Bits & Pieces: Florida vs McNeese St

cover2

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The old football cliche, a football team shows its greatest progress from game 1 to game 2, was for the most part well-received. Following an opening loss on the road that was, by many accounts, disorganized and embarrassing and also raised the lingering questions of Billy’s OC and SpT coaches or the lack of, the 49-7 breeze might’ve set some of those concerns to rest, at least for another week. There were still correctable mistakes made, botched snap with the first PAT attempt, fumble in the opponent’s red zone that lead to their only score late in the game, etc. But all in all, it was how you’d expect our Gators to respond, particularly against an overmatched team.

One question I’ve thought about toward the end of the game was how many of our fans and others might be thinking that we were able to keep it fairly simple, score fairly easily and primarily on the ground, and not really open the playbook for others to see? Well, not me. What I’m inclined to believe, at least for right now and likely for the chassis of his program, this is how Billy would prefer most of our games to go. Run the ball successfully (51 carries for 327 yds and 6 of the 7 TDs), cut down on the alignment and procedure mistakes, defense was solid in assignments and tackled well individually and as a team, even scoring a safety, besides the bad PAT snap, special teams play was pretty clean, and the in-game assignments and minutiae you don’t see until it’s an issue was much smoother, save the series that backup Battles fumbled and lost it, though there didn’t seemed to be clear video evidence to overturn the possession call as the play was blown dead. Maybe the officials were from Fulton County and employed its standard vote counting procedure? Anyhow, if Battles doesn’t get hit with the ball up on his shoulder pad instead of tucked, it’s all likely a moot point.

* The running game met the expectations that carried over from last season but were stifled last week. The top three backs ran with authority and a deftness at just the right times. Johnson was tops with 119 yds on 15 Carrie’s and 2 TDs. Etienne and Webb followed with 11/84/1 and 14/71/2 respectively. Credit also goes to the OL who were off the ball quickly and together, providing a dominant push for the most part that allowed the backs an opportunity to read and accelerate. Far better cohesion and what we came to expect from Sale’s group last season, though a couple of key pieces are gone or injured. Good to see after the performance in Salt Lake City last week.

* Mertz, though still in his infancy with the Gators, has so far exceeded the panned reviews Billy got from just about everybody when his signing / transfer was announced. The guy may not have the flash or athleticism of some of the coveted QBs from the portal and there’s still a lot of games to be played, but he’s a pretty good technician with the offense and most of his throws are where they should go. Throwing he was 14/17 for 193 yds and 1 TD, no INT. Also, it’s nice to see a QB that can go through his progression reads and not simply lock and throw. He didn’t get rag-dolled this evening and if that can stand up more often than not, we’ve got a chance maybe in some games that the 3-9 prognosticators had written off.

* Defense was very solid compared to last week, though they were better than the Utah score might have made you believe. The tackling, as previously mentioned, was solid with not the inordinate amount of misses we’d seen through the last couple of coaching regimes. Overall techniques were good with all three groups, holding McNeese to 112 total yds (46 rush, 66 pass). Hard not to give a shout out to the secondary for the fidelity of their play and overall assignments. Covering receivers, breaking up passes, supporting on run plays, very solid execution that hopefully gets better as they continue to gain experience.

* A little more on Billy’s offensive scheme and his being HBC and OC. First, I know that run-heavy offenses aren’t as exciting as what most fans want, but with a good stable of backs (that we have), a QB who can manage and change us out of a bad call (which I believe we have), and a line that can get a push, open holes, hold their blocks, and not step on their peckers (which they did tonight, but I’ll be better convinced if we can perform likewise next week), then Billy can win and / or stay close with a chance to win in most games, providing we don’t turn the ball over frequently or shoot ourselves in the foot with penalties and other miscues. I think as most do that we probably have a great crew of young receivers on the way up and as they become more veteran, Billy will have the chance to be more balanced run / throw and not get penned up against the better defensive teams we face. Maybe he’ll have an OC by then? We’ll see.

* The ESPN Announcers…frankly I’ve heard better from the high school crews at some small schools announcing from glorified deer stands and clearly nipping old John Barley Corn between plays. There was, however, a lot of dead air moments that usually would be annoying as hell, but in this case less Beth was addition by subtraction. I will give her credit for her comment about the student body “doing the Safety Dance” when we tackled their back in his end zone. It made my brain conjure up the old Men Without Hats tune that would be cool if there were more safeties and the fans in the stands actually knew the obscure 80’s music.

* Happy Birthday to Ricky Pearsall and a nice TD reception. Mertz hit him behind the defense for our only receiving TD. @Detroitgator commented in the box that Pearsall needed to concentrate more on his execution and less on style (or words to that effect) and I wholeheartedly agree. Losing the coolots or peddle pushers or whatever the style is is a peeve for an old guy like me, but I’d mainly be satisfied with him securing all the catchable balls and run through his routes instead of jumping unnecessarily on some of them. He’s got good moves and speed and runs good routes, just want him to be better all the time. He’s got some young charges under him that need his best to pattern after.

