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With its running attack stifled, Florida offense falls flat again

FSU sticks with a familiar gameplan vs. UF. The results look familiar, too.

By JOANNE KORTH

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 19, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida coach Steve Spurrier, his cheeks still red from the cold, sat dejectedly behind a bank of microphones and talked about something that wouldn't have seemed possible.

A meltdown.

Plagued by mistakes and befuddled by Florida State's defense, the Gators were held to a season-low 315 yards in a 30-7 loss Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

"I wish we had played better offensively," Spurrier said. "We played about like we played up here two years ago. We hoped to run the ball and just didn't."

Two years ago, Florida State held UF to 204 yards -- then the second-lowest output in Spurrier's 11 seasons -- by employing a three-man rush and dropping eight players into pass coverage. Saturday, the Seminoles did it again.

And it worked. Again.

The Gators ran six times for zero yards in the first half and finished with 37 on 20 attempts. One-dimensional for most of the game, they played right into the hands of the Seminoles.

"It wasn't hard to run, we just stopped," junior offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker said. "We didn't stick with it. We played into their game. We were very one-dimensional, and they put their heads down and came after it. They didn't worry about the draw or anything."

The Gators were bad from start to finish. On their first offensive play, a missed blocking assignment resulted in a 3-yard loss for tailback Robert Gillespie. On their final play, at the FSU 1-yard line, the clock ran out before the ball was snapped.

In between, not much changed.

The Gators scored on their second possession, an impressive 84-yard, 11-play march that consumed 4 minutes, 27 seconds. Jesse Palmer hit tight end Aaron Walker with a 5-yard pass in the back of the end zone for a 7-7 tie with 4:43 left in the first quarter.

It was the only highlight.

UF committed a season-high 14 penalties for 116 yards. It converted 4 of 15 third-down plays. Its longest gain was a 29-yard pass from Palmer to Jabar Gaffney.

"We just wanted to stop the big plays," FSU cornerback Tay Cody said. "If they get that big-play offense going, you're at their mercy.."

Playing from behind in the second half, UF was forced to throw against FSU's unconventional scheme that included as many as eight defensive backs.

Palmer was 17 of 30 for 180 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions. Freshman Rex Grossman, who took over midway through the third quarter, was 10 of 16 for 98 yards, one interception.

Deja vu.

In 1998, a 23-12 FSU victory, the Gators rushed 20 times for 17 yards. Quarterback Doug Johnson was 13 of 36 for 187 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. In the second half, the Gators had 64 yards, two first downs and zero points.

"It was real tough to get a rhythm and establish some sort of running game," Palmer said. "We have to put this behind us."

UF (9-2) plays Auburn in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game Dec. 2 in Atlanta. The Gators must hope Saturday's poor performance does not send them on the same 0-3 spiral as last season.

"I hope it doesn't affect us, but that's something you halfway have to be concerned about," Spurrier said. "We've played a lot of tough games this season."

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