GAINESVILLE — Omarius Hines' 5-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter Saturday night ignited not only a struggling Gators offense but also a stadium of frustrated fans.
Unfortunately for Florida and its followers, Mississippi State's run-heavy attack methodically took the air out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The Bulldogs held the ball for about 10 minutes on a pair of fourth-quarter drives. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen, the former Florida offensive coordinator under coach Urban Meyer, called 16 running plays on those two drives, and his unit pounded the Gators' front seven, gaining 89 yards on the ground.
On the only nonrunning play, running back Vick Ballard took a shovel pass and gained 5 yards.
"It's too much," UF defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said of the Bulldogs' ability to pound the ball. "One of the things we really want to do is stop the run. We have to go back as coaches and look at what we can do better to get our guys in better position."
For the most part, Mississippi State's offense revolved around Ballard, who gained 63 yards on 10 touches during those two late drives. And the Bulldogs avoided third downs with effective early runs, averaging 11.3 yards on six first-down carries.
Although he said he could not make a proper assessment of his defense until watching replays, Austin said his players were not wrapping up the ballcarrier.
"We got in there, we'd make a couple hits and all of a sudden it would get kind of jumbled up in there," he said. "All of a sudden, the back would squirt through."
Meyer pointed to his defense's inability to contain quarterback Chris Relf, but the dual-threat player was limited to just 14 yards on five fourth-quarter carries.
Relf was also ineffective through the air throughout the game, completing four of nine throws for just 33 yards, 30 of which came on a strike to Chad Bumphis. However, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Relf was successful early, picking up 82 yards on the ground and scoring a first-quarter touchdown on a 6-yard run.
Because of Florida's recent struggles against running quarterbacks, Meyer, whose team thrived for years with Tim Tebow on the move, has been fed a dose of his own medicine.
"A lot of it is (the Bulldogs), take that big quarterback and run right behind that offensive line," Meyer said. "They find ways to (find mismatches). And that's hard to stop. You've seen it around here for a while."