Another Gator Football season, another quarterback controversy. And some defensive concerns. And Dan acting a little smarmy during his pressers. There’s usually something to be said for consistency, but it’s not quite applicable in this recurring scenario. “Maddening” might be more appropriate. It’s no stretch to characterize the average fan’s take in this way, especially when it comes to factoring in Mullen’s foot dragging where finally naming Kyle Trask as the starting signal caller was concerned. With Alabama looming, starter Emory Jones has thrown more picks than TD’s while wunderkind Anthony Richardson has wowed us all with his speed, toughness, and a strong and accurate arm. Why wouldn’t there be some noise despite a 2-0 start against a couple of JV’s?
In the post-game presser after a 42-20 win that didn’t feel as dominating as a three score margin should, Mullen reiterated that we have two good QBs, Emory was the starter, and both will play. End of conversation. If only there wasn’t such a stark contrast between the two. The only sense I can make of it is that Mullen is either doggedly supportive of the more veteran player, perhaps because of his willingness to patiently await his turn or he’s trying to make everybody happy. The latter could be applied to the obvious plan to make sure every running back gets a fair share of the snaps. Then again, it’s early in the schedule and the most opportune time to continue auditions as well as tweak and fine tune. To Mullen, it seems to make perfect sense. To many fans, it makes no sense. After next Saturday, one side will get to say “I told you so” while the other gets to chew on the gristle.
*Emory Jones - 14/22 passing, 151 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT; 13 rushes, 81 yds, 1 TD; 232 total yds. Anthony Richardson - 3/3 passing, 152 yds, 2 TD, 0 INT; 4 rushes, 115 yds, 1 TD; 267 total yds. Just looking at the stats, the two biggest differences are rushing attempts and interceptions as they impact the QB’s efficiency. The seasonal sample size is small, but I feel like there’s a significant trend I’ll add that if I’m relying on the eyeball test, Emory consistently standing and throwing flat-footed in the pocket drives me up the wall as does his staring down of his intended receiver.
*666 total yards. I don’t know whether to jump for joy or call a priest! Seriously, the two biggest takeaways are that the OL, thus far, are able to get a push and are providing adequate protection. 363 rushing yards and 1sack allowed are worlds better than what we have been treated to previously. But so far, only quizzes. The big test is next Saturday.
*As a youngster, I wanted a pony in the worst way. Never got one. As an older man, I want us to be able to line up, get subs in efficiently, and at least look like we aren’t shocked when the opposition uses tempo. Kinda looking like I’m not going to get that either.
*Staying with a defensive theme, my opinions from last week haven’t changed much. I think the DL is the strength of that side of the ball, the LBs make a play every now and again, but aren’t very spectacular, and the DBs make me feel like a Chinese Fire Drill could break out at any moment. In short, our identity is secure…we are Todd Grantham’s defense and inconsistency overall is our calling card. At some point, I want to see us put together a great performance against a good opponent. That and see Todd and the big Watson kid in a pancake eating contest I’m thinking we see the syrup sopping first.
*My favoritism may be showing, but I want to see more Dameon Pierce. I think he’s physically ready for more touches and I can only hope he’ll get more than the 5 he got this week as we move into the SEC schedule. I’d feel better if we’d utilize three backs primarily. I think your better backs need more reps to get into the flow of the game.
*Although it’s early, I admit to having concerns about the receivers this year. Still no TE action to help soothe the loss of Pitts, but it was good to see Copeland show some hands and have a big day with 5 receptions for 175 yds and a pair of TDs. I think we’ve all been waiting for him to live up to his potential and he took some steps in that direction. Young Henderson seems to be growing into the college game. We’re far from the Fun and Gun, but we’re better than last week.
*I can’t say I’m overly impressed about special teams so far. All phases seem a little average. We did give up a pretty decent return and I hope that was just a personnel issue or something easily fixed. Truthfully, in today’s game if we can avoid kickoffs out of bounds and short punts, we can manage. But I do believe we’ll need some FGs before long. Hope the kickers are up to the mark.
*F$U fell to Jacksonville State on the last play of the game. Not what anybody was expecting after that tremendous moral victory over Norte Dame last week…
(that’s for you @soflagator )
It might be hoping beyond hope, but it would be great if Dan said “We’re gonna give the kid the nod against Bama and Emory will be ready to roll in when needed!” He could also say “And we're gonna use our best two backs primarily, let them get into a groove, and not let Bama make us one dimensional.” Who knows, but he could say “I’ve charged Coach Grantham with making sure our personnel is squared away and we are set and ready at the snap. We won’t have too many looks where our LBs are matched up with receivers, and our DBs will at least keep everything in front of them!” All of this could happen. But there’s a good chance the groundhog sees his shadow. Big players get up for big games. It’s past time for that to occur. Go Gators!
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My first car was a ‘65 Mustang, classic in name only. We paid $200 for it and it had a burnt valve, a transmission that slipped, leaking water pump, a hole in the floor board, and rust along the rockers. It got me to where I needed to go, but about every other day I would have to stop on the side of the road to add oil, transmission fluid, or stop-leak in order to make my destination. It was a “get by” at best.
For the last few seasons, every time the Gators go on defense, I can’t help but feel like I’m driving that old clunker again, looking like crap and barely getting to where I need to go and wondering when it’s finally going to leave me on the side of the road. It hasn’t yet, but it just feels like it’s only a matter of time.
The sad part, and I’m repeating myself from past articles and recent seasons, is that we have a really dynamic and potent offense, led by a Heisman Trophy contender with a really good receiving corps, and a running game that’s getting a little better and more reliable each week. I shouldn’t have to fret so about having to out score each opponent instead of knowing we can get the stops when we have to. But that’s where we are and that looks to be the script. If we make it to face Bama in the SECCG, we may need to score a hundred as long as we’re just getting by defensively.
Some fans will tell me that I can’t be satisfied since we won by three TDs. They’ll also remind me that Vandy always gives us their best game. Always. Yeah, maybe so, but I’m a big believer that you are what you consistently do and for a while now, stinking it up defensively is half of what we are. We missed a ton of tackles...again, and we gave up 400 yards of offense to a winless team with a freshman signal caller. At times, we couldn’t cover and we struggled to get lined up. We’re seven games in. When do we see consistent and better play from the defense?
*Vandy did a good job with their tempo and as noted, we had trouble with our alignments and assignments for much of the afternoon. We also reverted to terrible tackling, highlighted by poor angles, grabbing or diving, and poor football positioning (too damn high). Sean Davis was guilty on numerous occasions and I point this out because he usually brings the effort, but his technique was pretty poor. He wasn’t the only one.
*It’s one thing as a Safety to keep the action in front of you, but when the opponents catch the ball 10 yards in front of you, they have the advantage. We look like we’re in prevent / umbrella with our Safety techniques much of the time.
*Ventrell Miller was a bright spot prior to dinging his shoulder. Effort has always been there, but technique hasn’t. That seems to be improving as his angles look much better. Hope he’s healthy next week. I’m hoping Houston is back next week also. I don’t like it when we have the skinny minnies playing ILB.
*I like Elam and think he’ll be a good one before all is said and done, but right now he’s simply a little better than his struggling position mates. His pick was timely, but his protracted dance and subsequent penalty was ridiculous.
*We did seem to get a grip at times on their running game, holding the Commodores to 87 yards rushing. Of course, they were without their #1 back. We also found a way to get some pressure on the QB with Cox getting a sack and Bogle and Dexter combining for one. Slaton, Carter, and Campbell didn’t seem to get pushed around as much as our fronts have earlier in the season.
*”Third and Grantham” was back as Vandy was 7/15 on third down conversions.
*Is it just me or do we have trouble covering the post / slant? It’s not good when their TE beats us off the line with these routes.
*Offensively it didn’t seem like we were clicking even though Trask threw for 383 with three TD passes and we rushed for 173. 586 total yards isn’t too shabby, but maybe coming on the heels of our 63 point explosion last week just makes it pale by comparison. If this was an “off” game offensively, we’re doing okay even though A&M is still in the back of my mind.
*Tip of the cap to Jacob Copeland. Five receptions and some good routes is refreshing and long awaited. I’ve been critical, but maybe he’s turning the corner. If he’s blocking, then he made strides today.
*Pierce had a good day with 55 yards on 11 caries with a TD. He’s our most dependable, but it’s nice to see Davis doing good things on the ground and as a receiver. Ball security has been good also.
*Good to see Gamble step up in Pitts’ absence. Between him and Zipperer, we haven’t lost a step, but just the same, I’ll be glad to get Pitts back healthy. He’s still pretty sporty and a matchup nightmare.
*Toney, Grimes, Shorter, et al are a pretty special group. I didn’t expect the group to be as good on the heals of the guys we lost from last year, but they have quickly made a name for themselves. Toney’s release on his TD catch was a thing of beauty. Another ankle breaker that left him wide open. Now if he’ll just cut out some of the jukes and work on gaining ground vertically.
