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Don’t believe Muschamp; offensive line is offensive

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Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011 11:45 pm | Updated: 5:39 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.

Will Muschamp has lied to us before, but Monday’s fib was his biggest yet.

He has been blatantly misleading about injuries — said players who were obviously hurt would be playing and announced that players had practiced all week only to amend those comments postgame.

But none of that tops how patently dishonest he was when asked to evaluate junior left tackle Xavier Nixon’s play.

“Xavier has played well for us.”

No. No, he hasn’t. And it’s not just him, either.

The entire offensive line, with the possible exception of center Jonotthan Harrison, struggled mightily against Georgia on Saturday.

The Gators allowed six sacks. Nixon was responsible for three, right tackle Matt Patchan was responsible for two and sophomore guard Jon Halapio was responsible for one.

But, to hear Muschamp tell it, none of those players was responsible for those plays.

Senior quarterback John Brantley held the ball too long, and with his ankle injury he could barely move. To make matters worse, UF receivers continued to show an inability to get open, which tied in to how long Brantley was forced to hold on to the ball.

Now, I’ll never know as much about football as Muschamp does, but I do have a general idea of how well a line is expected to protect its quarterback. And, since my iPhone has a stopwatch, I took the liberty of testing how long is supposedly “too long” for Brantley to hold on to the ball.

From snap to first contact on Brantley, the two sacks against Patchan took 2.0 and 2.8 seconds. Nixon’s three took 2.2, 2.6 and 3.7 seconds. The sack against Halapio took 2.8 seconds.

Of those plays, only Nixon’s 3.7 seconds could be considered a play where Brantley definitively took too long to get rid of the ball.

In certain scenarios, these types of sacks are understandable. If the defense blitzes more players than a five-man offensive line can possibly block, sacks are bound to ensue. Thing is, Georgia almost never did that.

Brantley took 40 dropbacks. The Bulldogs rushed four defenders 31 times, three defenders five times, five defenders three times, and six defenders once — Brantley’s 31-yard touchdown to Jordan Reed.

That means that on 36 of 40 dropbacks, offensive linemen outnumbered pass rushers. In those scenarios, Brantley is going to need more time to read the field, and receivers are going to need more time to get open against seven- or eight-man coverage schemes. Time the offensive line didn’t give them.

That six-sack number very easily could have been a lot worse. For all the talk of how Brantley’s ankle limited his mobility, he did a pretty good job of getting away from pressure. He was forced to move on almost every play and did so effectively, even spinning away from an oncoming defender to buy time for a throwaway in the first quarter.

On top of that, Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis schemed ways to make the offensive line’s job easier. UF used a number of quick routes where the ball was out of Brantley’s hands in under two seconds, meaning all Nixon and Patchan had to do was throw cut blocks. The Gators even mixed in a few screens, plays where Patchan and Nixon intentionally let their man by to set up blocks down field.

The fact that the line managed to mess up as blatantly as it did, even under those circumstances, speaks to how poorly the unit played Saturday.

Contact Greg Luca at gluca@alligator.org.

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