Unexpected formation confuses Gators

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s defensive players had no idea what to do.

Furman came out for its first offensive series at Florida Field on Saturday afternoon not in its normal pro-style formation. The Paladins lined up in a double-slot option look, and the Gators were scrambling.

They didn’t even get completely lined up before Furman snapped the ball. Six plays and 67 yards later, the Paladins were ahead 7-0.

“That was completely new,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said of the Paladins’ formation. “They hadn’t shown anything on film in 10 games.”

That was the main reason the Gators found themselves down 15-0 and 22-7 in the first quarter. It took them a while to adjust to Furman’s new look, but once they finally did, Florida was able to hold the Paladins to just 10 points over the game’s final 47 minutes on its way to a 54-32 victory.

But those first few were befuddling.

“They gave us everything they didn’t run [on film] on that drive,” defensive end Sharrif Floyd said. “We were frustrated. We were confused. We got it together after that and started settling down after the first couple series.”

It took Florida several drives before the players felt comfortable in what they were supposed to do. Even so, there were breakdowns on two plays that resulted in touchdowns. Furman totaled 196 of its 446 yards of total offense in the first quarter.

“You’re talking about unblocked defenders,” Muschamp said. “They’re not blocking certain angles. You’ve got pressures designed for man coverage and you’ve got slot guys going in motion before the ball’s snapped. It’s a very difficult thing to deal with if you’ve never practiced it, and we never practiced it because they haven’t had one snap of it the entire season. It was a good plan on their part.”

The breakdowns were blown assignments in the secondary, Muschamp said. Furman quarterback Chris Forcier used play-action on third-and-1 and hit David Hendrix for a 31-yard touchdown. The safeties also bit on a bubble screen to tight end Colin Anderson, but he surprised everyone by throwing the ball deep to Sederrik Cunningham for a 47-yard touchdown.

“The first series we were completely scrambling on defense trying to adjust to it,” Muschamp said. “The next two series we have an eye-control issue on the bubble pass and busted coverage for a big play.”