After a strange 2 week break caused by Hurricane Matthew and the subsequent wailing and hand-wringing about how the LSU game was rescheduled, Florida managed to get back on track with a solid thumping of Missouri in the Swamp. This was certainly a better result for Homecoming than 2 years ago, when the Gators were embarrassed by the Tigers and played so badly that it was the death knell for Will Muschamp. Then again, it may have been just what the program needed.
The much-discussed Gator offense will continue to be discussed, despite accumulating over 500 yards from a balanced attack against the Tigers. 7 false-start penalties killed a lot of potential scoring drives, LDR really struggled and played a poor game overall, and the play-calling by Coach Nussmeier had some questionable moments. The penalties are especially frustrating, although Coach Mac attributed some of them to LDR’s cadence and hesitation before calling for the snap – this is something that should be easily corrected. LDR, though, made a lot of poor throws into coverage, was late on others, and more inaccurate than at any time this season. His lack of experience showed, and I also believe his knee injury is still a bigger problem than is being let on. I’m not sure if Nuss wanted to get LDR a lot of passing reps in live action, but there were times when the O-Line was getting into a rhythm running the ball, and then a clunker pass play would be called that ended the drive. His insistence on running sweeps to the short side of the field isn’t helping, either.
The running game was solid all afternoon, with Scarlett and Perine looking the best of the RBs – they may have separated themselves from Thompson and Cronkrite going forward. It’s good to see the RBs included in the passing game as well, providing the QB an easy throw while getting them out into space. Cleveland seems to be developing weekly as a separate threat at WR to Callaway, and has SEC-level size and speed. The O-Line played fairly well discounting the penalties, opening running lanes most of the day. Pass protection was good for the most part, but the old bugaboo of allowing some blitzers a free run into the backfield still hasn’t been solved. There are still a lot of areas across the entire unit that need to be cleaned up, but there are also signs that this unit could improve in time for a challenging second half of the schedule. They will have to in order for Florida to have any chance at returning to Atlanta.
The defense was spectacular for almost the entire game, with the only TDs allowed courtesy of a terrible LDR interception giving Missouri a short field, and a late TD drive against 2nd and 3rd string defenders. Missouri didn’t get it’s first 1st down until there were less than 3 minutes to go in the first half. The Tiger passing game was completely shut down, totaling 98 yards. Drew Lock was pounded all afternoon, and the 2 pick sixes by Tabor and Wilson late in the first half essentially ended the game – Florida’s defense was dominant. The D-Line didn’t miss a beat with Ivie, Sherit, and Cox all sitting out with injuries – the remaining guys just did their job and took it to the Tiger O-Line. The only bad thing to happen was the ankle injury to Jarrad Davis in the 3rd quarter. Hopefully it’s not serious and he can come back in a few weeks – he’s the leader of the defense and one of the best LBs in the country. He’s also from Georgia, and I know he really wants to play in Jacksonville in 2 weeks.
Overall it was a good, not great, performance, but given the circumstances in the preceding weeks, the team took care of it’s business. Florida gets another week off to work on the self-inflicted mistakes, shake off some more rust, and really start to focus on the next game. And lost in all of the recent drama is the fact that, at least for now, the Gators are in 1st place in the SEC East. I’ll be back next week with my Georgia preview.