It finally got here. Seems like we’ve all been waiting forever, sorta like when you’ve asked Santa for that really neat gift, the one you’ve wanted all your life and will die if the big guy doesn’t come through. But it arrived. As openers go, there were a lot of things to weigh about the upcoming experience, much of it tied to COVID-19. Would we see signs of protest? What would the crowd be like? How prepared or how rusty would the teams look? Thankfully, when all was said and done, the game was played, the Gators won an opener against a conference opponent, we did a lot of really good things (offense / special teams) and some not very good (defense). But for three and a half hours, we were close to normal once more. That was a good thing.
Any disparagement of Kyle Trask after today needs to be retired. 30 / 42 for 416 yards and 6 TDs is both a statement of what he is capable of as well as a continuation of the progress he has made. Though Pitts was his primary target (8 receptions for 170 yds and 4 TDs), he also connected with 10 other receivers. He was cool in the pocket, showing great awareness of pressure and rarely rushed his progressions. As much as we’ve lamented a sideways offense, he sure made a bunch of nice vertical throws. Bottom line, the kid can play the game and the position at a high level, regardless of whatever pedigree (or lack) that has been assigned.
On the other hand, the defense was bad. At times they looked confused and slow, the latter being a result quite often of the former. Tackling was awful for the greater part, though Ventrell Miller had a couple of old school stones. I know that the game now is more predicated on speed than strength and technique, but we sure play way too high, which allows way too many ball carriers and receivers to run through the grabbing that results. And our DBs...they stayed lost all afternoon. Grantham and co. have a lot to repair and not much time to do it. I don’t want us to have to rely on the offense to bail us out all the time.
Now, let’s look at a few specifics:
*McPherson just confirmed what most knew...he’s a heckuva kicker. No KO returns and 3 / 3 FGs with a long of 55. Mullen was quoted as saying he thought he was the best kicker in America. Hard to disagree. And the punter, though he only punted once, looked up to the task. Still seemed a little strange not seeing a Townsend back there. Having a reliable kicking game may not always have the chance to win for you, but they can usually help keep you from getting beat. Low return yards is a pretty big stat.
*Not calling the OL completely fixed, but they looked better than we’ve seen. Pass pro was pretty good, as the QBs had time to throw. We’ve still got work to do with the run game, but we rushed for a little less than 200 on 29 attempts. A couple of technical things I noticed were we looked clean and quick on the G schemes and we had guys getting to and staying with their blocks. It’s a better start than we’ve had lately.
*Third and Grantham was likely screamed a few times today. Part of me gets that we had some youngsters out there, but there were some vets in the secondary who looked clueless for much of the time. Of course, they’ve looked like that before. Where’s the improvement? I also think Dr. Pressure needs to live up to his nick. Specifically, allowing them to convert 3rd and 19 with a 4 rush when your secondary can’t cover a soul is simply asinine.
*First time I can remember that a team responded to a two play length of the field TD drive with a two play length of the field TD drive. Kudos to the Rebs! And as bad as I hate to say it, Corral wasn’t too bad (against us).
*Pitts. The guys on one scoreboard show called him the best TE in the country. He certainly made a case for that high praise today. Great routes, concentration, hands and speed. AA potential. Stay healthy, Trask knows how to get it to you.
*Pierce and Davis looked pretty fair running the ball. They combined for 103. Toney had 55 on 2 carries. Where he’s concerned, we’ve all wanted him to get more touches...and today he got them, adding 5 receptions for 59 yds and a score. Was it Brian Johnson or Mullen? Who cares. Keep feeding him.
We weren’t perfect today, especially defensively, and that can be worrisome, but we’ll have to rely on the adage that a team shows its greatest improvement between game one and game two. Lord, I hope so. A quick glance makes me believe we’ve got the makings of a championship caliber offense barring significant injuries. The defense has a lot of catching up to do in that regard. It might get a little nerve racking. But at least football’s back and we can cheer and gripe about something other than politics. Stay tuned. It’s just getting started and who knows what’s around the next corner! Go Gators!
Best Posts in Thread: Bits & Pieces: Florida vs. Ole Miss
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For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like I know where the ball is going before we even snap it. We threw deep, we threw it over the middle, we threw slants etc, not just bubble screens. Trask 30 of 42, with at least 3 of those incompletes being blatant drops that I recall. 42 attempts.....wow! It wasn't that long ago that we had Treon Harris back there and would throw less than 10 times a game and maybe complete half of them. I don't mind a handful of Trask runs and options just to keep the D honest, but that's all there were. We didn't blow people off the ball in the running game with a dominant offensive line performance, but we got enough push to have a plenty effective running game. BTW, I think anybody who was worried about losing Swain, Hammond, and Jefferson all in the same year can rest easy. Pitts is the bomb, Grimes and Cope are fine on the edge, and 7 touches for Toney was nice to see (2 runs, 5 rec). Pierce just seems to get stronger as the game goes on, and Malik Davis finally looks healthy and speedy.
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I think the defense will significantly improve next week, but that will be more because we are playing Muschamp. It's also possible we just played the best offense on our schedule, but time will tell if that's true or me hoping it's true.
On a similar but different note, the over/under on the egg bowl may be 90 or higher.