* Cool to get to see the number of subs get to play, particularly the QB Leon. Had to be a big thrill after being the journeyman for so long and having been a Gator fan in younger days. Hated we gave up a score late with the ERWs in, but a lot of good things happened this evening despite that. We aren’t going undefeated this year, but I’m confident we’re going to be better than 3-9.

Billy’s not going to get cut much if any slack because that’s what college football expectations mandate these days. When we‘re playing 22 Freshmen and others who are just now with the team, logic tells you that it’s going to be a process. But it has to grow quickly if the coach is to ultimately survive. Tonight, though it was a lesser conference opponent, it was a forward step into the process. The trick will be to do so against a much stronger foe next week who also happens to be a big SEC rival. But it’s at home and we’ve handled the immediate warmup game, if not the opener, in an acceptable and maybe encouraging fashion. Beat UT is the next step in the process and it’s doable if we can cause more mistakes than we make and of course, score at least one more point than they do! Hope the Swamp is packed and rocking as is Chatter and it’s diehards! See you next Saturday for sure!

Go Gators!

:chomp:
 

playzwtrux

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Billy’s offensive scheme, when executed at a high level, with supply some Ws, but I don’t see a bunch of championships. Even St. Nicky abandoned it.

Thanks for the insight I always look for after a game. I see a glimmer of hope that there might be more than 3 wins this season, and hopefully more than 1 SEC win.

:clap:
 
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deuce

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Cover, you are the man!

I agree with your observations and think we have more potential than we showed last week.

I am worried about depth at key positions, like QB.

I am concerned about ST play, we were pretty clean last night but didn't show any play-making ability.

OL played better but I still see a lot of standing around and nut scratching going on.

Everything but the QB depth is easily correctable by "better coaching".
 

TN G8tr

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Coffee with Cover. A good way to start my Sunday morning after a Gator Victory.

You hit it on all accounts. We did exactly what needed to be done. Command from the start, execute and defeat an inferior opponent without doubt, and for the most part a relatively clean game. I also think we got out of it without any injuries.

Couple of things that stood out to me.
Scooby, EW3 are going to be exceptional players and are only going to improve as we get into this season. They will be exciting to watch. It was great to see so many Freshmen get PT last night. This will bode well in many aspects for this team and yes recruiting. 'Croots will see that this staff will not be afraid to play the "best player" as opposed to the Mullen entitlement plan.

The Defense. Continued to be impressed with Sandlot. We have bytched and moaned about playing press and lack thereof. The main thing is this defense is going to contest on every snap. I am so glad we are playing aggressively and the players are responding.

Offensively, you summed it up. Mertz and team did exactly what they needed to do. That is our identity now and Napier has to stay with it until the personnel talent level change that. Those WR's will help that along. And with Wilson we saw an improvement and more of a role from game 1 to 2. Even some flashes of Mizell. And yes on Pretty Ricky. Does he even need a uniform? Just go with a T shirt and shorts. But Pearsall doing his best will open things up for the newer guys. I did catch him last night to his credit calling out to Wilson, helping him and coaching him up a bit. Good thing, but need more of it.

The Staff, IMO cleaned some things up from the Opener. Other than the couple of miscues you could tell that attention to detail was focused on this week. Still think we could benefit in ST a bit more but none the less, nothing game killing.

It gets real this week with Toothless coming to town. I will be making my pilgrimage to Hogtown for the game and cannot wait to get back in the Swamp. This team does not need to fear UT at all. Watching them yesterday they are not the team that the media is hyping. They are very beatable. Austin Peay, gave them everything they could handle for almost that entire game. Was UT looking ahead, probably. But when it gets down to it. AP's offense moved the ball and Milton.....he's a QB with accuracy issues and loves to throw heat seeking missiles. If Sandlot can rattle his cage and do so early, this will be a slobber knocker defensive game and it's in the Swamp. Should be a helluva game.

Have a great week and see you all in the Swamp next Saturday.
 

G8trwood

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Great review Cover. Posted at 1? Old folks gotta pee? ;) And Coolots, omg….

We definitely have some stars on D, especially against the sub sec teams. Not int or pick 6 yet, but several pass breakups that would have been unheard of a few years ago. ScooBoom!

Hopefully we can get a competent downfield passing game going. Our backs are studs, roll them out. The TE are painfully slow.

Go Gators
beat toothless
 

cover2

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Billy’s offensive scheme, when executed at a high level, with supply some Ws, but I don’t see a bunch of championships. Even St. Nicky abandoned it.

