Well, the QB curse at Florida continues. The Gators paid for a luckluster offensive display with Luke Del Rio still in the game late in the 3rd quarter, long enough for a defender to roll into his left knee and likely sidelining him for a few weeks, going into the biggest game of the season to date. The only concern I voiced prior to this game came to pass – an injury to a key player – perhaps the most important one.
The lack of intensity and focus by the entire offense, LDR included, was disappointing. The team knew it would control the game and win, but not coming out of the gate fast against an outmanned opponent usually leads to bad things. The running game was solid, but didn’t punch it in for a TD late in the first half which indirectly led to the problems that followed. The RBs all looked good, but the O-Line simply didn’t fire off of the ball like it should consistently. LDR seemed a little off and actually got a little sloppy with his mechanics, throwing off his back foot instead of stepping into some throws he normally completes. It’s still disturbing that when Callaway is out of the game at WR that no one can step up into the role as a consistent downfield threat. Other than the long pass to Hammond early and a few throws to the TEs, Powell is still the only go-to WR, and that’s not going to be good enough against better competition.
The defense was lights out as usual, holding UNT to only 53 net yards – a Florida school record. The D-Line dominated all night and made things miserable for the Mean Green. Other than a few questionable pass-interference calls on Tabor and Wilson, the secondary shut down any passing game. Again, a lot of the younger guys received extensive action and performed well. The offense should take a close look at how hard the defense stayed after it, even against an outmatched opponent. Simply a terrific performance.
“It’s football time in Elevenessee!”
The Gators go to Knoxville for a game with massive implications for the entire SEC and regular season. The Inbreds (again) have not lived up to their preseason hype, escaping Appalachian St., pulling away from Virginia Tech courtesy of 5 turnovers, and scoring late to beat Ohio by 9 points. Supposed all-world QB Josh Dobbs looks the same as always – good runner, poor decision-maker, inaccurate passer. Jalen Hurd is one of the best RBs in the country and the real leader of that team. Josh Malone is their only playmaker at WR. Their O-Line, which was to be much-improved, still looks inconsistent, and may have one of their OTs playing hurt. The Gator defense simply is better than Elevenessee, and really should not have to resort to anything fancy. Play straight up schemes, set the edge to prevent scrambles by Dobbs, and contain the Inbred running game enough to force obvious passing situations. The DBU secondary is much better than the Inbred WR corps – Malone is the only real deep threat. All the defensive staff has to do is show the defense the tape of last year’s game to remind them of the horrendous tackling display that allowed Elevenessee to almost win, and all of the trick plays that that were used that hurt the defense and led directly to scores. I would normally say that the Inbreds have not shown much on film as far as an intricate game plan, but they have had to show a lot of their hand already in defeating 3 weaker opponents. Last year in Gainesville they threw the trailer sink at Florida, including a WR pass back to the QB and a jump pass – I expect more trickeration Saturday.
On defense, the Inbreds are dealing with injuries of their own, the biggest to CB Cam Sutton. They will also be missing a starting LB, and are playing hurt on the D-Line. New Coordinator Bob Shoop will likely crowd the LOS and bring a lot of pressure, especially against a backup QB and average O-Line until the Gators can prove they can consistently hurt them. The entire Gator offense needs to rally around Austin Appleby and play smart and hard for 60 minutes. I don’t expect a significant change in the overall scheme, but Appleby is a better athlete and has a stronger arm then LDR – perhaps a few more deep throws, rollouts, and QB run options will be sprinkled in the keep the pressure away and allow Appleby to do what he does best. He will have all week to practice with the 1s, and Coaches Mac and Nuss can design some things to play to his strengths. Just execute the game plan – not your own team. This is not a game or QB situation to try and overcome penalties and turnovers. I do think the Gators can rip off some nice runs with it’s excellent stable of backs, but perhaps not consistently if an effective passing game can’t be shown. It’s time for O-Line to play it’s best game of the season to date and grow up. Tyler Jordan appears to be out again this week with his eye injury, but there’s good news in that Martez Ivey will be allowed to play after his incorrectly-called ejection. The interior guys had better be ready for an onslaught of blitzes – it’s time to stand up physically and also to communicate properly. Finally, Callaway returns from a quad injury and will be a huge boost to the entire team.
There are so many subplots going into this game. How much will the past 2 Florida games (for the current players) and the past 11 games for the coaching staff and fan base be in Elevenessee’s heads? The Inbreds have been pointing to this game and talking trash all offseason about how the streak ends this week, and have another built-in advantage with the Gators likely playing a new starting QB. How much help do these clowns need? Talk about do-or-die……the streak will end sometime and that will suck for Gator fans, but will Tennessee be too hyped for this game and make mistakes? How many more chances will Sgt. Carter get as head coach to win a big game? The Inbreds have not played like the great team they are supposed to be, and there’s enough evidence on film that they aren’t. Florida will circle the wagons and close ranks for this one, and the defense will have be to be leaned upon like it was most of last season. Those guys can certainly lead the way for a few weeks, even against quality teams. I do feel that Florida is the better team overall, and if this game was at a neutral location or in the Swamp, the Gators would win even if LDR didn’t play. Florida needs to achieve at least a stalemate at the LOS on offense, while the defense needs to impose it’s will. Can they do those things without trying to do too much? Again, I think a straight-up game plan without a rash of turnovers could be enough. I think the Gator special teams have a decided advantage going in to this game – Callaway is a dangerous return man, Townsend is one of the best punters in the nation, and Pineiro gives the Gators hope again for FGs.
The Gators will certainly have enough motivation in supporting a new QB and shutting up the mouths of the Elevenessee players. I’ll let Quincy Wilson sum up the mindset of the Gators going up to Rocky Top:
“We have a message from DBU to Tennessee. Have you ever seen a duck pull a truck? Ducks don’t pull trucks. Nobody has ever seen a duck pull a truck. Florida Gators are going to win, simple as that.”
Against my preseason judgement, I’m going with Q:
Trucks 20 Ducks 17