Truth Takes: Tennessee Review 2023

GatorTruth133

Alethea
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Before I begin, I hope Cover2 feels better. I know it's not Bits & Pieces, but here is something for you guys.

It’s that time of year again, SEC football is here, and Gator fans think of the joys of Peyton Manning’s success against Florida. Gator fans wear blue and remember legends like Alex Brown, Jabar Gaffney and his incredible TD catch, Tim Tebow’s coming out party, Tyler Murphy saving the game, Muschamp happy for all the disappointed people, 4th and 14, Heave to Cleve, wearing blue helmets with Gators script and now await what wonders might be before us. It’s football time in Tenne…It’s The Swamp, Where Only Gators Get Out Alive. And now we talk about 20 years of dominance over Tennessee in the Swamp.

Saturday night wasn’t perfect, but damn was it fun.

Before the game I knew the Swamp would be rocking because in the first “Go Gators!” chant, even before all the seats that would be full were filled, you could feel the loudness. That is not something I’ve really felt for a while.

The Gators firing out of the gate, even though it didn’t end in points at least brought the crowd into the game in a way a 3 and out to begin wouldn’t. The first defensive series was a mess, some of that to be expected, but the more important thing was the follow up.

Trevor Etienne is our best offensive weapon and Saturday night proved it. Down 7-0, Etienne burst through the line, made a few guys miss with a simple, but effective cut, withstood a should shot by a safety, and then outran everyone to the endzone for a 62-yard TD run. It wasn’t just the fact we responded to a TD with a TD, it was that it was an electric and explosive TD. One that brought some who might’ve already slipped into the “here we go again” mindset back into the game.

The crowd would go on to feast on the atmosphere (despite another special teams miscue) and the electricity led to a three and out. Then lead to the Gators getting Joe Milton’s first INT at UT when Banks was held, but Big Dez Watson nailed Milton mid throw and the ball landed in the hands of Devin Moore would returned it 39-yards. The half ended with it being 26-7.

When we went down 7-0, I had the 2006 National Title game in my mind. At halftime, I spoke with the guy whose family has had seats next to my family for decades and he said, “I’ve been here before and it hasn’t ended well, so I’m still holding my breath”. Truthfully, the game that popped into my head at halftime was the 2016 game at Neyland, which I was there for.

The difference between that game at Neyland and this year’s game? It was in the Swamp. It is that simple. In 2016, UF went 3 and out and then UT scored, Neyland came alive like Frampton, and the comeback was on. This year, UT scores, UF goes 3 and out, but there wasn’t a Neyland blowing wind into the sails of the Tennessee offense. No, there were 90,000 Gators creating headwinds pushing back on UT and feeding the UF defense with energy.

For the offense, as I said, Trevor Etienne is our best offensive weapon. I’d argue he needs 60% of the carries with Montrell bringing the change up. Etienne had 172 on 23 carries. Even if you take out the long TD run, he had 5 ypc. Johnson had 12 carries for 23 yards. Granted, he had a nice TD run (and a nice run after catch on a receiving TD) that helped a lower average. Please don’t misread this as a knock on Montrell, but more of a statement of who should be the 1 in the 1-2 punch. Etienne found holes and cut back lanes when his main route was bottled and I think when the line is doing well, he will continue to get better and better.

Mertz had his best performance as a Gator even if the yardage wasn’t his highest. For the first time, over half his completions were down the field (10 of his 19 completions). He made some amazing throws to the sideline including one that had a tremendous catch by Jackson. He ran for a key first down early. These things show up in the fact he had his highest QBR of the season with 91.6. I know he got injured in his hands so he was limited later in the game (I think we still could have helped him better, but we aren’t discussing that today).

Make no mistake though, the biggest winners of this game are Austin Armstrong and this UF defense. After the refrain I saw until mid-February of “you can’t expect a defense to jump in year one of a coordinator”, well, I present to you this Gator defense. A defense with a ton of fresh faces, including a number of true freshmen contributing. AA and helper Brandon Spikes have been big for this team.

Were they perfect? No. Did they do more than enough to win? Very much so. They pressured Milton all night, for the most part gave him tight windows like I wanted and shut down a potent Tennessee run game. The run defense is something we’ve not seen in years. There were times, even in the best Grantham times, where we were decent to good against the pass but couldn’t stop a running game. We’ve now slowed both Utah and UT. 3.3 yards per carry against a UT run game that was top 5 in the Nation (and was high last year before we get into their SOS so far this season).

