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Column: Gators should air it out

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Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 12:00 am

Will Muschamp is not changing anything.

It’s OK if he tells the media that, but it shouldn’t actually be the case.

He’ll publicly respect Florida’s next two opponents — Louisiana and Jacksonville State — but it should not go any further than that.

“It’s all the same to me,” Muschamp said of preparation for this weekend’s game against Louisiana. “This is a good football team coming in here. Having recruited in the state of Louisiana, where most of their players are from, and south Mississippi, they’ve got really good skilled people who can run and play. The offense that they have creates issues for us defensively.”

But Florida won’t have any issues defensively.

Yes, the Ragin’ Cajuns have the 44th-ranked offense in the country, but they put up those numbers playing in  the Sun Belt Conference. The UF defense ranks fifth nationally after completing its Southeastern Conference slate.

The defense alone can win this game for the Gators. 

Saturday could be a repeat of UF’s win against South Carolina, with a few forced turnovers giving Florida the edge from the get-go.

For that reason, the offense needs to get out of its comfort zone the next two weeks and throw the ball at least half of the time.

The Gators have run the ball on 68 percent of their offensive plays this season. If the coaches feel that imbalance will serve them best against No. 8 Florida State on Nov. 24, then that is what they should do the next two weeks. However, that is not likely the case. 

The Seminoles boast the nation’s top-ranked overall defense, which is third against the run. FSU has consistently taken away the opposition’s ground game more than any other team Florida has faced this season. 

Not developing a better passing game will only make it easier for the Seminoles, who won’t hesitate to move their safeties close to the line of scrimmage.

“The thing it really does is make it tough on your receivers, because they have to block those guys that are so much lower,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said of safeties in the box. “Or it makes it easier on them that we’re going over the top of them like we did on the one to Frankie (Hammond Jr.).”

Pease was referring to Hammond’s negated 43-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 14-7 win against Missouri. The completion shows that even though the Gators struggle to pass block and their talent at receiver is average at best, they can still make plays in the air. The unit just hasn’t done so often.

Unless the situation dictates that a run is the only logical option, Pease should focus on getting quarterback Jeff Driskel and the receivers as many downfield passing plays as possible.

Even though the end-of-season showdown with the rival Seminoles is more important than these two games, the Gators probably don’t have many cards left to put on the table. If there are a few plays that haven’t been used, then by all means save them. But everything else needs to be refined. 

Florida has the 118th-ranked passing offense in the country. 

Conversely, Louisiana ranks 118th in pass defense.

If there was ever a week for the Gators to go all-in and work through their passing struggles, this is it.

Contact Josh Jurnovoy at [email protected].


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