Big Plays Helping Gators in Big Way; Long Gainers Making Difference for Surging Florida

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Byline: MICHAEL DIROCCO

GAINESVILLE - Of all the problems that plagued Florida during its three-game losing streak, one of the most glaring was the lack of big plays on offense, defense and special teams.

The offense wasn't explosive, the defense wasn't creating turnovers and the special teams weren't helping either unit. The result was only 10 big plays - defined as plays of 20 or more yards - in losses to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State.

But after all the changes on offense - the return of Chris Rainey, going no-huddle, adding Jordan Reed to the quarterback rotation and getting several players healthy - and a renewed focus on defense, the big play is back.

The Gators posted 16 big plays in victories over Georgia and Vanderbilt - 10 on offense, four on defense, and two on special teams. Eight went for touchdowns.

"We're a little different team when you have the [big plays]," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "I keep going back to when you have a threat [of a big play] on the outside, there's a threat on the side. If there's no threat on the outside, then you're in quicksand."

Rainey has been responsible for four of those big plays: a 20-yard touchdown run and 36- and 45-yard kickoff returns against Georgia and a 40-yard touchdown catch against Vanderbilt. Plus, he blocked two punts against the Commodores that resulted in two of the defensive big plays: touchdown returns of 45 yards by Terron Sanders and 42 yards by Solomon Patton.

Florida had one rush and seven receptions of 20 or more yards in its three-game losing streak. None went for a touchdown. The only special teams big play was Andre Debose's 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against LSU.

"He's one of the most dynamic players I've ever seen," offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert said of Rainey. …