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Offense changes ahead for UF

But the Gators say they have not lost confidence in starting QB Grossman.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 14, 2002

GAINESVILLE -- Rex Grossman stood on the sideline Saturday night, heard the chorus of boos and watched the fans exit in droves early in the fourth quarter after his fourth interception.

Another bad performance, another loss for Florida.

Oct. 5, it was Ole Miss, Saturday a 36-7 loss to LSU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- the first time the Gators have lost consecutive SEC games since 1992.

The best Grossman could do was apologize and beg the indulgence of the Gator faithful:

"I understand their frustrations, but at the same time we haven't held up our deal. We're going to fight back. I know the type of people we have on our team. Eventually ... we're just going to go play and not care about what happens, and then everything is going to come together and we're going to get out of this slump."

The season has come down to this: Florida (4-3, 2-2 SEC) has dropped out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1990, winning the coveted SEC championship no longer is in its control and coach Ron Zook is contemplating changes.

"We've got to do a better job of executing the offense, and we've got to simplify some of the things to make sure that we're controlling what's being called and maybe cutting back on some of the checkoffs that Rex is doing as well," Zook said Sunday. " ... We have personnel that can execute this offense better than what we're doing right now and we're not playing the way we need to play. That's our job as coaches to get our team playing the way they have to play."

Lately, it seems nothing is working.

Florida is 12-for-33 on third-down conversions in its past two games. The rushing game has been held to under 100 yards in the past three. Against LSU, Florida was held to 163 passing yards, 74 rushing. Grossman, last season's Heisman Trophy runner-up, has thrown 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Grossman enhanced his reputation of being predictable, throwing 13 passes to receiver Taylor Jacobs in the first half Saturday -- but completing only four.

Grossman is 5-for-22 in the third quarter in the past two games, and the Gators have been outscored 86-29 in the third this season.

"I don't have an answer for it," Zook said. "We feel like we made the adjustments we need to make."

Zook said he isn't considering benching Grossman for backup Ingle Martin, but hinted Martin may get his chance.

"I think you're getting to a point a little bit there," Zook said. "I'm not telling you anything that I'm not going to tell Rex today as well. There comes a point and time where, and not necessarily because anybody's lost confidence in Rex, I have not lost confidence in Rex nor has this football team ... but I think on the same token, maybe sometimes you do need to settle him down. But I've got a lot of confidence in him and I think he's going to be fine."

Grossman's eight interceptions in two games have led to 28 points, but his teammates said Saturday night Grossman should not shoulder the blame alone. Several times receivers ran the wrong routes.

"I know that in all the situations where something isn't going for us, it's been an inch off perfection," Jacobs said.

"It's all about communication," Grossman said.

The Gators' fate is in Georgia's hands. For Florida to win the East, it needs No. 5 Georgia to lose twice.

Despite the odds, Zook said, the Gators aren't deterred: "Now everybody's eyes are on us as a football team and how we're going to handle this situation. I also told them that a year ago, LSU had exactly the same situation, same record and had just come off a loss at home and went on to win the SEC. All that means is, hey, it's very possible. Obviously, we need somebody to help. But, still we can't mess up anymore. We've messed up all we can mess up."

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