*The OL isn’t perfect and we’ve got a couple of guys who struggle, but they’re better than what we’ve had for what seems like forever and they’ve gotten a little better each game. It’s good to see us rush the ball effectively. You might say we ought to be able to with everybody dropping seven or eight against us, but we have struggled against these favorable alignments previously. I’m glad to take the positives with this group wherever we can get them.
*I was thinking this afternoon that we’ve been a lot better where penalties are concerned, the holding that negated Toney’s return and Elam’s boner notwithstanding. Seems like forever we’ve always had double figures in penalties. I hope this trend continues.
* I wouldn’t mind all the replays if more would have worked in our favor.
All debate aside, I’m always happy with a win, but I can’t help but be critical of our defense...
We might do great things things at the season’s end and we’ve certainly got one of the best offenses and QBs to do it. But my brain tells me that if we haven’t corrected the fundamental deficiencies by this juncture in the season, we likely won’t. It would be a shame not to reach the loftiest of goals, especially with our high octane offense, because our defense can’t get a stop (or stops) when we need them. But even Saban said things have changed in the game, that a great defense no longer beats a great offense most of the time. You have to have a D that can allow you the opportunity to score at least one more time than the opposition and so far Grantham and Co. aren’t close to that. I’d hate to think we’d need the stars to line up in our favor, but until we see otherwise, that might be what it takes.
Next up...UK. You know we’ll get their best, but that’s ok as long as we give them ours. With Trask and the offense, we’ll always have a chance. That part of the season has certainly been the most pleasant and feels very similar to our O under SOS. You feel like we should score every time we get the ball. That’s a great feeling. May it continue. Go Gators!
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I don’t know about you, but it was a restless Halloween evening for me as I waited for the game to begin. Seems like we haven’t played football in a year or so. Maybe it was the COVID shut down and the lost opportunity to play a seemingly hapless LSU bunch. Maybe it was that our last outing was a stinging loss in the waning minutes to TAMU (and Jimbo Fischer) on October 10, three weeks ago. Maybe it was the concern for our defense, or lack there of, and whether it would be any better (or worse) in light of the interrupted practice. Maybe it was a rare Blue Moon.
But in the end, the recovering Gators, without a dozen or so players, easily handled the Tigers of Mizzou 41-17. The defense effectively bottled up Missouri, holding them to 248 yards (208 passing, 40 rushing). Most amazing was that we were without three starters in the secondary and the tackling woes that have plagued us previously seemed to have been corrected...with limited practice opportunities! Second most amazing was that for a week at least, “Third-and-Grantham” wasn’t much of an issue as the Tigers were 3 / 15 on this down.
On the other hand, I was worried for a while that “Third-and-Mullen” might become a chant with us having some problems converting. For the game we were only slightly better than Missouri at 4 / 13 on third down, but we moved the sticks enough to put up five TDs and two FGs. There was a little rust, but the offensive efficiency was enough to engender confidence with the Dawgs and the WLOCP (or what once was, pre-COVID) looming ahead.
So, let’s take a look at some specifics from the game:
*The story was the defense. If anybody would have told me that we’d have performed as well as we did with what we’ve put on the field thus far, I’d have told them they were crazy! How the heck we magically learned to tackle is a head scratcher. To be fair, Missouri helped us with some pass drops by open receivers and a couple of overthrows, but our performance was better. Now, will the improvement carry forward and be enough to help thwart UGA next week? You gotta think it looks better than it did three weeks ago!
*Offensively, Toney was the guy. Three TDs on the day, two receiving, one rushing, several defenders left grasping at air and nursing injured ankles. His talent is a difference maker and that he is getting the touches only makes our O that much better.
*Trask wasn’t at his very best, “only” 21 / 36 passing for 345 and a couple of hiccups (an INT and a three-and-out series with three straight incompletions), but he did throw four TDs and ran the ball effectively a couple of times. Maybe as importantly, he wasn’t injured on the unpenalized late hit just before the half. Healthy, he’s as good as any QB in the country.
*The front seven, especially the DL, Slaton, Cox, et al, deserve a shout out. 40 yards rushing, regardless of what you think of the Tigers, is a statement, especially when you weigh it against what we have been putting on film. Now go put two games together back-to-back.
*About that late hit...for all the blather and time spent by the SEC Network guys dissecting the play and the ensuing dust-up midfield, the biggest unanswered question to me was why was there no flag? Clearly Trask had completed the throw and was essentially defenseless. Although Mullen seemed to clumsily explain how things transpired, I don’t hold his outrage and sprint to midfield against him. If the refs aren’t going to protect your QB, then the HC has got to do it. And if the league hands down any suspensions after review, they should include an official responsible for the no call.
*Hats off to Howard! No McPherson? No problem! Way to step into the breech, young man. Evan will be back, but you showed that you’ve been earning your place at the training table. Kudos to a valuable walk-on and the latest Gator to make good.
*I’ve got to give @Swamp Donkey a shout. After seeing Mullen’s outfit for his postgame presser...
...I couldn’t help but think “Damn, he really is ‘Dorky Dan!’” Maybe he lost a bet with Grantham?
It feels good to feel good on Sunday morning again. Part of that has to do with a better effort by the defense. It’s also nice to not have to constantly fret about the OL! Looking ahead to next Saturday, it begs the question “Can we keep progressing on that side of the ball so that we give our O the chance to outscore the Dawgs? Their D is pretty good, but their O not so much. If we can at least continue to tackle better, our chances are much greater than anyone would have given us three weeks ago. We also have to keep getting improved efforts from the front seven. UGA’s OL is better than Mizzou’s, so we’ve got to take that step. Do we end Kirby’s run and maybe represent the East this year? We’ve got a great opportunity. Can’t wait to see how we react! Bottom’s up, Jacksonville! And Go Gators!
It’s a girl! Meet our daughter Claudia, born April 16th, 7 pounds 2 ounces. Covid, schmovid, life goes on, right?
This picture was taken when she was less than a week old. It’s been a while but I got back into the late-night feedings and poopy diaper changes groove pretty quickly. It’s still exhausting; maybe even more exhausting this time around because I’m older.
Can’t wait to buy her a Gator cheerleader uniform! Also, can’t wait for next shift to take over so I can get some rest.
I'm not a professional journalist, but I've heard those that qualify say this about news (sports or otherwise): like fish, it's best served fresh and hot. The longer it sits, the less interesting it becomes. Therein lies the basis for my apology for being a day late with this article. I consider this my "real" job, but for starters the one that pays the bills got in the way. A cross country meet that we hosted finished about 11:35 and after sprinting to the wing joint (I volunteered to pick up the necessaries for the family viewing), I was about halfway into the first quarter before I got to start watching (though Mick kept me informed and I did get to watch our first series while picking up the wings). Afterward, it was up to the lake place for a family weekend (both kids home from Tifton and Valdosta respectively). No cable and no internet...yet and the result is this Sunday evening offering. I hope you'll forgive me.
Alright, enough of this waxing melancholy BS. Let's talk about our 34-3 drubbing of the hapless Vols. The culmination of our effort and the win over a primary conference rival, which is always good, left me feeling more like Smokey had heart worms and we had to put him down. It is hard for me to comprehend just what tough times their program has fallen upon and for how long the malaise has lasted. But make no mistake, I have no sympathy. As we well know, one bad hire (or two) can quickly set you on your ear. Couple that with capital inefficiencies and the recipe for a dying program is before you. It is debatable about the time frame of our turn around, better but not yet best maybe, but there is little argument that the Vols are clinging to the rim. Better them than us.
The Trask story was probably the biggest to most everyone. Chapter One (last week was the Introduction I guess) solid and awe-inspiring to an extent when you consider Trask's football journey to date, but he's not quite super hero status yet. Still a mere mortal, but maybe just a spider bite or radiation exposure away from something really special . The contrived point here is to enjoy what he's been able to do and anticipate what he might, but keep it in proper perspective. He's got an advantage with our elite corps of receivers, but he's also a missed block away from an ambulance ride. With a better OL, not necessarily elite, and a strong running game, his progression might really be something, Kerwin Bell-ian perhaps. But as it stands, we get to enjoy this mystery chapter by chapter. On to the recap:
*Trask does some things really well, like throwing a good ball, most of the time, and putting it where our guy can catch it, most of the time. He has a confidence about him that doesn't belie that this was his first start since 9th grade. He's pretty clean with his mechanics (not just the throwing part) and his footwork. His humility, which is more throwback than modern day, makes me feel like he's very appreciative of where he finds himself and what it took to get there. He's not a finished product by any means and it is unbeknownst whether they'll make a CFB version of The Natural starring him, but who knows? I'll take him being in the conversation for All SEC. That's not too much to ask is it?