Thanks for the insight I always look for after a game. I see a glimmer of hope that there might be more than 3 wins this season, and hopefully more than 1 SEC win.

:clap:
Agree with your point about the current run-heavy scheme and outlook. While I also believe that’s the primary part of Billy’s coaching DNA, I also think he’s smart enough to know that we’ll have to be more versatile against the better teams on the schedule who’ll force us out of the run schematically or just defend it better. Keeping the young receivers on the cool side of the grill for the moment allows them time to learn and adjust and good for Mertz as well, though you have to like the composure and his ability to run the offense. His passing has been maybe better than expected, but we’ll know more as the sample size increases through the conference schedule.
 

tharber

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Of the many things I observed last night, the one I wanted to see the most and did not was a player taking over as the leader of this team. We will not win without that person when we need it the most.

I was impressed by Mertz, despite what most of you think, he is not going to lose games for us. He had a few bad throws buthe had some tough throes that were lasers. He is a smart kid and has more upside to come if allowed to do so.

Schematically, BN has more to show but like SOS, he won't show it unti UT. Getting the OL on the same page will not make that possible.

Defensively we are 10x a better team than last year, and that was to be expected. We are young but talented but need that leader to fire them up still.

UT will not be as easy but they are not the same team they were last year either.
 

ted

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The gators are so young and talented with a top three class coming to town. I believe it is highly unlikely that DJ is coming in to Gainesville to hand the ball off 70 percent of the time. When BN gets everything in place, it will probably be a 50/50 run pass ratio much like Spurrier and Meyer.
 

Homer J

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Can we give some love to Searcy? The kid seems to make a lot of plays when he is in the game.
 

Homer J

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Scooby really looked good yesterday. He played fast. He looked like the best player on D early on.
 

oxrageous

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Of the many things I observed last night, the one I wanted to see the most and did not was a player taking over as the leader of this team. We will not win without that person when we need it the most.
There's just no upperclassmen. Anyone have any ideas on who it should be? May need a youngster to step up, maybe someone like Shemar James.
 

Gator by the Sea

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Thanks for the write-up, @cover2 …great as always. We did what we should do against an overmatched team, but honestly I wasn’t sure we would even do that. After the Utah game, I was expecting an underwhelming game in the neighborhood of 35-17. So to dominate the way we did gives me a bit more optimism going into the Tennessee game and beyond.
 

cover2

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There's just no upperclassmen. Anyone have any ideas on who it should be? May need a youngster to step up, maybe someone like Shemar James.
I think James will be that guy on defense. He was atop the tackle chart last evening as well as the Utah game, the the tackles were fairly well distributed vs McNeese as I recall without looking it back up. Heck, I’m still trying to learn all the names of the regulars and the newbies. One kid that stood out was the long, lean corner featured on a pass breakup where the announcer proclaimed that “next year that b/u would be a pick six.” Just some more seasoning and time to bulk a little and keep honing the speed and instincts. Much like most of the underclass. I think that as Mertz continues to lead as he is doing and can respond to the passing demands that most certainly will increase, the guys will respond to that. Want to see a couple of alphas on the OL too. We are a very young team about to step in the ultimate CFB arena.
 

Cozumel Gator

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"COFFEE WITH COVER" has made my day. I had to stream this game through an app on Android. The bigger games will come on Star+ here in Mexico (but sometimes only in Spanish). Thank you again, Cover for always having an honest review here on this forum. Ox if you need to know I will be Scuba Diving tomorrow in our turquoise waters around Cozumel while you are actively banning folks here. :bwahaha:
 

Tunaboat

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Thanks Cover - reading your game recap is always the highlight of my Sunday morning! Was at the game last night and came away feeling WAY better about our team. I know McNeese was the softest of cupcakes we could play and it won't be this easy in any other game, but the boys actually played football last night like they knew what they were doing, showed some good coaching by the lack of glaring mistakes made in SLC and lots of guys got into the mix. The O-line cut holes you could drive a truck through, and Mertz is far from the Wisky reject a lot of us thought he was. Johnson, ETN and Webb spent the night tearing thru the Cowboy D like butter. Announced crowd of 88K and everybody was into it, yelling the whole game with the band keeping us all jacked up with the GO GATORS cheer a zillion times. The Tom Petty song right behind We Are The Boys was a crowd-rocker! I was down on this staff and team after the Utah debacle but for at least one night the worm turned into a butterfly at just the right time. A Good Time was Had By All! Now let's bust some Vol arse next Saturday - I think this team can do it.
 

cover2

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Should’ve given a shout out to DC Austin Armstrong…

1694354125631.png

He’s obviously making a difference, but man does he look young (or I’m just old as hell)! Hope the chemistry keeps working and growing.
 

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