Updated: October 9, 2006 7:56:32 AM PDT

Gators make QB platoon system work


SCIENCE PROJECT

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It may not be on a scale with Dolly the cloned sheep. But Florida's success in using quarterbacks Chris Leak and Tim Tebow has crossed a heretofore unbreached boundary in the history of the sport. Florida has created the successful platoon quarterback.

It doesn't qualify as news that football has become more specialized. Players run on and off the field depending on the down and distance all the time. Seeing quarterbacks do so is not merely uncommon. It's unheard of -- until this season at the Gainesville National Football Laboratory, or, as you refer to it, The Swamp.

As Gators offensive coordinator Dan Mullen described the way that he employs senior Chris Leak and freshman Tim Tebow, listen to his choice of words.
Tim Tebow
Phil Sandlin/AP Photo
The Gators have found a way to incorporate freshman QB Tim Tebow into the offense.

"I'll be honest with you," Mullen said. "A lot of people outside the program make a much bigger deal of it than inside the program. They (Leak and Tebow) just run in and out, do their stuff and I don't think they think a whole lot different of it. Like any other position, a guy runs on, a guy runs off. He runs his play. He's over there getting coached on the sideline getting ready for the next play."

Just like any other position. Quarterback? Since when? Let the fullback come off the field and a third receiver come on. Let a pass rusher return to the sideline on third-and-two.

There have been isolated cases where platooning has been successful -- Bobby Bowden's first great teams at Florida State in 1979-80 come to mind. Texas won a lot of games with Major Applewhite and Chris Simms but never won a Big 12 championship and never gave the impression that the team was entirely comfortable with the platooning.

What's different about Leak and Tebow is this: each has skills that the other doesn't, and the Florida offensive coaches have figured out a way to use both within the framework of the Gators' offense.

Tebow's ability to run allows Florida to use power-running plays out of an empty backfield. A running quarterback can make the spread offense prolific. Leak's four years of experience in the game and two years in this offense allow Florida to operate at the efficiency that coaches covet.

Leak is not a running quarterback, as anyone who has seen him slide can attest. "If I called one of [Tebow's running plays] when he is in the game," Mullen said of Leak, "he'd be looking over at the sideline saying, 'You called the wrong play!'"

Tebow is not an experienced quarterback. The funny thing is, next season, when he takes over the entire offense, he will become a lot more like Leak than he is now. If you like this version of Tebow, you better enjoy it now.

"Right now, we only have one quarterback returning next year," Mullen said. "He's going to have to understand that we're not going to be all excited about running Tim Tebow next year if we don't have a lot of depth at the quarterback position. He's going to have to come into checking the plays, getting the ball to the running backs, making the right decisions for the pass."

They may be a successful cloning, but they're not going to take over the game. So much for science.
HOG WILD

What we thought we knew about the SEC West completely changed in a matter of hours on Saturday.

Entering the day, Auburn's national title hopes were a major topic of conversation, while the Tigers winning the SEC West was a foregone conclusion to most observers.

Now, after Arkansas' 27-10 over Auburn and LSU's loss at Florida, the Razorbacks are suddenly sitting comfortably in the driver's seat for the division title. With head-to-head advantage over Auburn, and at least two conference losses by every other team in the SEC West, Arkansas will have to lose at least two of its five remaining conference games to not reach the SEC title game. The trip to South Carolina won't be easy, and there are still two ranked teams left on the schedule, but Tennessee and LSU both travel to Arkansas.
LONE STAR STATE OF MIND

DALLAS -- The gestures were symbolic of a victory.

But Texas walked out of the Cotton Bowl with more than merely the memories of senior defensive end Brian Robison planting the Longhorn flag at the 50-yard line, or senior defensive tackle Tully Janszen leading the Longhorn band after beating Oklahoma.
Brian Robison
Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE
Brian Robison made sure the Red River Rivalry was all hat and all cattle in 2006.

The Longhorns' 28-10 conquest over the Sooners was bigger than that. After losing five-straight games to the Sooners from 2000-2004, how the Horns have won the last two games indicates that the Big 12 South Division's balance of power has shifted. A dominant physical defensive performance -- just like the ones that Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops' team used to deliver against the Longhorns -- was the key to Texas' second-half comeback victory on Saturday. It only built on Texas' 45-12 victory last year.

"I feel like the rivalry has turned," Robison said. "The OU-Texas game is about who is going to be more physical. And I felt like we went out and did that today."

