Florida Football 3-2-1: Defensive woes not getting any better

Dec 14, 2020 | 0 comments

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Well, that was shocking. The LSU game felt almost like one of those Week 17 games in the NFL where one team has clinched its division and the other is in the running for the No. 1 pick. It was a mere formality that the Gators would defeat the Tigers; it was just a matter of by how much.

Instead, thanks to a plethora of mistakes in all three phases of the game, LSU stunned the visually impaired Gator fans in the Swamp on Saturday night to end the Gators’ playoff aspirations.

Now, the Gators (8-2) must regroup and find a way to be competitive against No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game this week.

Here are three observations, two questions, and one prediction as UF exits one gloomy week and enters what figures to be another.

Three Observations

1) That loss was the nail in the coffin for Kyle Trask’s Heisman bid. While he came eight yards away from tying Tim Tebow’s school record of 482 yards and accounted for all four touchdowns, Heisman voters want to see the winner play his best in the biggest games and lead his team into championship contention. Instead, Trask’s three first-half turnovers were a large factor in the Gators losing a game they shouldn’t have and being eliminated from playoff contention. His only hope to win the award now is to beat Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, which seems about as unlikely as it snowing in Gainesville this week.

2) Whether defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wants to acknowledge it or not, this defense has major issues with communication and getting lined up. On LSU’s first drive of the second half, Gervon Dexter was penalized for offsides because he had just started to run onto the field when the ball was snapped. On the very next play, Jalen Lee ran onto the field late and got set just before the ball was snapped. UF also had to burn a timeout because they only had 10 players on the field before a play. Then, of course, there was the wide-open 34-yard touchdown from Max Johnson to Kayshon Boutte right before the half that was caused by Kaiir Elam blitzing when he shouldn’t have. These are mistakes that you would expect a team to make in week one. The fact that they’re still happening months later is an indictment on the coaching staff.

3) Gators placekicker Evan McPherson hasn’t been Mr. Consistent the past few weeks. He’s now missed a field goal in three consecutive games. Although his 51-yard attempt into the fog on the final play was a challenging kick, it’s one the Gators expect him to make. He missed just four kicks in his first two seasons; he’s missed four now this season. He looks to be in his own head right now, which has led to his recent slump.

Two Questions

1) What in the world was Marco Wilson thinking when he threw that shoe? The Gators had just gotten a big stop that would’ve given the ball back to the offense with plenty of time to win the game. Instead, Wilson’s boneheaded and selfish play directly led to LSU’s winning points. It’s not like throwing someone’s shoe is a subjective call that could go either way; that’s a black-and-white penalty. Wilson’s penalty is more evidence of a poorly coached defense. Just about every time the Gators have done something stupid this year, it’s been a defensive player to blame. For example, the only two players ejected after the Missouri fight were defensive linemen. This defense needs more discipline. They are sloppy and hard to watch.

2) Is there any hope for Florida to keep the Alabama game competitive? The offense is rolling up a ton of yards but hurting itself with turnovers and red zone inefficiency. The defense is a fiasco, and now the kicking game isn’t as much of a sure thing. Even if UF’s defense doesn’t have any major coverage busts like they did with Boutte on Saturday, they’ll have a tough time stopping the Crimson Tide. If they do, you might want to close your eyes when Alabama has the ball. The Gators need Trask to play his best game yet and the defense to force some turnovers to even have a chance.

One Prediction

1) Florida linebacker Ventrell Miller will be named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season and the second week in a row on Monday. He made a career-high 16 tackles with two tackles-for-loss and a sack against the Tigers. He’s the most dependable player on the defense, and he seemed to be in the middle of the action on every play against LSU. He’ll be a valuable part of the defense that they can build around again next season.

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