*I'll be brief about the OL. They're still not very good. That said, I think it's time for more Pierce, as he seems to be the only guy we've got in the backfield that can get behind his pads consistently and I'm afraid that's what we're going to need this season. I see there's a thread on this subject (thanks @AugustaGator) so I don't believe it's my homer-ism. If I have a worry it's that we're liable to lose a back or two behind this line before the year's out.
*I felt like the coverage was some better, still a little soft in spots, and the interceptions were timely, but we missed a lot of tackles yet again. I keep my fingers crossed each week that we don't get fatally blistered, but so far we've escaped. I hope the growth and progression stays up (or ahead) of the level of our competition, but my head tells me we're going to get our britches pulled down sooner or later. It'll be nice to have Henderson back and see some of the others play up to their potential consistently (e.g. Wilson) and others keep progressing (e.g. Elam, Davis).
*Greenhard is bad dude. It was him amongst the boys yesterday. Glad we got him for a year at least. His play is especially important with no Zuniga. I think his heart might be the strongest muscle in his body. I appreciate what he brings. Quickness, strength, and great positional knowledge. Sometimes getting your hands up in the passing lane is as good as a sack.
*I think this game might have set some sort of record for official reviews. Luckily, we seemed to come out on top of most of them and I suppose it's great to be able to get most of the calls right, but it makes the games kind of clunky sometimes. Just wish we'd have had this feature in '03. Jack Childress would still be in prison.
*LBs looked like they were some better. Saw Moon make a couple of plays. Brunson may be emerging. Think it was Miller that got injured. Not sure of his status, but hoping this group can stay healthy throughout the season. The more reps they get, especially on passing downs, the better our entire D becomes.
*The OL notwithstanding, what's wrong with Malik Davis? Just doesn't look like the same guy. Ball security issues is a killer. Body looks healthy, just not sure about his head.
*One more note on Pierce...on a visit back home, one of our coaches asked if he thought he might be our best back. He immediately deferred to Perine and said it was his year. If Perine's going to be a scat back, which it looks like that is what he's become, it might not be his year for long. I appreciate Pierce's respect for his older teammate, but he needs to seize the opportunity.
*Three turnovers will hurt us against a better team, but I can't fault Trask's aggressiveness. It not hard to understand given the guys he's got to throw to. If Copeland hangs on to the one he dropped, the stat line might have had a little more bulge. I've already referred to the receivers as "elite," but if you add Pitts in with them, they might be as solid as any group we've had since the Spurrier years.
*Hats off to Franks. You can tell he's invested even though he can't be a part physically. I have to admit he's shown more character than I might have once thought he had. Glad to be wrong and hope for his future best.
*The TV guys made a big deal out of it, but Mullen calling time out to "refocus" the troops was well-timed. Hopefully they soon become self-correcting.
I think we grew some. Even though it was a not so good Tennessee team, the fact that the new QB starter clicked and the rest of the offense clicked along with him tell me that there is a developing trust and an "eyes front, keep marching" mentality forming. The test will be when we get punched in the mouth by AU, LSU, UGA, etc. The strength of your conviction as well as your plan will be revealed. But that's got to wait until after Towson. Keep growing and stay healthy!
- Thread: I present to you the Jboss Twins
Bentley born at 12:06 am and Cayden at 12:14 am. Boys are doing great and Mom did AMAZING! Thanks for everyone's support, we really appreciate it! Now let me join my fellow chatterers again please!
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Let me first apologize for being a bit tardy with this article. My real job got in the way. Due to a shortage of quality officiating crews, the Georgia High School Association moved some of their first round playoffs to Saturday. We pulled that straw and played last evening at 6:00 pm, which put a little damper on my typical college football Saturday afternoon. But the Bearcats won handily, defeating the Seminoles of Westside Macon (at least there was a part of that tribe willing to play) and will advance to round two. And our Gators prevailed also, 34-10.
I suppose the tête-à-tête between Mullen and Grantham in-game yesterday caught your attention. However you feel about the display, I’d say it was high time and I’m only guessing, but I can’t help but feel that it’s an overt expression of what must be a sore subject. And rightly so. It’s one thing to be inconsistent fundamentally, but the Keystone Cops routine trying to get aligned and balanced has moved beyond ridiculous. I’m certain Mullen is fed up, his body language said as much. I can only imagine the dialogue. Surely any sailors in attendance who might have overheard blushed in embarrassment. At least that’s what I would expect.
Breaking this situation down purely to coaching protocol and expectations, Mullen is the HC and bears all of the responsibility for the outcomes, good, bad, or otherwise. Grantham is a subordinate. It’s his job to follow the direction of the HC by preparing his groups and the unit as a whole as best as possible. It is no stretch to say he has not done a very good job in that regard this year. But the fact that we are now eight games in and eating the same crap sandwich defensively each week is ultimately Mullen’s fault.
Maybe the exchange will help. We did appear to play some better defensively in the second half, shutting out the Wildcats for the final two quarters. We also gained a couple of turnovers, a stat that has been too low this season and belies a lack of aggression from the defense (paralysis from the required player analysis, perhaps?). Maybe best of all was that we actually got the UK offense off of the field, something that we couldn’t do in the first half. Pardon me, however, if I don’t get too excited. It’ll only be an improvement and a trend if it carries forward.
*Kyle Pitts, welcome back! He certainly looked to have been fully recovered. Five catches, three for TDs, was a good way to return. His catch on the little slant was beautiful. Trask put it where the DB had no chance and Pitts extended his arms and used his hands. That was a moneymaker. Nice play design, too, with the motion to the flank opening the window.
*Trask has spoiled us. Yesterday he was 21/27 for 256 and three TDs. Very efficient, but I’m ashamed to say that the first word that came to mind was “pedestrian!” And maybe that’s not unfair by his previous standards. After all, he is a Heisman contender. But you’ve got to give Grantham and the D a nod for limiting his first half opportunities by their inability to keep UK off the field. Still, I wish my average days were as good!
*I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the 8 Shell look that the Wildcats employed from here on out. We’ll need to be able to rush for more than 104 against that type scheme. We’ll also need to be able to block three pass rushers a lot better. DeLance stuck out like a sore thumb. Reminded me of an Iranian security detail in his efficiency. Mullen has talked about the need to run it a lot better and I agree, but one way he could help that in my opinion is to not worry about giving all three backs equal carries !
*The punter earned his hamburger with that “coffin corner” at the one yard line. That’s a dying art with most nowadays opting for either the pooch with backward rotation or a high hanger and good coverage. It was still beautiful to see.
*Toney’s punt return was a beaut. Whether it was by design or a screw up by the Wildcat punter, it was a dagger to the heart. We’ve been waiting a while for him to break one, very difficult these days with the great kickers and return teams we see each week.
*I’ve fussed for a while now about poor technique and fundamentals defensively, but dang if there didn’t seem to be a bunch of open UK receivers yesterday. Confusion related, I’m sure. A better QB would have made us pay. Really hoping that the Mullen / Grantham dust up will result in some positive change in this regard. If not, it’ll be a shame to see an offensive magnum opus ruined by a lousy woodwind section.
*Have we been successful with a corner blitz this season? The DL looks better and better. Let Cox, Carter, Slaton, and the rest of that bunch do their thing. Hell, we have a hard enough time covering with our full compliment in the secondary without wasting one on an unsuccessful blitz attempt.
*Shout outs to Copeland, great athletic catch on a 50/50 ball, Diabate who’s got the instincts even if he’s built like a distance runner, and Davis for stepping his game up some. From my standpoint as a fan, I kinda feel like a proud dad watching his kids ride their bikes without training wheels, finally. These three will be alright even if they have skinned their knees quite a bit.
So next up are the Vols. At 2-5, it’ll be hard not to be overconfident going into our game at Neyland. Of course, if our D continues the way it has for the balance of the season, it will allow them an opportunity. Here’s to the thought that we’ll finally see an improvement based on the aforementioned displeasure that boiled over. A complete game against the Creamsicles would be just what the doctor ordered and at just the right time. But I’ll take a win, however it comes. I can still dream though! Go Gators!
In the midst of Florida’s 63-35 dismantling of Arkansas, Redshirt QB Kyle Trask had himself quite an evening as he went 23/29 passing for 356 yards and six TD tosses. According to the announcers, he had now put himself into the discussion for the Heisman! You mean that he wasn’t in that discussion already? Could’ve fooled me. 28 TD passes in six games should have garnered plenty of attention. If you asked backup QB Anthony Richardson, he’d probably tweet something like “Give Kyle the Heisman Trophy already!”
But that’s kind of how it is for our Gators who seem to always be nobody’s media darlings. I can only harken back to the old ball coach who enjoyed the almost villainous status that was bestowed on him and the program and remains to this day. Truthfully, we’ve had that notoriety for quite a bit longer, but I’m good with it. I’d much rather be Doc Holiday than Wyatt Earp. Doc had a helluva lot more fun!