After Saturday, UT has all the elements to turn this rivalry in its direction for several years. They have the swagger. They have the talented young quarterback in Colt McCoy. And on Saturday, they had better coaching.

The second half in the Cotton Bowl proved that. The Longhorns were the team with the better planning and bigger hits. You could have switched them into crimson and cream jerseys and imagined it was one of Stoops' teams back when he tormented the Longhorns.

In the process, the Longhorns shut up the detractors who once claimed that Brown coddled his players.

"In the past, we used to hear that Texas was soft," Robison said. "But I don't think that anybody's leaving here with any doubts that we're not a tough team."

Brown wasn't answering questions for his players Saturday after the game. Their dominant performance in the second half spoke volumes on the field.
WORKING OVERTIME

North Texas entered Saturday as the only team among the 119 in Division I-A that had never played an overtime game. The Mean Green not only ended that streak, but they did it in style (sort of) with a 25-22 thriller (sort of) over Florida International in a record-tying seven overtime periods. By any account, it was an ugly win. There were four scoreless overtime periods -- also a I-A record -- as the kickers (neither was substituted for) combined to miss 8 of their 13 field-goal attempts in OT. North Texas kicker Denis Hopovac tied an NCAA record with nine field-goal attempts in the game. He made five, including the merciful game ender from 34 yards away.
TENNESSEE WALTZ

Georgia's defensive coaches obviously felt they could get pressure on Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge with their front four.

Obviously, they were wrong.

For all that Tennessee did right in its 51-33 demolition of Georgia on Saturday night in Sanford Stadium, nothing was more pronounced than the job the Vols did in protecting Ainge.

The Vols' tackles, Arron Sears and Eric Young, turned Georgia's heralded ends, Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson, into frustrated spectators.

"Not once did they touch me," Ainge said.

The Bulldogs' only sack of Ainge came on a safety blitz. Otherwise, his uniform was about as white when he finished carving the Georgia secondary apart for 268 yards and two touchdowns as it was when the game began.

"There were a couple times when I felt some pressure, and the receivers and I were able to get it done most of those times," said Ainge, who's now ranked sixth nationally in passing efficiency. "The other times, I had between three and a half and four seconds to sit there and make a choice. Football's easy when you have that much time."

Sears, the Vols' All-SEC tackle who nearly turned pro last year, didn't practice all week because of a badly sprained left ankle and sprained left elbow. But he and Young both were dominant in the game.

"Arron Sears is the toughest human being I've ever been around," Ainge said. "He's amazing. He inspired us as an offense."

Ainge also said there were no surprises from a Georgia defense that entered the game as the country's No. 1-rated scoring defense.

"We had such a good game plan and thought we knew what they were going to do, and that's what they did," Ainge said. "Credit our coaching staff, and we executed. They were only giving us a few different looks, and Coach [David] Cutcliffe did a great job figuring out when those looks were going to come and getting us in good plays."
STATE PROPERTY

After Saturday's 35-7 victory over Bowling Green, Ohio State has now won 23 straight games over teams from the state of Ohio. It's not that surprising, given that OSU doesn't have much in-state competition for recruits. What's surprising is that the last team from Ohio to beat the Buckeyes was not Cincinnati, Toledo or Miami. It wasn't even Akron, Bowling Green, Kent State or Ohio. It was Oberlin College -- now a Division III football program -- on Oct. 8, 1921.

In case you're curious, that's the second-longest active winning streak by a Division I-A program over the rest of its state. Nebraska has won 47 straight games against competition from the Cornhusker State since a 12-0 loss to Doane in 1894. That streak includes wins over such powers as Creighton, Nebraska-Kearney, Hastings and Grand Island, not to mention Lincoln High School and the Omaha YMCA. If these opponents sound ridiculous, there's a reason. Nebraska hasn't played any of them since 1924.
SATURDAY ODDITIES

Kent State won 28-17 at Temple, giving the Golden Flashes their first nonconference win over a Division I-A opponent since 1987 (at Kansas). It was the fourth straight victory this season for KSU, which will try for the program's first five-game winning streak since 1976 this Saturday against Toledo.

