Florida Football 3-2-1

Nov 4, 2019 | 0 comments

After a crushing loss to Georgia that likely ended their chances of winning the SEC East, the No. 10 Gators will look to bounce back against a woeful Vanderbilt team (2-6, 1-4 SEC) that they’ve beaten five seasons in a row. However, the last four games in the series have all come down to the fourth quarter. As 28-point favorites, UF will look to breathe a little easier this time around in their first home game in more than a month.

Here are three observations, two questions and one prediction following the loss to Georgia.

Three Observations

1) Before they’re ready to contend for championships the Gators need major talent upgrades at safety and nickel. Coming into this season, moving Trey Dean inside to nickel seemed like the perfect fit. He’s a bigger defensive back who doesn’t have elite speed, so the more physical ‘star’ position seemed like it would fit his skillset better. Instead, he’s regressed big time since last season, culminating in a game where the Bulldogs picked on him over and over. On multiple occasions, he had opportunities to make tackles short of first downs but took terrible angles. Other times, he simply got beat in coverage. Where do you even begin with the safeties? Instead of rotating four players like they’ve done most of the season, they seemed to settle on Shawn Davis and Jeawon Taylor against UGA. Regardless of the combination, major coverage breakdowns have become a weekly occurrence. Blame defensive coordinator Todd Grantham all you want, but there’s only so much you can do when your players seemingly can’t execute.

2) On a positive note, UF’s defense did a masterful job against Georgia’s D’Andre Swift. He entered the game averaging 6.8 yards-per-carry, which led all SEC rushers with at least 100 carries. He averaged exactly half of that (3.4) against the Gators. UF’s Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce both averaged more yards-per-carry than Swift. Outside of the LSU game, Florida’s done a pretty good job defending the run all season. While they gave up more than 200 yards to South Carolina, a lot of the yards came on a handful of explosive runs. Other than his 30-yarder toward the end of the first half, the Gators did a great job of keeping Swift from breaking into the open field and creating explosive runs. They’ll need more of that this Saturday against Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who is fourth in the conference with 790 yards.

3) For the first time all season, Florida’s offense looked rattled against Georgia. They had to burn two timeouts on the opening possession because of not having the right personnel on the field. Tight end Dante Lang got called for a false start before a third-and-1 play. On their second possession, they got penalized for breaking the huddle with 12 players. In the third quarter, quarterback Kyle Trask took an unnecessary 19-yard sack by holding onto the ball and running backward way too long. Dan Mullen had to burn another timeout in the fourth quarter because his receivers couldn’t get lined up properly. It looked like the atmosphere and stakes of the game got the best of them, which really doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Gators played in a major neutral-site opener against Miami and road games at Kentucky, LSU and South Carolina and seemed to handle the environments and emotions just fine. For whatever reason, they lost their composure against the Bulldogs.

Two Questions

1) Where has the pass-rush gone? At one point in the not-too-distant past, the Gators were among the nation’s leaders in sacks. After racking up 21 sacks in the first five games, they’ve recorded just five in the past four games, including a pair of sack-less outings against LSU and Georgia. Not having Jabari Zuniga or Jonathan Greenard healthy for most of the last month certainly hurt, but that can’t be the only reason, can it? UF was praised for its depth on the edge entering the season, but that depth hasn’t shown up. After a strong start to the season, Jeremiah Moon has tailed off in recent weeks. Zachary Carter has been a non-factor. Freshmen Mohamoud Diabate and Khris Bogle have received more playing time in recent weeks but haven’t produced much. Even when Grantham dialed up blitzes, they weren’t able to affect UGA quarterback Jake Fromm and left themselves vulnerable on the back end. With Greenard and Zuniga departing after the season, they need to accelerate the development of these young edge rushers.

2) Why hasn’t Mullen been as creative with his play-calling in big games as he was in 2018? Last season, Mullen was something of a mad scientist, as he called a double pass, a throwback pass from a backup tight end, a jump pass, a flea-flicker and a fake punt. Other than a pair of fake punts – one of which failed badly – and a throwback pass to seal the win over Auburn, the trick plays haven’t been there this season. It was shocking to see him not pull something out of his bag of tricks against the Bulldogs. Does he not trust his offensive line to hold their blocks long enough to allow a trick play to develop? Does he not have faith in Trask to execute the plays? In a one-score game, the Gators could’ve used a big trick play.

One Prediction

1) Despite having two losses, UF will still be ranked in the top-10 when the initial College Football Playoff rankings are released on Tuesday night. They have a double-digit victory over a likely top-15 team in Auburn and narrow defeats to a pair of top-five teams in LSU and Georgia on their resume. They should be the top-ranked two-loss team. Their biggest competition to get into the top-10 could be undefeated Minnesota and Baylor teams. However, Minnesota and Baylor haven’t played schedules anywhere near as difficult as Florida’s, and they don’t seem to pass the eye test, either. If UF sneaks into the top-10, that means they’ll almost certainly be in a New Year’s Six bowl if they win out, with the Orange Bowl being the most logical destination. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get that much anticipated Florida-UCF matchup at long last.

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