Where Trask is concerned, I hope we are all appreciative of what he’s doing this season. His accuracy and knowing when to drill it and when to throw it with touch are quite amazing. I think the fact that we are as inconsistent defensively...alright, we stink it up quite a bit on that side of the ball...probably takes some of the shine off of Kyle’s accomplishments. And it really shouldn’t. The story of how he got to this point is quite amazing, but what he’s doing with his opportunity exceeds that.
*Saturday’s game could have been billed as a battle of the Gators’ former and current quarterbacks, with Feleipe Franks making somewhat of an inglorious return to the Swamp. For a few plays, most notably two nicely thrown deep balls for TDs, it looked as if Franks would indeed make a statement. But the day belonged to his predecessor and Feleipe was simply visiting in the stadium that was his home no more.
*Being kind, our defense continues to be inconsistent. Being brutally honest, we stink in the secondary and at LB. At one one point, I could have sworn we suited up about four “Rudy’s” in the secondary, only the real Rudy looked more talented. If you aren’t blessed with a lot of talent, you have to make up for it with an understanding and knowledge of what your opponents do offensively along with communication and a lot of toughness. We don’t seem to have a lot of any of these, at least not consistently.
*Mullen’s response to our defensive woes might have been to emphasize controlling the clock with our running game. We rushed for over 200 yards on 45 carries. The result was keeping the Hog’s O off the field and not giving them the chance to develop any lasting momentum. For the game, we had the ball for 18 more minutes than them. Ordinarily, I would tell you that this stat isn’t as important as it once was, but I think it played a part in our success today. Don’t underestimate Dan’s strategic acumen. Or give his OC some credit. The run today and the wheels last week were good touches that helped make the games winnable.
*It’s no secret that our LB play has been erratic at best. Without Houston and Moon yesterday, we played some sets with no ILBs (mostly passing situations) or played Diabate in the middle. #11 made a couple of plays on the perimeter, but he was no factor on runs between the tackles. He’s simply too light to take on an OL and looked more ballerina than football player on more than one occasion. But obviously he’s all we had (what’s happened to the kid from St. Thomas Aquinas?). This position is beyond priority where recruiting is concerned.
*The DL is a bright spot as they are beginning to get pressure on the QBs (4 sacks last night I believe) and are improving against the run, though we surrendered a couple of long ones. Carter’s scoop and score was a highlight and we played a lot of bodies, though I don’t recall much from Slaton and he didn’t show up in the stat line. Arkansas was only 3/9 on third downs. We’ll have to take our gains where we can get them I suppose.
*Next to Trask, the receivers were the story offensively. For one evening at least, we didn’t seem to miss Pitts. Grimes (2), Zipperer (2), Copeland, Shorter, and Henderson had TD receptions. Sounds like Pitts will miss one more game, but it’s good to know that this group is coming into its own. Grimes probably had his best night as a Gator. Toney didn’t score, but still had 7 receptions. Quietly, or behind Pitts at least, they have become a deep and dangerous group.
*We rushed for 208 yards. Pierce, Wright, and Davis had good nights and the OL was efficient. Our OGs looked good on the G Schemes and overall this group, while not mistaken for the “Great Wall,” is appreciably better than the last several seasons. If they will continue to get just a little better each game, we will have a chance to make the SECCG. Pretty remarkable.
*Not football, but I’ve got to share some softball news. Tim Walton signed Bainbridge Bearcat pitcher Lexie Delbrey this week. Lexie was the #7 player nationally and one of the best high school pitchers I’ve seen in a while. I think she’s got a chance to be a good one and I can’t help but be very proud of her!
I’ve had these strange thoughts that this team is looking eerily similar to some of Spurrier’s teams with the offensive numbers we’re putting up. Trask could easily pass for one of SOS’s QBs with the way he’s carving up the opposing defenses. I’ll take that even though I really want us to be better defensively and I must admit to having a feeling in the back of my mind that a really good team will give us trouble despite how good our O is clicking. A&M has given us a foreshadowing. But football is best watched as it’s played...one game at a time. And for now, Vandy is looming. Not the most anticipated matchup, simply the next one. Go Gators!
Amid the 15,000 live fans allowed to attend, along with the cut-outs that featured pets, celebrities, and past Gator greats, the 2020 edition of Gator football bested the Cocks of USCe in the home opener at BHG 38-24. In doing so, they run their early season record to 2-0 led by the two Kyles, Trask and Pitts, who enjoyed another good offensive outing. Trask kept up his hot start with 21 / 29 passing for 268 yds, 4 TDs and an INT. Pitts had 4 receptions for 54 yds and 2 TDs. As a team, the Gators rolled up 348 yds in only 53 plays for a 6.6 yds / play average.
Even so, the Cocks didn’t go down easily as they rushed for 117 yds and passed for 212 on a whopping 30 more offensive plays than Florida! They also turned two Gator turnovers, both by Trask, into scores and dominated time of possession 36:23 to 23:37, nearly 13 more minutes (keep this stat in mind for a little later). The Cocks young QB, whose hairdo (and not his physique) were reminiscent of former USCe signal caller Stephen Garcia (I see you @Durty South Swamp), made some nice throws and kept their offense potent and the outcome uncertain until the fourth quarter when they turned the ball over on downs after penetrating deep in the red zone.
Considering how our D has started the season, which carried over somewhat, and that their D was some better than the Rebs’ last week, it’s not hard to understand why the game was closer than hoped. Our group was arguably a little better this week than last, though the Cocks ran through us on their first possession with little resistance and our offense gave them the ball twice in good field position. Also, as hated and maligned as Muschamp is, and deservedly so, he can usually put together a good defensive effort, especially against us.
So even though we beat the Cocks by two scores, I can’t helped but feel a little uneasy with TAMU on the road looming ahead next week. But let’s not mistake uneasy with not confident. Our small sample size still makes me feel our O can move it on anybody, particularly with the OL and backs providing pretty decent pass pro and another good crop of receivers taking shape. And the D...they’ve got to catch up sooner or later, don’t they? Chew on that a bit while we look at a few specifics...
*Remember those stats I mentioned? Allowing your opponents 30 more snaps than you will usually get your @ss beat! It speaks poorly of your D’s ability to consistently stop the opposing O and we gave up 11 combined third and fourth down conversions! I guess we’ll now have “4th and Grantham,” too? We were able to get just enough stops, but thank the O for scoring as much as they did.
*The other stat, Time of Possession, a Muschamp hallmark, should be seen as mostly meaningless in these days of high octane, fast scoring offenses. It is also referenced in the book of Modern Football Statistics as “this statistic is for losers.” Teams nowadays that ascribe to this practice are rarely champions of any description.
*It was easy for all of us to scream at our televisions “WTF are you doing, Dan?!” when Trask fumbles on a keeper, that led to a quick USCe score. You likely thought why risk an injury to the guy making our offense really click? And then he keeps on a speed option and picks up a first down on a nice gain of 10+. I’d rather him not run, but it’s going to happen. It’s football and if it’s not called, which I don’t think we’ll see often at all, he’ll get flushed occasionally. No way to protect him from that.
*Big Head Todd and the Monsters aren’t really scaring anybody thus far this season. We really struggle at times in coverage even though we looked sporadically better at times today. Sean Davis has come on and shows some needed toughness and reliability (e.g. the jump ball break up in the end zone) and Elam can play, but we still allow too much separation at times, get lost, or flat out blow coverages. Safety play overall is scary. Our LBs aren’t good in coverage and seem to get pinned frequently on off tackle plays (especially bad when our Ends fail to set the edge, which happens too frequently). We got to the ball today, but struggled a bit getting the ball carriers on the ground. But my biggest worry is that we are not as strong on the LOS as the OLs we’ve met. This might be a season-long issue that will require a lot of improvement in the other defensive areas lest we get bit.
*Take away Trask’s two turnovers and we likely hang half a hundred on them. When our D is struggling, we can’t help the other team no matter how good our O is.
*Pierce looks like the #1 RB. 51 yds on 9 carries with a score was tops for us. I’d love to see him get a few more touches. One of the best things about our backs is the aforementioned role they are playing in pass pro. Sooner or later, they’ll have to be involved as receivers in the throw game a little more.
*Don’t want to praise too much too soon, but I believe we are trending upward with the OL. Not sure of the depth, but hope it will be ready when called and that’ll happen sooner or later.
*Still not sure exactly who’s responsible for the O clicking and our efficiency, but keep it up. Any way you cut it, Brian Johnson, by effort or presence, is a part of it.
So College Station and Jimbo are set for next Saturday. That can be a tough place to play. Kellen Monds, depending on which one shows up, can give our inconsistent D fits. We’ve got a lot of work to do defensively to prepare and get better. One thing we’ve got going for us is the vaunted “Twelfth Man” is made partly of cardboard this year. Shouldn’t make much difference either way if the D steps it up a bit and the O cleans up and performs like opening day. Jimbo’s tears are long overdue. Go Gators!
