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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

For once, the Gators were behind the curve.

This season’s offense (28.4 points per game) has been the least productive since Urban Meyer came to Gainesville in 2005. So Meyer, a coach often praised for creating matchup nightmares, studied the nation’s premier offenses and made sure to take notes.

In particular, Meyer was impressed with No. 1 Oregon, which leads the nation with an average of 572.9 yards and 54.9 points per game.

“I just see the evolution of the game right now,” Meyer said. “If you sit and watch a game on Saturday night and watch highlights, it’s pretty mesmerizing to watch Oregon play a college football game right now.”

Like the Ducks, Meyer wanted his team to frequently feature an athletic quarterback and call plays at a faster pace.

With an extra week to prepare for Florida’s eventual 34-31 win against Georgia, Meyer lightened quarterback John Brantley’s workload. Brantley, who averages negative -8.8 rushing yards per game, has been ineffective running Florida’s signature option play.

By contrast, Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas ranks second on his team with 311 yards on the ground. And the Ducks are far from unique in that respect. A quarterback is at least the second-leading rusher on nine of the nation’s top-10 running teams.

To compensate for Brantley’s lack of mobility, the Gators relied heavily on Burton against the Bulldogs. Burton has been a prominent piece in UF’s offense all season, most notably in his six-touchdown performance against Kentucky.

But the freshman received 17 carries, eight more than his previous season high, and led all rushers with 110 yards Saturday. Redshirt freshman Jordan Reed also lined up at quarterback for two plays, plunging up the middle for 19 yards.

For the first time this season, the quarterback rotation occurred not only between plays but often less than 10 seconds before the ball was snapped. Burton would line up in the shotgun before shifting to another position as Brantley ran behind center.

The quick switch was done to keep defenses off balance. Opponents often focus on stopping the option with Burton in the game, leaving receivers with one-on-one coverage.

“When I come back in, hopefully that doesn’t allow them to make their checks,” Brantley said. “And that’s what we’re hoping for: the matchups outside.”

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Florida also abstained from huddling at times Saturday. Meyer has experimented with no-huddle offenses in the past, such as the short-lived Bonzai package last season. But with leaders like Tim Tebow on the team, Meyer thought bringing players together between each play was valuable.

Center Mike Pouncey said the team’s fast tempo exhausted Georgia’s defensive line, and Burton, who was untouched on his 51-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, agreed.

“It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever done on offense,” he said. “We try to snap the ball as fast as we can. It wears the defense down, as you guys can see. The first quarter, they were done. They were about to tap out after a while.”

Dowling Gone: Freshman safety Jonathan Dowling has been kicked off the team for violating unspecified rules, Meyer said. Dowling, the nation’s No. 16 athlete in the 2010 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, played against Kentucky and Miami (Ohio).

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