You would think after watching Gator football for over 40 years some things would change, but talk about (bad) tradition……
Another visit to Nashville, another desultory effort, another closer-than-it-should-have-been finish. Talk about a hangover after the second-half collapse at Tennessee. Lethargic offense, painfully conservative play-calling, and injuries to the defensive line let Vanderbilt hang around until the very end. Not the bounce back performance Coach Mac wanted to see from the offense. The O-Line continues it’s recent struggles, especially on the left side, and it may be time for some radical changes. Sharpe again struggled with pass-blocking against speed rushers, and Ivey just doesn’t look comfortable at guard. Appleby pretty much checked everything down to the flats and short routes except for 2 long attempts that fell incomplete. This allowed the Commodores to crowd the LOS and really slow down the running game, except for a few good runs by Scarlett, who seems to have separated himself from the pack at RB based on recent performance. The defense saved the day, playing hard through the injuries and getting some key turnovers. The run defense showed some serious cracks as the linemen dropped like flies, and it only gets tougher in the next game.
It’s back to the Swamp for 2 critical games, starting with the Miles-Les LSU Tigers. Unfortunately for Florida, LSU pulled the plug on Les Miles last week, and the Tigers now are playing with renewed energy and pride under interim head coach Ed Orgeron, who never met a controversy or underhanded way of doing things he didn’t like. Simply based on the fundamental makeup of the LSU offense, this looks to be a bad matchup for the current Gator D-Line trying to stop the Tiger power running game. Even if Leonard Fournette doesn’t play or is limited by his ankle injury, Derrius Guice and the other RBs are all still talented and tough. With Ivie out for a few more weeks, Brantley playing through a wrist injury, Sherit and Cox playing through their own injuries, and an undersized Jefferson trying to help out, these guys (plus Clark and Bryan) and the LBs have perhaps their toughest test of the season coming up. The front seven cannot allow long-time-consuming drives that eat the clock and wear them down. Coach Collins and the defensive staff will need to gamble with stunts and run blitzes, knowing that few big plays could be allowed, just to try and get the Tiger offense of the field and the maximum number of possessions to a struggling Gator offense, which needs all the help it can get right now. Tabor and Wilson will have their hands full in man coverage with WRs Travon Dural and Malachi Dupre, 2 excellent athletes that just don’t get the number of opportunities to show off how good they really are. Marcus Maye will have a lot on his plate, coming down into the box for run support occasionally as well as making sure the secondary doesn’t allow the back-breaking long jump-ball passes it did last year that cost the Gators a victory. He’ll have to come up big this game, as the other safeties are struggling right now. Current Tiger QB Danny Etling is not going to carry an offense by himself, with only average mobility and arm strength. If the Gator defense can force him into making plays, that will be a best case scenario for a win.
Florida’s offense has to shoulder it’s share of the load after 6 bad quarters of play, putting some points up early and forcing LSU to not stay run-heavy. It’s unknown if Appleby will get his 3rd consecutive start at QB or if LDR will be ready, but no matter who is playing, Nussmeier has to do a much better job of play-calling and getting guys into space in order to make plays. I don’t see the Gators being able to control the LOS consistently by running, so it’s incumbent to mix up calls, keep LSU off-balance, and not miss on the chances for any big plays. This offense just isn’t good enough right now to have any room for error, and has to elevate it’s level of play. The Tigers have an excellent secondary led by CB Tre’Davious White and safety Jamal Adams, and will be jacked up in their ongoing feud with Florida as to which school is the real DBU. Mac and Nuss have their work cut out for them in finding open spaces for the Gator receivers who, other than Callaway, haven’t distinguished themselves yet. The Gator O-Line will have it’s toughest challenge yet, as the Tigers are loaded as usual along the D-line with quality and depth led by DT Davon Godchaux and DE Arden Key. If the Gators can’t keep Key out of the backfield, it will be a long and painful afternoon for whomever the QB is. LB Kendell Beckwith could be all-SEC this season and leads the Tigers in tackles.
Even with Miles gone, the Florida staff would be remiss not to be prepared for the trick plays that have directly cost them 2 games recently in this series. Orgeron likely isn’t going to be the head coach next year, and has nothing to lose right now – a dangerous scenario for the Gators. This is going to be a really difficult game for Florida to win, and the early start time (if it holds, based on developments with Hurricane Matthew) won’t help – many times the crowd simply is late arriving and/or just not as loud and into the flow of the game from the start as it usually is. The Gator coaching staff needs to earn it’s money this week and help the players out. It’s all hands on deck as far as covering up for the myriad injuries on the D-Line, finding a way to protect the QB and getting back on schedule on offense, and shaking off the mental funk of the last 1 1/2 games. I think the Swamp can be the difference in what could be another Florida-LSU game coming down to the wire.
Florida 23 LSU 20
Upon further review……
Hurricane Matthew has caused the game to be cancelled by the SEC office, with no firm plans for rescheduling. LSU has already started grandstanding about being so willing to host the game……no s**t. Their AD is blaming UF for not being willing to negotiate another date, which is a complete joke. Here’s a suggestion – have both teams buy out the cupcakes they have on their schedule on Nov. 19th and play. I’m sure LSU would be fine with playing at UF and then 5 days later on Thanksgiving at Texas A&M.
We’ll see how it all plays out, and if this game actually has a direct impact on the participants in the SEC Championship Game. If it does, something tells me the conference will make proper arrangements.