*Forgot to give Toney a shout. His TD reception showed his strength, balance, and speed as he pulled away from several defenders to take an intermediate throw to the house. Just a reminder, though, for him not to run backwards even if he does have more moves than a young @crosscreekcooter at a tent revival.
* I really think Grantham’s gotta commit to pressure on every conversion down. He’ll have to be creative, disguise it, and bring it from a lot of different places. Contain the QB and make him throw it before he’s ready is the best chance we’ve got right now imo.
- Like x 56
- Funny x 1
“I think it shows where we are as a program”
- Dan Mullen answering a question at his post- game press conference about what it means to have clenched a spot in the SECCG.
A 31-19 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers that also earns us the title of SEC East Division Champions is certainly something to be happy about along with the aforementioned date with Alabama in two weeks. Trask also seemed to do nothing to dissuade the Heisman voters that he is deserving of the honor after throwing for 433 yards and 4 touchdowns. We have a lot to be proud of in this unusual year.
I wouldn’t be a Gator, however, if I didn’t harbor some reservations. After all, it was the 2-5 Vols (now the 2-6 version), losers of six straight that we allowed to score twice late in the game and amass three drives of ninety-plus yards each. Maybe at the very least the program is as good as it was since last we won the East, only to get clobbered by the Tide. But I’m happy, just not really ecstatic.
I don’t know that I speak for all Gators, but I was cruising after we scored to open the second half. Heck, it looked like the rout was underway. Then we had those two three-and-outs that featured three runs and three incompletions respectively. What in the devil were we doing, Dan? How about let’s keep our foot on the gas? Don’t let these peckerwoods make more of a game of it than it should have been. It was Tennessee, for crying out loud! You should ask Spurrier what he thinks!
Just so there’s no confusion, at no point did I think we would lose. But by that same token I thought we’d hang forty on them and ride into the LSU game with a little testosterone and prepare to meet Bama with a little more than just being glad to be in the championship game. And maybe we will be. And maybe I’m guilty of wanting too much. But I’m also guilty of equating football with warfare and my limited experience leads me to believe that you shoot to kill the enemy, not wound him and we allowed the Vols to slither away in a manner of speaking.
But enough of my scorched earth ideas. We’ve got the small trophy, which is a necessary step, and we’ve got the chance to get the big one after one more warm up. That does mean we are getting there, but there’s more work to be done...in a lot ways.
*I don’t pretend to really know what was going through Dan’s mind during those two dud possessions in the second half, but the three straight runs and a punt made me feel like he had a f’ it moment. We hadn’t run worth a crap all day and we were in the position of possibly running them out of their own building. I just don’t get it.
*Obviously there was a lot to be happy about. Trask put up some really good numbers that didn’t hurt his Heisman considerations. Pitts had a “quiet” 128 receiving yards on 7 receptions. Toney put on a show with 108 on 8 catches with a TD. The defense held the Vols to less than 100 on the ground, led by Ventrell Miller’s 8 tackles and 4 assists. At times we covered pretty well.
*And obviously there were areas that were a struggle. The OL was pretty bad blocking the run as evidenced by our 19 yards total (Copeland had our longest run on a reverse). They also allowed a couple of sacks and some pressures. McPherson missed a FG attempt, again. We missed some tackles, three on a short TD run. Mullen insisted on running Trask on a third and medium after they had been stuffing us all afternoon. And speaking of Copeland, the hands of stone were on display with a couple of drops (thank goodness he hung on to Trask’s last TD toss).
*Amidst my mullygrubbing, I have to give the Vols some credit for their defensive plan (which is looking very familiar of late, don’t you think?). They stopped our run with three or four DL and were able to mug our receivers quite a bit. That’s going to continue to be the book on us.
*The Vols almost executed a great trick play on the fake punt. Almost. It seems quite amazing, even if it shouldn’t, but losing teams have trouble converting those type plays. Lack of confidence has a way of chilling your scat.
I guess I should apologize for my earlier tone. We really do have a lot to be thankful for. The fact that we are even playing football this fall and winter should be cause to celebrate. But I’m not going to. Nope. We can celebrate after all is said and done and our work’s finished.
One old high school coach that we went up against, and who was a tough old SOB, took his team to Atlanta to play another top team in a kickoff classic. Keep in mind that this was the year after he had won the state championship. His kids battled extremely hard and needed a TD to win in the final seconds. They drove inside the five and were stopped on the goal line as time expired. As he gathered his team at midfield to address them with reporters and other officials listening and thinking he would tell his warriors how proud he was at how hard they fought, he instead told them simply this...”Get your GD 0-1 asses on the bus! We’ve got work to do!” As cruel as that may sound to some, that is frankly the attitude you have to have to be a champion, though maybe not as profane. That’s what we’ll need to beat Bama. It would be good to practice that against the Tigers next week. Go Gators!
At times it wasn't pretty. The rain made for a soggy atmosphere that looked to work against our one-dimensional Gators. There were passes that fluttered and some way off the mark. There were dropped balls. There were missed calls. There was poor tackling and poor coverage. There were missed blocks. But in the end there were the Gators sitting at 7-1, rebounding from their first loss and showing that they could win, on the road, without their best two defenders. Mullen was a little giddy speaking post-game. And who could blame him? His counterpart...not so much.
38-27. Not what you'd call a commanding victory, but after the way we started and then spotting them a TD (and the lead again) after a pick on the second half's first possession, it was somewhat satisfying after the final seconds ticked off. Face it, we are what we saw today. We're good enough to win whenever we take the field, but without near perfect execution, we don't quite have the roster to dominate. Auburn one week, LSU the next. Meaning that every week will be a battle, nothing will come easy for us. But you've got to love the overall attitude of this team and their heart. We'll have to see how far that will take us.
Before we get into the game points, I have to make a couple of comments, the first regarding the announcers, or at least Greg McElroy.
His lack of love for us is a matter of record, but I thought he carried the scrutiny of the officiating crew to new heights (or depths). I can do without his opinions or any reminders of the rash he still carries where the Gators are concerned. Second, how about the sad lot of hillbilly 'Cock fans. It was ridiculous seeing them throw so much trask on the field when things didn't go their way. Wait a minute, did I say "trask?" Pardon my Freudian slip! 21-33 for 200 yards and 4 TDs, despite a slow start, wasn't exactly "trashy" given the site and the conditions. The story continues to develop.
*Trask obviously had problems gripping and throwing the ball consistently. His first three attempts were incompletions and brought to mind Danny's problems in Jacksonville (1993) when he was benched in favor of Terry Dean, who along with Errict Rhett and a last second timeout by Anthone Lott, went on to beat the Dawgs in a monsoon. Trask also threw a terrible interception to begin the second half, but he was able to recover and lead the team to a win over the 'Cocks and Will Muschamp (win/win). He's pretty cool on the field, but his ability to shake off previous mistakes, turn the page if you will, and lead the team with not only his arm, but also with his brain makes him unique. He's a guy who really shouldn't be here, but he's also a guy you want to pull for.
*We got just enough of a run game to help us when we needed it. None bigger than Pierce's 75 yard romp. Got enough of a block to allow him to turn the corner and square his shoulders. The rest was pretty to watch. A shout out to Cleve for his block that almost caused McElroy to crap himself!
*I hate rushing three and umbrella coverage with a big lead. It never fails that whoever we're defending moves the ball down the field with no difficulty, scores, and makes it too interesting. The "Choke at Doak" is still fresh after all these years and Spurrier's post-game quip about the "Prevent" doing just that...preventing us from winning rings true to this day. Fortunately, we survived it, but I'd rather us keep the pressure on, keep our foot on the gas so to speak.
*It looked at first as if our receivers weren't ready to play, maybe still hungover from last Saturday in the bayou. But they hung in there. Great catches by Copeland and Swain for TD's were highlights and Grimes made a nice catch and strong effort to score. Pitts is who we have seen him to be. Little surprised that Jefferson wasn't at peak efficiency, but the luxury of this group is that we can survive a star having a little bit of an off afternoon.
*I wouldn't say the officials had their best day. They missed quite a few calls, but they weren't one-sided. Pitts' TD catch and the block by Hammonds probably should have been called, but if I'm recalling correctly, the pass should have been completed behind the LOS, but Trask was pressured and got the pass off after Pitts had drifted upfield. An honest mistake that for once went our way. It was also kind of neat to see Muschamp tread dangerously close to an aneurysm just afterward.
*Townsend is a helluva punter. His worst kick was the low liner that still rolled for 54 yards. He shows great patience and awareness on his pin punts. It's nice to know he's there to help bail us out when we stall deep in our own territory. You'd be amazed how much this helps to keep the pressure off of the O.
