Florida Football 3-2-1

Oct 14, 2019 | 0 comments

The week ahead could define the No. 9 Gators’ season. Despite losing to LSU on Saturday, all of their goals are still within reach. Will they come out against South Carolina fired up to get back on track, or will they let the disappointment of the LSU loss cause them to lose another game like they did against Georgia and Missouri last year?

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction entering this pivotal week.

Three Observations

1) Despite running behind a struggling offensive line, Lamical Perine has stepped up his game over the past two weeks. First, he broke two tackles to score an 88-yard touchdown that sealed the win over Auburn. He followed that up with a physical, gritty game against LSU. His final stats – 17 carries for 65 yards – aren’t going to win him any awards, but it looked like he ran with more anger than he had all season. Instead of going down on first contact for a one-yard loss, he kept his legs moving and churned out two or three yards on a couple of runs. He also tipped a fourth-down pass from Emory Jones away from a defender and hauled it in while falling down for a tying score in the second quarter. Perine can’t control how the offensive line performs; he just needs to do whatever he can to help this team win. It looks like he’s starting to take that message to heart.

2) Speaking of the offensive line, they turned in their best half of the season on Saturday. In the first half, they paved the way for 104 rushing yards on 22 carries (4.7 yards-per-carry) against a defense that entered the game allowing just 81 rushing yards per game. They provided Kyle Trask and Jones with clean pockets on just about every drop-back, and they didn’t give up any sacks. The success was short lived, however, as they reverted to their prior form in the second half. They surrendered two sacks and only generated 42 rushing yards in the half. The next step for the unit is consistency.

3) This defense is a shell of itself without Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga. The defensive line was dominated in a way that nobody could’ve seen coming. They didn’t sack LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, recorded just one tackle-for-loss and gave up 9.1 yards-per-rush. Mullen and staff have a lot of work to do on the recruiting trail to get this defensive line to the point where it can withstand a couple of injuries and not completely fall flat on its face. Would the game have been completely different if Greenard and Zuniga were healthy? Probably not, but it was troubling to see the backup defensive ends struggle as badly as they did.

Two Questions

1) How much of the defensive implosion was good offense by LSU, and how much of it was bad defense by UF? LSU’s offense is obviously very good; there’s a reason why they’re ranked first or second in total offense, passing offense and scoring offense. Burrow is regarded as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Still, it didn’t seem like the Tigers did anything extravagant schematically or that their players did anything spectacular. There were holes big enough to drive a truck through on some of the running plays. Receivers were left wide open all over the field. When they did have tight coverage, they didn’t make plays on the ball. An average quarterback could’ve put up 30 points on them on Saturday night. Fortunately, they’ll take on a Will Muschamp-coached team that isn’t exactly known for being an offensive juggernaut this week. It should be an opportunity for the unit to get back on track.

2) Are the Gators capable of playing a complete game sometime this year? The offense struggled with turnovers against Miami, Tennessee and Auburn, and the defense couldn’t get off the field against Miami, Kentucky and Towson. The defense carried the load in the win over Auburn. Against LSU, the offense put together perhaps its most complete performance of the Mullen era, but the defense got torched like no other time in recent memory. Can Florida play well in all three phases for a full 60 minutes, or will these inconsistencies continue throughout the season? Will more uneven performances be good enough to win the SEC East?

One Prediction

1) The Gators will start slow against the Gamecocks, but it won’t be because they’re still thinking about the LSU loss. Kickoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday, a time-slot that hasn’t been kind to the Gators in recent years. The crowd will probably be rather sparse because the South Carolina State Fair will be going on at the same time as the game and traffic is certain to be a nightmare. Lastly, it’s the last game before the bye week, when the players will get a little bit of down time. It’s human nature to look at an opponent like South Carolina as the final obstacle in the way and take them a bit lightly. Gator fans should be happy with a win any way they can get it this week.

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