GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The Florida Gators' offensive stars are not quarterback Tim Tebow, running back Jeff Demps and tight end Aaron Hernandez.
They are defensive end Carlos Dunlap, cornerback Joe Haden, linebacker Ryan Stamper and many others that comprise one of the country's best defenses.
Florida's game plan is to keep the defense playing at a legendary level. So Florida's once-electric offense seems fine trading big plays for a game of field position and clock-milking since the defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in five of nine games.
"We're going to try to protect them and put them in good positions and not force things and keep the turnovers low," Tebow said. "(Otherwise) you'd probably see more offense, more pressing to put it in, put it down the field. We can just be patient."
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Playing conservatively can come with risks, especially if Florida forgets how to turn it on if the defense falters. The Gators scored two touchdowns in 15 chances during a three-game stretch against LSU, Arkansas and Mississippi State.
That's why coach Urban Meyer said his offense needs "big hits" downfield.
"You look last year, we had those big hits," Meyer said.
Yet it's uncertain how much the Gators could open the playbook when the run-heavy, lower-scoring offense seems to be more of an identity than an aberration.
Tebow has six completions of 30 or more yards this season, but Meyer said the Gators have the makeup to break off big plays with the run or pass.
"It's either sustaining blocks a little longer, or it's taking more chances downfield," Meyer said. "It is predicated by how we're playing on defense. In 2007, it was back and forth, back and forth. Game management was a lot different."
On paper, the Florida offense has done some impressive things. Florida is first in the league in rushing yards (1,506), total net yards (2,661), first downs (146), time of possession (32:56) and completion percentage (66.7). The Gators are tied for first in touchdowns (21, with Georgia) and rushing touchdowns (11, with Auburn).
The problem is how many points Florida has left on the field. The Gators' 28 points per game in SEC play is more than 15 fewer than last year's average. For all the defensive glory, Florida's defense and special teams haven't created turnovers at last year's alarming rate.
Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio said there's another important statistic to remember - 47. That's the number of offensive plays LSU ran in a 13-3 loss to Florida on Oct. 10. The Gators played conservatively that night to milk the clock for the defense, Addazio said.
"Nobody talked about that like it was a non-event," Addazio said. "These are big things."
Some equate conservative play with "playing not to lose," a tentative style that can haunt teams without experience.
Addazio said he only knows the phrase "play to win."
"Control the ball. Get your shots where you can get them," Addazio said. "Play great in defense, play great in special teams. That's plan to win. That's play to win. I think we're doing a pretty good job of that."