In all seriousness, has a single player grown more from 2022 to 2023 more than Scooby Williams? That guy seems like he is everywhere and is a problem. I thought he’d improve, but this guy is beyond my expectations coming into the year. Jordan Castell made some errors as a true freshman in the game, but also lead the team in tackles, had a nice pass break up and looks to have great upside for the future.

For special teams, well, we need someone who can make this unit special and something I think that needs to be addressed in the off-season. There are issues every week and every week it is a different issue.

Beating Tennessee is always a great thing. I have been steady in saying this season I’m not going to overreact positively or negatively to one game. I think it’s asinine to say fire the coach after Utah and I think those I’m seeing elsewhere say all questions have been answered and all problems solved are the other side of the same coin. There are a lot of positives. There is also realization that this UT defense was 127th in pass defense last year and gave up 260 yards passing to Austin Peay last week as I said in the preview.

I said this game might be a springboard to a good or bad trajectory. With a win that springboard should be on a good trajectory. That will be tested in Lexington and in in Columbia, both Columbia’s. We’ve beat Tennessee, now beat the teams we should, Kentucky, Vandy, Mizzou, Arkansas and Carolina. As of right now, that Jacksonville date looks possible with how Carolina played, especially before Wells went down. That LSU game, if the defense can play like it did overall in week 1 and against UT, we might have a better shot than initially thought. And that is the power of winning.

We’ve taken step 1, now let’s see step 2.

Also, the new LED lights, really did put on a show last night. I can say for certain that at least one recruit, a lifelong Nole fan (and his mother), were blown away last night by the loudness, We Are the Boys, and Won’t Back Down. The phrases were “It was f***ing awesome” and “I’m not sure I can look at [their Seminole co-workers]”. When you give the fans reason to believe, they will give you an atmosphere unlike anything else. When you get that atmosphere unlike anything else, it impresses those we want to join. Give the fans reason to believe and the entire job becomes easier.

Go Gators!

Also, see some atmosphere from last night.





 

Cozumel Gator

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"Tacos with Truth" and I want to wish Cover2 a quick recovery and we are all here for you.
 

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MJMGator

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Last night was the most fun I’ve had watching Gator football in years. I’m sure I’m not alone.
 

Concrete Helmet

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The good news is we are fundamentally better than we've been in a couple of years. No repetitive glaring issues with alignment on offense or defense. Players in rotation are ready to come in the game and know their responsibility after arriving.
We are very talented at WR, RB, and pretty damned good on the defensive front. LB's are where they are supposed to be lined up on nearly every play but could be a little better at "finishing off" tackles and not getting over powered at the end of run plays(we saw this happen at least 8-10 times last night). Maybe this comes with more time in the weight room.
DB'S are going to cost us 2 or 3 games this season. Just get used to it as there is nothing that will prevent this when we go up against teams like LSU, UGA, and FSU.....every team in the country goes through this cycle every few years. The good news is they look like they are better coached and will likely take the biggest step forward next year of any position group.
Offensive line is a work in progress but better shore up the pass protection quickly.....Mertz has NO time and it's limiting our downfield passing game which loosens up our running game....not to mention if Mertz gets injured we are likely SOL... and would likely lose every game after that.

The bad news is we still look smaller than our opponents or at least did last night....maybe it was because UT was in all white, but we also lost almost every one of the "rugby scrums" that often happen at the end of running plays. Special teams other than kick offs are less than average, and as mentioned above our pass protection is next to terrible on obvious passing downs.
Overall I think this is still a 6 or 7 win team this season depending on what happens with UK maybe 8 tops....Still the overall direction minus ST and playcalling seem to be moving in the right direction.
 

Homer J

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Mertz is better than I expected. I was thinking he was a pocket passer but I like that he can move around in the pocket. My only problem with him last night was the sack he took at the start of the 2nd qtr. He was looking deep and held the ball too long. Jackson 22 was the motion man and he was over in the flats to the right - WIDE OPEN. Just because they call a deep shot, doesn't mean you have to take the deep shot. (like when AR15 threw into quadruple coverage last year, deep down the middle.)

D-Line played most of the night in a 4 man front. They played great. They controlled the LOS. I haven't watched KY but Vandy really sucks and USCe has huge liability in the O-Line, giving up 9 sacks to UNC. Our D will feast against these guys.

