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No quick fixes for Spurrier's QB quandary

By the fourth quarter, and the fourth quarterback, Steve Spurrier's options were fairly obvious.

He could play the quarterback who made terrible decisions. He could play the quarterback who has a terrible arm. He could play the quarterback who isn't ripe yet.

Or, he could have done something completely different. On this day of questions, he could have looked around and realized the answer was standing 6 feet away.

You want to know what Spurrier should have done to help avoid Saturday's 37-17 defeat at the hands of Georgia? This is what. He should have marched down the sideline to the familiar face in the black cap and white T-shirt. He should have put his arm around his shoulders, like he did in the old days. And Spurrier should have leaned toward Danny Wuerffel and asked sweetly:

"So, Danny. You think you have a couple more series left in you? If you want to play in your street clothes, it's okay."

Nothing else Spurrier tried worked Saturday. He pulled Doug Johnson for Noah Brindise, then Brindise for Johnson, then Johnson for Jesse Palmer. From the looks of it, all three (four if you count Johnson twice) seemed to spend their off-week forgetting everything they ever knew about playing quarterback.

Some days, every move you make works. This time, every move Spurrier made was a mistake. For one thing, he kept waiting too long to change.

Throughout Spurrier's regime, nothing has represented the excellence at Florida quite as much as the play at quarterback. After Johnson played well against Tennessee this year, most of America believed Spurrier could have plugged in his lawn worker and coaxed a 400-yard day out of him.

Not Saturday. Against a soft zone that Georgia hardly tinkered with throughout the day, the Gator quarterbacks were terrible.

Consider the way the day ended for each of them. Brindise's last pass was intercepted. Palmer's last pass was intercepted. And Johnson? His last three passes hit Georgia players. One of them hit two Georgia players.

"Our quarterback play hasn't been this bad since I've been here," Brindise said. "With the things Danny did, our standards are pretty high. Right now, we're not living up to them. Hopefully, we can get back to playing quarterback the way quarterback should be played around here."

But who? And why?

After a game like this, all that is left are questions. Should Spurrier swallow hard and go back to Johnson? Should he get Palmer ready quicker? Should he go with Brindise? Are there any other options?

A few weeks ago, Johnson looked as if he might blossom into Spurrier's best quarterback. He moves around the pocket well, and he has a good arm. But he has not learned to make decisions. Much of the afternoon, you wondered if Johnson thought he was still on suspension. From the sounds of it, maybe he did, too.

"I didn't feel right all day," he said. "It was like I'd never been back there before. It felt a little weird. I wasn't as calm as usual."

It wasn't all Johnson's fault in the first half. Jamie Richardson should have caught one touchdown pass, Jacquez Green another. Maybe had that happened, Johnson would have settled down. But he also threw two other interceptions, and Georgia players had their hands on other passes.

"Doug needs to get better in decisionmaking," Spurrier said. "(The Bulldogs) sat back in the zone and said, "Be patient, fellas, and they'll toss one to us.' "

Brindise, a nice little story of a walk-on finding some minutes, played well off the bench, and his two touchdown drives gave the Gators a lead. But when Brindise throws a ball, it climbs out of the top of your television screen and scrapes your ceiling fan. Even he thought Spurrier was right in pulling him for Johnson in the fourth quarter. "He makes the deep throws better than I do," Brindise said.

Johnson lasted only three plays after his return before giving way to Palmer. Which was Spurrier's way of saying he had seen enough. And thrown enough.

"I obviously messed up thinking we could throw the ball around like we used to," Spurrier said. "We can't do it."

So what should Spurrier do? How about this: Start Johnson, but get Palmer ready in a hurry. In the meantime, recruit like the dickens.

Um, the Wuerffel kid might be a good place to start.

Gaining ground

With his 85 yards, Florida senior tailback Fred Taylor moved into fourth place on the Gators' career rushing list.

1. Errict Rhett, 1990-93 4,163

2. Emmitt Smith, 1987-89 3,928

3. Neal Anderson, 1982-85 3,234

4. Fred Taylor, 1994- 2,667

5. Tony Green, 1974-77 2,590

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