*Henderson finished strong after looking not so much like a first-rounder in Baton Rouge. Even though they completed the flea-flicker on him, he was in pretty good shape. I liked his tackling today. He looked a lot tougher than he did when he gave up on the long sideline route last week.
*Saw some guys like Burney and Miller getting their names called today. I also saw Ancrum get called twice for lining up offsides in the same series. That quick contrast kind of sums up our roster and gives a hint to some of the issues we are faced with and can only improve as the quality of future recruiting classes improve.
*We were dropping like flies toward the end. We need to heal up in preparation for the game in Jax in two weeks.
Bounce back. It's what we needed and it's always good to go into a bye week leading up to a major rival on an uptick. Sit back and catch your breath. If you're like me, you probably need a moment's respite. There'll be a lot riding on this year's cocktail party.
One last gift for McElroy and any Gator haters who might be disappointed after we disposed of the 'Cocks...
"Thibodaux, Fontaineaux, the place is buzzin'..."
"...Dress in style and go hog wild, me oh my oh.
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou."
Only it didn't quite work out like that. This night, we learned more about our Gators, some of it reinforcement of what we already knew (but were maybe secretly hoping that it wouldn't hurt us). We know that we're a scrappy bunch to go along with talented, in some places, but not across the board. We know that we have a good defense, but not a great one despite, their high national statistical ranking. We knew the Tigers were a really good offensive team. Turns out, they were better than good...and so was Joe Burrow. We believe in the emergence of Kyle Trask and as good as he's been, he's still a mortal in the SEC football league. We know that Mullen is a ball coach, but he's not infallible. I'm sure there's more, but the image in my mind is that we fought hard, gave a great effort, overcame some issues in-game, but in the end we didn't get the job done.
If you're an all-or-nothing person, then the season could be finished for you. That's the trouble when a team possibly overachieves and gets our hopes up. The odds are probably against us for making the SECCG against either these Tigers or Bama. And although UGA left the door ajar, we all know just how treacherous our remaining schedule could be. But the beauty of the game, especially if you aren't 100% all-or-nothing, is that there is still a lot to play for and it either gets better each week or we readjust. As for me...yeah, I'm a little dejected about now, but I'm in it for the long haul and I don't mind walking uphill a little longer. I remember having these feelings a few times when SOS was in charge and we lost a conference game and fell behind only to find our way to the top at the end. Mullen ain't SOS and the conference has changed, but we've still got a chance at our SEC goals. I'm grateful for that. On to the particulars...
*One is greater than five. We saw that tonight when our D had trouble slowing down their O. I think it's no stretch to say that Coach O's hiring of his new OC from the Saints was a good stroke for them. They had a good plan against our D, killed us with the intermediate crosses, and exploited our somewhat depleted DL and shaky LBs with the run. 500+ left some cuts and bruises.
*Trask was pretty good for most of the game. He was cool in the pocket, very accurate with the majority of his throws, and played relatively mistake free, but his biggest one, the late pick in the end zone, left us in a hole we couldn't climb out of. Burrow, on the other hand, was dynamic. 21 of 24 passing, no turnovers and not sacked was impressive. How many times did he escape the pocket for a first down or positive gain? He may be cocky and weird to boot, but he's deserving of the praise he's getting.
*We saw two pretty good groups of DBs tonight. LSU has some talent. We do, too, but they could have used some help from a better pass rush scheme perhaps. We got lost in coverage some and we missed far too many tackles once again. Burrow is too accurate and their plan of attack was too well constructed for us to have success with the amount of mistakes made. Also, as the nation's leader in INTs, we had none tonight. We were not DBU this evening. Nowhere close.
*We rushed for 150+ and threw for almost 300, but our OL got manhandled most of the night. LT and C had terrible nights, especially with pass rush. We missed several blocks (e.g. the last time Trask was sacked, Forsythe looked inside to the tackle that was being blocked by our LG and whiffed on their DE; there still seems to be confusion on assignments). Coach O in his presser praised his DL and rightfully so. Quite often, our five couldn't block their four. We weren't able to escape the deficiencies of this group (that have not gone away) against a better team. It would be miraculous for us to be a championship team as weak as we are on the offensive line of scrimmage.
*Unfortunately, we weren't much better on the DL (or with the LBs). No Greenard was a huge blow and a limited and injured yet again Zuniga did not help matters. Moon was lost quite often and I can't recall enough significant plays by the LBs in general. Giving up nearly 250 on the ground and recording no sacks will not allow you to win very often. No turnovers for us was a big deficit.
*As far as game plans go, I thought Mullen's was pretty good up until the final two or three plays. Might not have made a difference, but the fake reverse pass and the final option play were not good. Made me feel like he was out of bullets at that point, so to speak . As for Grantham, I know why we didn't blitz any more than we did (wanted to have safety help on their speedy receivers; afraid that they'd get behind us and Burrow was good enough to find them), but after getting little to no pressure from our hobbled front, I'd like to have seen him take some chances. Burrow carved us up with all the time he had to survey the field and go through his progressions. He also used his eyes very well. I wish we could have adjusted as well as they did at the half, but I suppose our personnel was a limiting factor.
*More kudos to our receivers and our TE just gets better and better. He's a match up problem against LBs with his speed and against DBs with his size. Hats off to LSU's DC. He took him out of the equation for most of the second half.
*EJ looked pretty good in his role this evening. Really was quite elusive running the ball and made a couple of nice throws, though his TD pass wan't exactly a thing of beauty. If we were going to run it there at the end, I'd rather have seen him in the game. Anyhow, I feel like he won't do anything but get better and better.
*Perine ran hard. My respect for him grows. He might have really had a good night if there were some more holes to run through. He made a couple of nice catches, too.
*I haven't seen the injury list, but I'm guessing we need to heal up quite a bit before next week.
After knocking off the Dawgs, Muschamp and the 'Cocks will be crowing in anticipation of our visit next week to Williams-Brice. I'm sure they'll be nursing some injuries like us (might be down to their #3 QB), but they've got to be riding the swell of upsetting the once east-leading Mutts in Athens. Muschamp probably had his greatest coaching moment this afternoon against his alma mater and close friend, but you know he'd like nothing better to stick it to us. If there's any truth to the old adage "it's not whether you get knocked down, but whether you get back up," and if we really believe that, then next Saturday should be a big one. But aren't they all at this point?
41-15 Peach Bowl victory over favored Michigan! Last year at this time, we were all sitting in the seat occupied by F$U this year, fresh off a 4-8 collapse engineered by famed offensive mind Captain Jim McElwain who staged his own death (so to speak) and left First Mate Randy Shannon to guide the SS Foley to the college football equivalent of Davy Jones' locker. Then came the hire of the less than ballyhooed Dan Mullen to raise the good ship and to meet expectations to not just raise the good ship, but to guide it to the forefront of the conference and perhaps all of college football at a speed likely faster than his inherited crew was capable. Yet here we find our ship closer to the CFB flagship than probably imagined. Instead of the garbage scow we'd become, we at least look like a sturdy destroyer if not a cruiser (not quite a battleship...yet). Pretty good finish after getting torpedoed by three Eastern Division foes and being led into battle by a QB who at one point looked more like Captain Bly than John Paul Jones!
Alright, enough naval references (you've got to forgive me as I watched In Harms Way a few nights back and it was still fresh on my mind - hey, the Duke was in it). But I think most get the picture. We've made a statement this season under Mullen that we're on the rise...not quite "there" just yet, but pointed in the right direction. We made it to a good bowl for the first time in a while, won it and in doing so beat a nemesis of sorts. And I'd be remiss not to remind you that we defeated the Nole$ and broke a five game losing streak (so what if they were coached by Taggert ). The good created, while not yet great, gives hope and high expectations. The offseason has to be better than the last several and it's good to feel some of the confidence that once shown in Gator football make a return. Now, for our date with the Wolverines in ATL...
*A tale of two halves. Though we didn't play terribly early on, we experienced some problems with UM's defense and failed to take advantage of a couple of TD opportunities in the red zone. Franks was looking more like his earlier version that couldn't connect on the long passes and who had no peripheral vision when flushed. We also seemed to be having our problems defensively both containing their ground game and generating consistent pressure on the QB, thanks mostly to the Wolverine OL. And we had a punt blocked! However, things changed in the second half. Michigan fans might tell you that not having their guys that are going pro (antiquated term) was the difference. I believe it was more a matter of Franks settling down and playing like he has lately and our RB's finding their groove (with a little help from the OL). The D got their second wind while UM looked to be spent (or disinterested somewhat) and suddenly our speed and tenacity overcame their strength and reputation. Mullen also deserves some credit for his game plan, adjustments, and setting an example of keeping your cool. All things that have been in short supply for some time.
*If I have a criticism of Coah Mullen, it would be for the double pass called. Certainly it might have been a big play if better executed, but the timing of it made me go
Fortunately it didn't cost us. Otherwise, I thought what he and the staff put together was pretty good.