Also with USCe, Rattler is going to start turning on his team soon. His line is getting him killed and his WRs are flat out dropping passes. They can't run, they are one dimensional. There were two plays against UGA where he took a huge shot (on 3rd down) but delivered a great pass and the WR dropped it.

As for the offense, I am really pleased with the O-Line. They looked competent last night, like an SEC O-Line.
 

gingerlover

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Still not a fan of the O play calling or scheme but the guys did their job last night. This wasn’t a contend year but Billy needed to show we are moving forward on the field and they did that last night. This was a game we needed to steal based on predictions and if we take care of business could be bowl eligible before UGA which would be huge perception wise.
 

Concrete Helmet

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He was looking deep and held the ball too long. Jackson 22 was the motion man and he was over in the flats to the right - WIDE OPEN.
Saw that and we might have scored because UT had no one on that side of the field within 25 yards of Jackson....but in all fairness to Mertz he did hit several short passes including the one for a TD with heavy pressure on him. If the Oline can get even a smidge better in protection I think Mertz will be a very solid QB this year.
 

Born2beagator

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Last night was the most fun I’ve had watching Gator football in years. I’m sure I’m not alone.
This is the biggest thing. Even when we went conservative in the 2nd half I was still glued to the TV when in past years I'd get up and walk out. Last night I didn't feel at any point in the 2nd half we would lose. Nervous? Yes I hate going conservative. But it felt different
 

Zambo

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On the big sack on Mertz, if you look at the video we had two receivers downfield and their routes took them both to the exact same spot....any throw there would have been easily defended by 3-4 vol DBs in the area. The checkdown was wide open yes, but to me the route tree or whatever you call it made the play doomed from the start (if of course the receivers were actually running the called routes).

Two of my favorite plays that haven't been mentioned much are the Mertz scramble to the right where he pump-faked the defender off his feet, then pointed at the guy as if to laugh as he ran around him for the first down. The second was us getting those dumbasses to jump offsides on 4th down deep in our own end of the field. :lol: Haha what a clown show UT is.
 

Detroitgator

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Nice write up, I agree with everything, and yeah, I know several of us talked last night about the "when was the last time the crowd was this loud start to finish?" tweet, but last night was truly "end to end" special in the stands last night.

As for "progress," yup. At some point last night I posted, "play by play, quarter by quarter, game by game"... we're getting there.
 

Born2beagator

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On the big sack on Mertz, if you look at the video we had two receivers downfield and their routes took them both to the exact same spot....any throw there would have been easily defended by 3-4 vol DBs in the area. The checkdown was wide open yes, but to me the route tree or whatever you call it made the play doomed from the start (if of course the receivers were actually running the called routes).

Two of my favorite plays that haven't been mentioned much are the Mertz scramble to the right where he pump-faked the defender off his feet, then pointed at the guy as if to laugh as he ran around him for the first down. The second was us getting those dumbasses to jump offsides on 4th down deep in our own end of the field. :lol: Haha what a clown show UT is.
I've never seen such an obvious "we are just trying to get you to jump" work like that
 

Detroitgator

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On the big sack on Mertz, if you look at the video we had two receivers downfield and their routes took them both to the exact same spot....any throw there would have been easily defended by 3-4 vol DBs in the area. The checkdown was wide open yes, but to me the route tree or whatever you call it made the play doomed from the start (if of course the receivers were actually running the called routes).

Two of my favorite plays that haven't been mentioned much are the Mertz scramble to the right where he pump-faked the defender off his feet, then pointed at the guy as if to laugh as he ran around him for the first down. The second was us getting those dumbasses to jump offsides on 4th down deep in our own end of the field. :lol: Haha what a clown show UT is.
That was one of those instances last night where you guys got the following post in the box from me for "a view into the future"... I was going to knock off posting in real time from the game because I know it MIGHT be annoying for you guys, but after @Altitude Gator posted "spoiler alert" around the 15th time, I said "F it!" :lol:
boom GIF


LET'S GOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
 

Zambo

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Another observation comes from the big deal made last night when they had to re-spot the ball and we were able to substitute on the d-line....at least now we HAVE the guys to sub in. That depth has been sorely missing of late. If we can get some of these big time recruits to actually show up, and I think we will, we can be back sooner rather than later.
 

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