Florida Football 3-2-1

Oct 7, 2019 | 0 comments

One top-10 opponent down, two to go. After defeating the Auburn Tigers on homecoming, the No. 7 Gators (6-0, 3-0 SEC) will continue their brutal October schedule when they take on the No. 5 LSU Tigers (5-0, 1-0) in Death Valley on Saturday night.

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction following a memorable Saturday in Gainesville.

Three Observations

1) Despite some struggles earlier in the season, this defense is elite. Although they limited UT Martin, Tennessee and Towson to a combined three points, they had some issues with tackling, penalties and getting off the field on third down against Miami and Kentucky. In their first battle against a good offense in Auburn, they didn’t just hold their own; they dominated the game and helped overcome the offense’s four turnovers. They limited Auburn to 13 points, and the only touchdown came after a failed fake punt set the Tigers up with great field position. All three levels of the defense were on point. The defensive line harassed Auburn quarterback Bo Nix throughout the game and sacked him twice. The defensive tackles and linebackers limited the Tigers’ potent rushing attack to just 124 yards and stopped them from converting four third downs of four yards or less. The secondary intercepted Nix three times and only had one blatant coverage breakdown. They did all of this without Jabari Zuniga playing a single snap. This defense is one of the best in the country.

2) Freddie Swain and Josh Hammond aren’t just the consistent, unflashy receivers some fans perceived them to be; they’ve become two of the offense’s top playmakers. Swain leads the team with 280 yards on 14 catches. He’s tied with tight end Kyle Pitts for the most receiving touchdowns with three. Against Auburn, he caught six passes for 146 yards and a 64-yard score. Hammond is third among wide receivers with 16 receptions. He caught a 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter on Saturday. He’s also third on the team in rushing with 85 yards, including a game-sealing 76-yard touchdown at Kentucky. Swain and Hammond are often overlooked by fans in favor of Van Jefferson, Trevon Grimes and even Jacob Copeland to a degree. That needs to change.

3) He only played 15 snaps, but Emory Jones looked more comfortable running the base offense than at any other point in his career. He played in three of the first five games, but it seemed pretty obvious that Dan Mullen didn’t trust him to run the full offense. Even with large leads against Tennessee and Towson, his role consisted primarily of zone reads, quarterback draws and bubble screens. Against Auburn, it looked like Mullen called the same plays when he was in as he did for Kyle Trask. Part of that was out of necessity, as Trask went down with what initially appeared to be a serious injury and the game was still on the line. Still, Jones made the most of his brief opportunity. He completed five of seven passes for 28 yards, rushed three times for 13 yards and led the Gators 51 yards down the field for a field goal. He seemed poised in the pocket and didn’t look to run the moment things started breaking down.

Two Questions

1) Can the Gators find a way to clean up the costly penalties and turnovers on offense? In the Auburn game, they turned it over four times and committed an unsportsmanlike conduct foul after a recovered muffed punt that negated what would’ve been a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line. They turned it over four times in the season-opening win over Miami and turned it over three times and negated a touchdown with a holding penalty in the win at Kentucky. LSU and Georgia possess two of the best offenses in the country, so the defense likely won’t be able to bail out the offense time and time again like they’ve done so far.

2) Can the offensive line build on Lamical Perine’s 88-yard run, or will it continue to be more of the same? The blocking on the play wasn’t great, as Brett Heggie missed his block and allowed Perine to be hit near the line of scrimmage. However, sometimes it just takes one explosive play to get the ball rolling. The run-blocking, while still not great, was probably the best it’s been all season against Auburn. If you take out the 88-yarder, the negative-35 yards accumulated by Trask and the fake punt, they averaged 3.5 yards-per-carry. That’s still not good enough, but it’s a small step in the right direction. They need to continue on that path.

One Prediction

1) Freddie Swain will be named SEC Offensive Player of the Week on Monday morning. There were only five games played involving SEC teams this week, and Swain’s biggest competition for the award seems to be LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Jefferson caught nine passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ 42-6 defeat of Utah State. Swain should get the nod because of the difference in the level of competition.

Tags: Event

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