the seventh-ranked team in college football.

The Gators somehow survived Southeastern Conference play with just one loss despite having the 107th-ranked offense in the country. Regardless of these struggles, most thought Saturday’s matchup with Louisiana would be a game in which the offense wouldn’t be an issue. The Ragin’ Cajuns entered Saturday with the nation’s 89th-ranked defense and were allowing 433.2 yards per game.

But, instead of an offensive explosion, Florida’s attack struggled in a 27-20 win. Struggling against SEC teams is one thing, but looking inept against a Sun Belt foe is a real cause for concern.

Facing a Ragin’ Cajuns team that ranks fourth in the Sun Belt Conference, the Gators continued their season-long streak of getting outgained in the first quarter. Before its 85-yard touchdown drive that ended with seven seconds remaining in the first half, Florida mustered only 63 yards on 26 plays.

For the game, the Gators finished with just 311 yards of total offense — only 16.4 yards more than the Ragin’ Cajuns had allowed through the air on average in their first eight games.

Four other Sun Belt teams gained more yards than Florida did against Louisiana — Arkansas State, North Texas, Troy and Louisiana-Monroe. The difference in yardage was not slim, either, as the four Sun Belt teams combined to average 200.3 yards per game more against the Ragin’ Cajuns than the Gators accumulated against them.

Some might attribute this to Florida not taking Louisiana seriously and prematurely looking ahead to a crucial showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee on Nov. 24.

But Will Muschamp swears his team had respect for the Ragin’ Cajuns. In the week leading up to the game, Muschamp said on multiple occasions that Louisiana was a dangerous team and that he had a great deal of respect for their defensive coordinator, Greg Stewart.

If the team wants to continue to say it approaches every game the same way, then there is no excuse for Saturday’s performance.

And don’t be fooled if the explosion finally comes this weekend against Jacksonville State. Although the Gamecocks might get lumped in with the Ragin’ Cajuns as another cupcake opponent, they are a far lesser challenge.

They are an FCS team, and within that lesser classification Jacksonville State ranks 108th in total defense and 110th in pass defense out of 121 teams.

Florida has had countless opportunities to show us that its offense is more than what meets the eye. But at this point, it’s clear that the eye test is as good of a measuring stick as any for this unit.

Contact Josh Jurnovoy at jjurnovoy@alligator.org.

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