Indiana kicked a field goal as time expired for a 34-32 win at Illinois -- the first Big Ten road win for the Hoosiers since 2001 (Michigan State). Even longer had been the Indiana drought at Illinois. The previous IU coach to march into Champaign and come out with a victory? Lee Corso in 1979.
FIVE SATURDAY OBSERVATIONS
IVAN MAISEL
Auburn 1. Auburn fans reveled in the old comparative-score trick last week. The Tigers beat Washington State by 26. USC beat the Cougars by six. Let's see now: USC beat Arkansas by 36 …

SEC 2. Three SEC top-10 teams lost Saturday, which may be a record for one conference. While one (LSU or Florida) had to lose, the one-sided nature of losses by LSU, Georgia and Auburn means the voters -- and I include myself here -- had been suckered in by the SEC's reputation and failed to look at the facts. All of us ignored the league's long list of paycheck nonconference games. Junk food doesn't build strong bones.

Fresno State 3. Fresno State could justify its 1-3 start because all three were competitive losses to good teams (Oregon, Washington, Colorado State). But the Bulldogs lost again Saturday, 13-12, at Utah State, which had begun the season 0-5 and had scored a total of 28 points in those five games. That epic 50-42 loss at USC last November tripped a slide in which the Bulldogs have lost eight of nine.

Clemson 4. Four teams posted comeback victories Saturday by scoring at least two touchdowns in the fourth quarter: Tennessee (27 points), Clemson (24), Texas A&M (14) and Georgia Tech (13 -- the Yellow Jackets had a failed two-point conversion). Alabama, which began the fourth quarter clinging to a 16-14 lead over winless Duke, scored 14 unanswered points, too. All five of those winners began the day as favorites, which tells you -- again -- that depth and talent will carry the day.

Texas A&M 5. Speaking of Texas A&M, the Aggies are 5-1 against a semi-soft schedule, and three of those games have been decided in the final minute. The six remaining games include four against ranked conference opponents and road games at Oklahoma State and Baylor. The Big 12 South underwent a transfer of power Saturday when Texas beat Oklahoma for the second consecutive year. The Aggies are still absent from the negotiations.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY RADIO RECAP
Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Todd McShay run through Saturday's action.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM THE FINAL CREW
RECE DAVIS
Missouri I wasn't quite sure what to make of Missouri before this weekend, but I'm now convinced that the Tigers are a pretty good team. Lubbock isn't an easy place to play, and for Mizzou to withstand a 21-0 run by Texas Tech there and still pull away for a comfortable win, that tells me they have a shot in the Big 12 North. Missouri's trip to Nebraska on Nov. 4 just might be the biggest game in college football that day.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Marcus Thigpen, WR, Indiana
311 all-purpose yards, TD vs. Illinois
Bret Smith, WR, Tennessee
7 rec., 94 yards, TD vs. Georgia
LOU HOLTZ
When you get to this point in the season, there are two types of teams: those who have a chance to do something -- like go to a bowl or win a championship -- and those who are just hoping to ruin someone else's season. Now that we know who the contenders are, we just wait to see which ones can handle the pressure.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas
145 rush yards, TD vs. Auburn
Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson
2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, TD vs. Wake Forest
MARK MAY
USC The bottom line is that USC is 5-0, and it's clear to me that they're the second-best team in the nation. Yes, they're playing close games, but they're doing it against good competition. And don't forget how bad they beat Arkansas; that should mean a lot more now than it did then. USC has half of its team in the training room, and they're still undefeated.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Aaron Ross, CB, Texas
2 INTs, fumble recovery, TD vs. Oklahoma
LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Pittsburgh
221 rush yards, TD vs. Syracuse
LOOKING BACK: LSU-FLORIDA
TIM TERRIFIC
Gators backup quarterback Tim Tebow took just 15 snaps in Florida's 23-10 defeat of LSU. But he made each one of them count, writes Ivan Maisel. Story
LOOKING BACK: TEXAS-OKLAHOMA
TEXAS TOUGH
Texas did unto Oklahoma on Saturday what OU had done unto UT so often this century: deliver a physical pounding, writes Pat Forde. Story
THE REAL MCCOY
After Colt McCoy's performance against OU, it is evident that the Horns have their quarterback of the future, writes Joe Schad. Schad blog Insider
HIGHLIGHTS: LONGHORNS-SOONERS
The Horns stampeded past the Sooners in the second half on Saturday.
LOOKING BACK: OREGON-CAL
SWEET REDEMPTION
After weeks of hanging under a Tennessee cloud, Cal returned to the national spotlight against Oregon. The wait for redemption was worth it, writes Mark Schlabach. Story
HIGHLIGHTS: DUCKS-BEARS
The Bears were golden against the Ducks.


 

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