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Mullen has done a great job of putting the O together and we now see the fruits of his labors. Trask shows visible improvement in his command of the field he looked cool as a cuke all day long while shredding the Ole Miss D to pieces. That kid has obviously been putting in work during the downtime and his receivers have as well, especially Pitts who was razor-sharp, again. On the downside we have T.G. who I'm becoming more and more convinced has no business being a D coordinator in Div 1 football. Think how good this team could be with an aggressive D that can cover and tackle. That fat bastid is getting paid a ton of money to do those simple things - at least make your kids fly to the ball Todd, and when they get there they'll have a chance to make a play. Something that these bewildered, uncoached-looking troops seemed to have no interest in doing. I get the excuses of lack of practice, COVID, first game, etc but what we saw today was the result of piss-poor D coaching. I'm hoping Third & Grantham lands a sweet high school coaching gig and takes a few of his "star" coaches with him.
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Cover: Thank you for being the most balanced and sane (redundant I know) guy on this board You are the true definition of a "gentleman" -- something I wish would inspire our GC Neanderthals a little bit more. Sigh...who am I kidding?
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Never fail to disappoint Cover, great analysis.
Offense, nothing more to say other than as Brian Johnson said yesterday before the game. We're turning Trask loose. And keep it that way the whole season. No complaints from me there from execution to play calling. Hell, Mullen kept his foot on the gas the whole game.
Now on D, it almost forced me back to the bottle. But so many variables before I jump off the cliff. First game, missing players, Kiffen Offense, on and on. But, that D that played yesterday will not help us if some things don't get fixed and soon.
But overall just good to see football and feel Normal for a few hours.
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In watching the highlights I was struck by how confident Trask was in making his throws. The TD to Grimes was particularly impressive as the DB had pretty good coverage and he put the ball in the perfect spot. This was also true on the last TDs of the two halves to Pitts. One was put where only Pitts could get it and the other took advantage of Pitts' athleticism. If this is what Trask is capable of week in and week out, this could be a really special offense this season.
Coral is from California. So that's why his hair looks like it's recovering from wildfires.
As to the D, = "No-Pop" Warner or Bidenesque. I tell you our D made the hair on my legs stand up.
Want better run-blocking. All our RBs had averages above 6 ypc. That is very good.
Toney did well with determination.
We had a new TE (Whittemore) perform as a 3rd-down receiver. Bet he will get better.
Grimes needs to fire it up some.
Our defense needs a new DC and better recruits, meaner recruits.
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As for the passing game you were watching yesterday...yes, you were hallucinating. Years of psychotropic drug abuse stays with you forever .All kidding aside, my take is that we likely witnessed Mullen having reached a higher level of trust with his QB. I’d have to go back and count to be sure, but I believe we attacked vertically more than we have the past two seasons. Part of that imo is due to Trask’s willingness to ride the pocket as long as possible so that separation can occur and / or combo routes develop. Trusting your OL and overall pass pro is a requirement that was fulfilled. Maybe Brian Johnson had some influence . Whatever the cause, me likee. It’s just one more way to attack and also unclog other areas of the offense.
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One thing I didn’t mention was the Trask / EJ sweepstakes that has gripped many of our fans. @GatorTruth133 made a great point to this in his recap:
Trask showed today that unless you are placating Jones, there is no reason to put him in unless the game is out of reach.
Look, by all rights EJ is a great athlete and has potential as a signal caller and leader. A good friend that I coached with for a number years who moved to Heard Co. raves about what a great person EJ is as well as a football player. Glad he’s a Gator and know that if he’s both committed and patient, he’ll get his chance. But right now, he’s behind Trask and I think whatever trust issues, maybe even the optics(?), that may have concerned Mullen are assuaged. 400+ and 6 TDs on top of last year should convince you. I’m all for having a package for EJ in certain situations as opposed to giving him series that risk disrupting the flow of the game.
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NCAA gives blanket waiver to athletes, including football players, whether or not they play in 2020
That noted, I wouldn't hold your breath on seeing AR in meaningful game spots as Mullen is putting EJ in the games to keep him happy. It would be odd to also be creating a controversy/piss off EJ unless/until Mullen thinks AR has simply passed EJ. As we know from Mullen's loyalty history, he didn't play Trask over Franks or Dak over anyone at MSU until injury forced his hand. So, that scenario seems unlikely this year.
I just rewatched the lines and linebackers on each teams' first few drives and here are some observations from that early period. Heggie looked great. Gouraige looked to be our second best lineman. Resse and Delance struggled in both run and pass blocking on several plays. At this point, the left side of our offense could be a strength and Ethan White's return could also be very helpful. Reese only looked good on one run blocking play - the Trask QB power on 2nd and goal from about the 5.
On defense, Dexter is already getting more push than any other d-lineman, though I'm not sure Slaton was on the field for many first drive plays (he and Carter are on at DT to start the second drive). Burney simply looks lost even trying to get off blocks. If he doesn't run around the blocker and avoid contact altogether, he cannot disengage. Dunlap was getting pushed a few yards back on almost all of his plays. Carter seems lost at DT, where he could be such a strength if given an edge to leverage. Cox is playing the Polite role of being very wide and just rushing. He was more active than I recalled though, having multiple tackles, including a sack that the announcers gave to ZC.
On the second drive, the 3rd and 19, Dean made a big play on second (he was in because Torrence's helmet came off), only to be pulled, while Stiner is seen look on at the next two deep passes for the first and then the TD. Elam gave up the TD in clear man coverage (he slipped on a double move), but it also looked as though Stiner definitely had deep middle help for Elam and was out of position by a solid 8-10 yards.
And Corral is ensuring he is never mistaken for an SEC QB, by posing as a meth head.
EJ in at only the second drive of the game is pretty inexplicable after how good we looked on the first drive.
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