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Numerous penalties hobble Gator offense

Offense errs often while driving, leading to FG attempts rather than TDs.

By JILL MARTIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2002


Offense errs often while driving, leading to FG attempts rather than TDs.

GAINESVILLE -- Twenty-three yards in three plays usually means a productive offense.

But not if it's going backward.

Late in the second quarter, Florida started on the Auburn 8 after a failed fake punt. By fourth and goal, the Gators were on Auburn's 31 and settled for a 48-yard field goal.

The stat sheet read: minus-23 yards in three plays. What was supposed to break the game open resulted in a Matt Leach field goal. It helped give Auburn a chance to rally and almost win in regulation with a field goal.

"We were driving the ball real good, but in the red zone we got to work on that and get better," wide receiver Carlos Perez said. "We got to score more touchdowns, definitely. The game would have been over a long time ago if we had scored a lot of touchdowns in the red zone."

It was Florida's offensive penalties and inability to score in the red zone that gave the Gators a scare in Saturday's 30-23 overtime win.

The offense had most of Florida's penalty yards, which were 90 on 13 plays.

In Florida's opening drive, the offensive line was called on two consecutive plays for an illegal formation.

Florida's second drive of the first quarter had another illegal formation, which set up Leach's missed 48-yard attempt.

Leach redeemed himself in the second quarter courtesy of a Florida penalty. This time, it was quarterback Rex Grossman who had intentional grounding.

Leach's 48-yard field goal gave the Gators a 17-7 lead, but it could have been more.

The Gators had seven penalties in the first half.

"Those are things that we have to get corrected," coach Ron Zook said. "Once again, I'm talking about Rex Grossman and how much I love him, but dad gummit he can't let the 25-second play (clock) go out. Rex will learn from those things, but we get down there we got to get touchdowns, not field goals."

There were improvements. Despite hobbling throughout with a sprained knee, Grossman had no interceptions. The offensive line protected him better than in previous games.

"We felt like we were moving the ball pretty well," Grossman said. "Penalties here and there, bad plays, loss of yardage made us kick some field goals. But I'm happy with our offense and what we did."

But production in the red zone was almost nonexistent.

When the Gators were moving into Auburn territory, they usually were held to field goals or pushed into their territory through penalties or pressure on Grossman.

Before the winning catch by wide receiver Taylor Jacobs, the receivers had no touchdowns. Instead, tight end Aaron Walker and tailback Earnest Graham had Florida's scores.

Entering the game, the special teams unit was shaky. Though Leach and Talcott were responsible for 20 of the Gators' 30 points, depending on an inconsistent unit and hoping for a block on what would have been Auburn kicker Damon Duval's winning field goal probably wasn't what Zook wanted.

"Yea, we had to settle for some field goals," Perez said. "We just got to work on that."

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