*Looks like a great swan song for Chauncey, Scarlett, and Perine, should all decide to test the waters of the draft. All have made great strides this year. Especially proud of how far Chauncey has come. When he first got on the field here at UF, he was soft as chewed bubble gum where tackling was concerned. He improved that aspect of his game and added leadership to his resume. Good luck! I'm also sure we'll lose Polite and a couple more on the D side, so the rebuild will continue to a certain degree. I heard Vosean was contemplating entering the draft. He could certainly benefit from another year of coaching.
*Michigan's OL wasn't too bad. Big and with a lot of mobility. Hopefully we'll sort of resemble that prototype in a year or so. I thought our OL guys were obviously better in the second half. Even though our rush total was pretty good, I was looking for more misdirection (counters, etc.) as we seem to be more consistent blocking on the move parallel to the LOS than moving laterally in the zone concept. Evidently, we were good enough along with the RBs and Franks (to a degree) running like champions. Looked like this one meant a lot to the big guys and to all the Gators on this day.
*Tunnel screen and slants were open with UM's coverage schemes. Good to see us take advantage. Also good to see our receivers getting behind their DBs when coverage tightened, even if we didn't do a great job of getting it to them.
*A lot of key moments in the game, but I thought not allowing them to score a TD right before the half preserved a psychological advantage for us.
*Looks like the Gator fans showed up. Thanks to all the Chatter members in attendance. All of you made a difference!
Maybe not among our greatest of seasons, but certainly one to be remembered. As mentioned, anticipation for what's ahead has got to be higher than what we have been expecting. Hearing the fans loudly chant "It's great...to be...a Florida Gator" as the awards were presented post game made me think of where we were and that it might not be only relegated to history any longer. A lot to be done still, but it's good to expect better than dreading the worst! Have a great off season and Go Gators!
Despite the Vols being impotent, hapless, inept, etc., there was a lot to like about the state of preparedness that our Gators brought to the game. The D had a pretty good night, pretty much dominating the line of scrimmage. Secondary was efficient and the LB's made some plays. Turnovers were great to see. Tackling was decidedly better and the intensity looked to be what is expected in a SEC road matchup with one of your big rivals. The offense took advantage of the turnovers and some good field position opportunities. Franks made some nice throws and with a couple exceptions looked to better handle the pressure of the position. We looked to have gained a little something even though UT isn't very good. But it was a conference win, one you were supposed to even though there were probably some among us that had reservations. Bigger games upcoming, but a little confidence and momentum can't hurt. Time for some quick reviews and comments:
*Scarlett looked a little more like the pre-suspension Scarlett. Ran a little tougher. Good if he can regain earlier form and effectiveness. Wish we hadn't lost Davis, but we are good in the backfield.
*Brad Stewart had a coming out party. Better in coverage with a pick and made some good plays as a run stopper. Maybe a harbinger of good things to come with this young position group? Growing up on the run is a requirement for a lot of our younger players for this season and those ahead.
*Defensive front played both strong and quick. Several tackles for loss and a lot of pressure on the QB. Zuniga, Polite, Slaton all had some good plays. When we can both control the LOS and rush the passer effectively, it makes it easier for the LBs to clean up and the secondary to cover with little reason to peek.
*Even though Coach Mullen said Pierce earned more carries, he didn't get his until the second half. But what a great first run. Nice subtle cut inside off his lead block for a long TD run. Kid's gonna be a good one as long as he stays healthy and straight. But you knew that already, didn't you? More please.
*I was ready to fire Cleveland after his drop, but he made up for it with a nice TD catch. Wasn't the easiest catch to make either. Guy seems to like stickin' it to the Vols. Who among us doesn't?
*OL had to play a little better, didn't they? We got a better push against their DL and were able to generate some yards on the ground. A couple of protection breakdowns, but Franks had time for the most part. Still work to be done and we've got better teams ahead, so I'm not going to jump up and down too much.
*Freddy Swain...my man! I've bragged on him and he keeps delivering. Initially liked the depth that he added to the receiving corps, but he's looking like a budding star. Heard Lee say that he has already equaled his previous career TD total with three receiving this year already. Keep growing young man.
*The early onside kick by UT...you convert and you're fearless. You don't and you're desperate. Desperate it is. Perine did a good job of fielding on that play. Pruitt's got his work cut out for him, but there's a reason he was a late round draft pick. Who am I kidding? More like signing a free agent contract. Still got a SEC gig I guess.
*Anybody send a congratulatory text to Willie T. up in Tally? Finally got a signature victory. My Nole in-laws are already crying about the possibility of ending a 40 streak of winning seasons and likely not making a bowl. Karma is the proverbial female dog.
Of course our enthusiasm has to be tempered somewhat, but there is something to be enthusiastic about as previously mentioned. As bad as we hated to lose to UK, and they are a better team than they have been with a decisive win over MissSt, we have been able to move some beyond it, which must be done. If we can take the positives of this game into the next, we'll have a chance. You have to think that our confidence has to have grown some, important for a young squad who had to have had some doubts after UK and the way the prior season played out. But when you get down to it, that was an expectation that Coach Mullen had placed upon him when hired. F' the psychologists, this is still a man's game even if it doesn't always look like it. I'll take a blow out win over a limping opponent rather than one that was a little too close for comfort against the same. Next game needs to be another step in the right direction. Go Gators!
Since it's a slow period on the board, I thought I'd share this story and apologize in advance for the length:
Last weekend I was at an event where Spurrier was also attending. When he wasn't surrounded by the rest of the crowd, I went to talk to him for a bit and the 4-5 minute conversation was 100% pure Spurrier - almost as if Bates was doing the shtick.
I started by introducing myself and then thanking him for immeasurably improving my college experience. He asked when I was there (1994-2003 in Gainesville). Then, he smirked and said "Yeah, those were some good years to be a Gator." It took a more Spurrier-esque turn from there.
I told him the 1997 FSU game, was both the most exciting and cathartic moment of my life. Spurrier immediately gives me a quick, maybe half second glance of disapproval and says "Weren't you there in 1996". As I try to explain how great the NC was, especially beating FSU, but that while gratifying, it wasn't the same, singular excitement level.
He chimes in immediately with, "yeah, and FSU was number 1 . . . till we beat em", to which I foolishly respond, "plus, our season had been a bit more disappointing that year up to then." While he politely, yet in a wise-ass manner, disapproved of the prior choice of 1997 FSU as my favorite game over the 1996 National Championship, this comment about the season being disappointing prior to FSU got him riled up.
Spurrier was now more lively, almost bouncing on his toes back and forth and says, "welp, we did finish 4th in the Country that year and only lost two games. Ya know, that FSU game, I would have traded that for either of the LSU game or the Georgia Game. Shoot, we win one of those and we play for the SEC title. That was always my number 1 goal." [ You often hear that was his priority during interviews and reading it in type, but it's hard to tell if it is coach speak or not. In person, from a foot away, and in a 1 on 1 conversation, I can tell you he emotes this as his reality. He was passionate about it.]
I had hit a nerve and now his competitive spirit was getting riled up a bit. He continued, "That 1997 team. Ya know, we only lost 1 time in 12 years to either LSU or Georgia and that 1997 team lost em both. We win either and we win the SEC [He just takes it as given we beat Auburn for the second time that year, this time on a neutral field, which is pretty great]. But, we lost em and that FSU game, I'd trade it out."
He was taking what many of us in the favorite thread email suggested was our favorite game and putting it in the afterthought pile. It was funny as he was pissing all over my greatest Gator moment with some flare.
Then, since he's bragging about the records against LSU and UGA, he's on a roll and says:
"Ya know, those were some good years. In Gator history we've only won 9 sec titles. Urban, he got his two, but we got 7 of em [yes, he used 7 & 9 with no need to explain, which he was right about. He delivered this line with the most zing of the conversation]. We had never even won one until I got there. And LSU and Georgia, we did go 11-1 against each of them though, so that wasn't too bad. Yep, pretty good run."
Me - "Agreed Coach. Thanks for the time and the memories."
SOS - "Yep, Enjoy your weekend."
The lasting takeaway was that he is still the most competitive, confident, and cocky guy in the same way we all love. It's also easy to see why our rivals hated him. I could have spent another 15 minutes asking questions about topics from this last regime, the resume request, Free Shoes U, Darnell Dockett, Foley and more, but I let him go back to the crowd after he was so gracious in jumping right into the conversation with me.
The next day, he took a pic with my kids, but first said, "shoot, these kids don't know who I am."
When they said, "yes we do and we have a picture with your statute", he pepped up and said "Aah, you know the statute. Aiiright. Get in here for a picture." Then he later threw a souvenir football right to my youngest son, who was super excited and now has his catch from a Heisman winner displayed.
