Oct. 5, 2004
The high-scoring offense that defined Florida football during the 1990s is back, and it's better than before.
Taking a page out of former coach Steve Spurrier's playbook, the 12th-ranked Gators (3-1) are once again a dominant offensive force as they host No. 24 LSU (3-2) on Saturday.
Florida is ranked first in the Southeastern Conference in passing, second in scoring and third in total offense. The return of the Fun 'n' Gun style of attack that Spurrier created during his tenure in Gainesville from 1990-01 is responsible for that.
For the past two seasons, Florida had more of a West Coast style of offense, relying on short-yardage, high percentage passes. That style didn't translate into acceptable results, as the Gators posted back-to-back 8-5 seasons.
Last season, the Gators averaged 391 yards a game last season, their lowest offensive output since Spurrier's first season.
This year, the team is averaging 448 yards a game under new offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, who has installed an offense similar to Spurrier's.
Florida has completed six passes of more than 35 yards in four games, including two last week in a 45-30 victory against Arkansas. Quarterback Chris Leak hooked up with Chad Jackson for 39 yards, and with Jemalle Cornelius for a 48-yard touchdown.
Florida scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions in the first half against Arkansas. The 28-point second quarter was the highest-scoring quarter in Florida coach Ron Zook's three seasons.
"That is what we can be," safety Jarvis Herring said. "If we get there, the sky's the limit."
The Gators hope to continue the trend against the Tigers (3-2), who gave up several big plays in a 45-16 loss at No. 3 Georgia last week. It was the most points ever allowed by team coached by Nick Saban, as Georgia quarterback David Greene threw five touchdown passes.
If the NCAA defending co-champions want to play in a meaningful bowl game this season, they can ill-afford a repeat performance this week.
"When bad things happen to you in life, I think it's a real test of your character and your resiliency as a person to see how you handle it and manage it," Saban said. "Obviously, we've got a lot of things to work on, lot's of things we can get better at and we're certainly going to try to use this game as an opportunity for us to learn and to get better."
Zook is cautioning his team against overconfidence.
"LSU will come in here and probably play their best game of the year," he said. "Hopefully, our guys are smart enough to know that this is a very talented team capable of beating anybody that they play."