For the first time in 10 years the Gators defeated F$U in the Swamp. The 40-17 score, with Florida easily covering the 17 point spread, wasn't even that close as the Gators scored early and often and jumped out to a 20-7 lead. The Nole$ scored on their first possession as they took advantage of a couple of coverage lapses that got them into easy scoring position. Afterward, the defense cleaned up their *HUTA coverage and the game was essentially in hand in the third quarter. In the end, the Gators were simply too much for the Odell Haggins-led version of the Nole$ and any idea that he would be their new messiah was laid to rest (but don't underestimate the fiscal acumen of "the school out west").
Of course it will always be a little disappointing to not be in the national championship or even conference championship conversation, but consecutive 10 win seasons in the midst of a rebuild shouldn't be dismissed. For a little while, it should be nice to enjoy the progress made and a second consecutive dominating regular season finale over a fierce rival without the parade of "yeah, buts." There's plenty of time for the continuing thorough dissection after the new year. In the meantime, lets look a some of the stories within the story from Saturday night at BHG:
*Depending on who you ask, we're either in great shape or potential turmoil with our QB situation. Trask has been nothing short of amazing this season and EJ certainly shows promise. The question is whether EJ will stay with Trask set for another season. Few have been pleased with Mullen's random use and if there's fault it might be that he's tried to keep everyone happy while his eye is toward the future. What usually happens is that no one's happy and this is likely true if you were to poll the fans. My opinion is you've got to ride the horse that got you where you're at and let the future take care of itself.
*Seemed like every receiver got to touch the ball. Swain and Jefferson had a great Senior day as each had two scoring grabs. Toney put on quite a show and reminded us of the dimension he adds to the offense. Pitts may have some of the best hands a TE could possess, but he seemed to be periodically hallucinating, thinking he was actually an OL as he essentially blocked no one. This deficiency has to be cleaned up at some point if he's to be the complete player he needs to be. Other than that, little to complain about from this embarrassment of riches.
*With the exception of the poor coverages that led to F$U's first score (and a couple of others that weren't capitalized on) and a long TD run by Akers, the D was pretty much lights out. Greenard and the DL were strong and solid and the LB's led by Reese and Miller had a good performance. In all, a strong performance which is what you expect in this game.
*HUTA = Head Up Their @ss coverage. Henderson didn't help himself in terms of future employment and as referenced, the Nole$ missed Terry behind our coverage several times. This was the only low point and luckily didn't hurt us.
*"Move back, You suck!" I'm not really a fan of this type thing, but given the undisciplined play by F$U, it was certainly warranted and hilarious to boot.
*The quick glimpse of the new facilities gives hope for the future. Looks to be a really nice layout on the horizon. It's about time.
*Santa, if I can't have McElwain as the Nole$ next coach, I'll settle for Odell. The organizational skills and class (or lack thereof) that was on display was encouraging
Really good season. Great is still out there. Now all we need to do is land in a good bowl and put on a good performance. Auburn might have helped us in that regard. Here's looking to a great new year with the rebuild proceeding. Go Gators!
*Apologies for the brevity. My only excuse is that we were late in the night getting home after a really great trip. Crowd was good and the Nole$ failed to show. I like it!
*Adding a little here, but the last time I checked in the 4th quarter, F$U had been flagged 13 times (several PF and unsportsmanlike) to our 5. Remember when we were always among the most-penalized in the nation? Glad to not be in that group.
*The Nole$ rabble was a no-show, as it looked like they had more band members than fans. Front runners for sure and a bunch of hypocrites. The nerve of turning on Taggart and the program after lauding his hiring as ground-breaking in terms of better relating to the players and changing the culture. News flash...their culture still sucks and they still sit on a throne of lies (hey, it's the Christmas season).
I was wrong. At work, bantering with some of my colleagues who are Bulldogs, my response to “What’s your prediction?” was that I thought Bama might be a couple of scores better than us. Seemed reasonable, seeing as how Emory would start and Richardson was questionable along with our usual defensive concerns. Turns out Bama was maybe only a missed PAT better than us (if you believed in our potential chances in OT). Or maybe they were just better out of the gate, building a 21-3 first quarter lead and leaving us with a big deficit and only three quarters to find something, some way to get back into it against a very formidable opponent who was having their way with us, particularly through the air against a shaky secondary?
In the end, we found a way to claw back into it. 258 rushing yards, quite the reversal of previous Gator offenses, and a defensive effort that limited the Tide to 10 points through the remaining three quarters left us with a chance. And we almost pulled it off, showing some improvements from the first two warmups. But it was not to be. We were better tonight than I thought we could be, but still not quite good enough to beat Bama. Close, but no cigar.
*Most certainly, the biggest story postgame, especially among Gator fans, will be “Why didn’t we play AR?” Mullen all but told us he wouldn’t, referring to his hamstring aggravation, though many have posted of his pregame acrobatic routine continuing as usual Was the injury legit or was it Dan just being stubborn? Whichever, I can’t say that Emory was awful. His pick was and no passing TDs is certainly cause for concern, but he does deserve credit for his leadership of the rushing offense that totaled 258 yds (80 by him) and put four TDs on the board against a Bama D that is usually tough against the rush. Down the road, however, I believe we will be forced to throw the ball and Emory did nothing to make me think he can provide that threat when needed. So, no participation trophies will be forthcoming.
*The OL deserves a shout for their part in the run game. They moved some furniture this afternoon despite allowing a couple of nulls, one very important one that was compounded by Mullen’s play call. They are at their best in my opinion when they G and combo. Pass pro was okay. They allowed a couple of sacks and some pressures, but I’m not sure Bama’s secondary didn’t have a little something to do with that. Emory’s mobility likely helped as well. They can certainly improve, but their progress this year is notable, comparatively speaking. I’m hoping DeLance’s injury isn’t significant.
*We actually have TEs. After being MIA in the first two games, Zipperer and Gamble combined for 9 receptions and 83 yards (6 other receivers shared the other 8 receptions). I was also pleased to see a couple of nice blocks by the TEs, one in particular by Gamble on a G that helped spring Wright for a nice gain. These guys aren’t as flashy or dangerous as Pitts, but they have important roles in this year’s offense.
*We’ve got three pretty good backs (four if you count Emory ). The power that Davis is showing to go along with the quick acceleration that has been his forte is impressive. I can also appreciate his attention to ball security, even if I hold my breath on each touch (old coaches are not ever wholly forgiving of fumbles). Wright is certainly dependable and will be the guy next year. Pierce was maybe not at his best today, even though he had some tough sledding, but he can usually smell the end zone. Wish we could have converted the PAT. Not sure it was a winning call, but not surprised since we are quite one-dimensional these days. That was a black spot on an otherwise really good performance against a solid D.
*Defensively, our front, led by Carter, continues with strong play. Holding Bama to 91 rushing yards was a big effort. Dexter and Cox made a couple of TV plays and behind them, Grandpa Moon and Diabate were around the football. Our secondary remains a concern. Strangely, they didn’t seem to be out of position on every play, but good grief they take quite possibly the worst angles to the ball I’ve ever seen. It seemed like every throw into the flats resulted in a DB getting outrun to and up the sideline. We also let too many receivers run free in the secondary. I was shocked that Saban didn’t run more tempo. That has been our Kryptonite. We can be a decent defensive team if these guys ever tighten up their fundamentals and responsibilities, but we’ve been waiting on that going on four years now…
*My fears related to our kickers, though not where a needed FG was concerned, were confirmed. I personally think that missed PAT was very significant. Had it been made and we eventually went to OT, there’s no guarantee that we’d have won, but it forced us to go for two and we don’t exactly have the luxury of a passing attack that would keep Bama from loading up for the run on that final PAT. While on Special Teams, I’d also like to register my displeasure with the botched fair catch. Even though we drove the length to score, that crap is pee wee league and the coach in charge of that operation needs his hide tanned. That was embarrassing and reflects poorly on attention to detail.
*BHG looked like it was loud and rocking. Attendance was announced as a sellout with 88,000+ and the TV guys commented on how hard it was to hear. Bama showed the effect in a couple of instances, so much better than the cardboard fans and canned noise. Looked very much like normal. Take that, Joe.
While I am happy with aspects of our play and even some of the coaching…Damn a moral victory. At some point you’ve got to realize that if you THINK you can beat Bama and they KNOW they can beat you, the outcome is usually sealed. I’m a big believer that some of a team’s confidence comes from outside the capsule. The fans and how they feel, what they project, along with that of the media plays a part. Those two entities are influenced by the coaches, in particular the HBC, and the development of skills and strategies that are imparted. I don’t think Dan’s plan was terrible, in fact he almost pulled it off. It would have been better, I believe, if Richardson had been a part. What message did that send to the fans and what was the confidence level imparted? And that will dominate many discussions for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, turn the page. The Creamsicles are up next. Go Gators!
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