It wasn’t pretty, but Florida defeated Georgia……again……24-10. That makes it 21 out of 27 for the Gators, who happily traveled back to Gainesville with bigger games ahead, while the Puppies limped home to Athens in another Bataan Death March along that all-to-familiar Trail of Tears, I-75, wondering if they are in their own Misschump world now.
Once again the defense carried the day, totally shutting down Georgia except for a FG on a short field after LDR’s horrendous interception, and then allowing 2 pass plays on scrambles by Jacob Eason. Other than that,”You’ll get nothing and like it, Kirby!”. The entire defense played well – the D-Line was in the backfield all afternoon while punishing Eason, the DL and LBs shut down the run and also limited catches by the TEs, and the secondary toyed with an outmatched Puppy WR corps except for the 2 broken plays. None of Georgia’s playmakers had an impact – Nick Chubb never had any room to run and looked like a shell of his former self, Isaiah McKenzie had no explosive plays, and Isaac Nauta had…….nada. Really a tremendous all-around effort by the players and defensive coaching staff. It was especially enjoyable to watch so many D-Linemen rotate in throughout the game, at times bringing in an entire new line for the start of a new series. Let’s sum it up again – 164 total yards, 21 yards rushing on 19 carries, and only 47 yards after halftime……wow.
On offense, however…..it’s still an ugly show being put on by LDR, who had the bad interception to go with continued late throws, late reads on open receivers, and some inaccurate throws where his receivers bailed him out. Enough talk about rust and a gimpy knee – it’s time to play better and help this team win. Jordan Scarlett ran for 93 tough yards and a TD (for the 6th straight game), while Lemical Perine also gained some tough yards along with contributing in the passing game – something LDR needs to do more of starting this week. The O-Line played hard and open enough space to control the clock for 37 minutes, and actually looked like a servicable SEC line. Antonio Callaway was stil the on;ly contributor at WR, but at least C’yontai Lewis is showing signs at TE. Another dull performance overal, but I can only hope that Coach Mac told Coach Nussmeier to shut it down and let the defense dominate. I’m not sure if that’s a recipe for success the rest of this season, though.
It’s on to Fayetteville for a huge game against Arkansas. Florida now has a 1 1/2 game over Tennessee and Kentucky(!) after the Vols imploded at South Carolina as Sgt. Carter fell to 0-5 against Misschump-coached teams……simply unforgivable. The Razorbacks are coming off of an off week, after getting hammered at Auburn 56-3. I’m not sure if having an off week after an embarrassment like that will be good or bad for them, but I expect an emotionally-charged team facing the Gators.
Many pundits are really down on the Hogs now, but I’m not convinced. They have plenty of playmakers on offense, including QB Austin Allen, RB Rawleigh Williams (who leads the SEC in rushing), and 2 huge targets in TE Jeremy Sprinkle and WR Keon Hatcher. This will be the best offense the Gators have faced all season, and based on their meltdown at Tennessee, nothing can be taken for granted on the road against a good SEC opponent. The Florida defense will have to play it’s best 60 minutes of the entire season to date. The D-Line has to find ways to get penetration to disrupt Allen and get some hits on him early – he has been taking a beating this season, and is still not 100% dealing with a bad knee. Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone will have their hands full defending both the run and their large TEs, The secondary will be tested deep, and can’t allow the breakdowns that have yielded long pass plays while the QB is leaving the pocket – they have to maintain discipline. Duke Dawson is starting to finally play better in the slot, but Quincy Wilson did not have his best game against Georgia and needs a bounce-back performance.
It’s time for the offense to carry it’s share of the load and help this elite defense. LDR has to improve NOW – it’s time to make an opposing defense defend the entire field. The skill players need to accept the challenge and step to make some big plays – this offense and QB aren’t good enough to grind out close games on the road against better opponents. And Coach Nuss has to become more creative and figure out ways to get the skill players in space – the playcalling the last 2 games has been painfully predictable. It looks like the O-Line and RBs can do enough to control the clock and make plays as long as there’s balance with an effective passing game to complement them. Perhaps there are a lot of plays that have been held back due to the defensive dominance – if so, it’s time to start opening up the playbook with some new looks.
This is a huge game for Florida as far as the SEC East standings are concerned. A loss still leaves the Gators in 1st place but with no more margin for error, while escaping with a win sets up the opportunity to clinch a return trip to Atlanta at home next week. Florida failed spectacularly in it’s first big test at Knoxville, and now the stakes are even higher. Coach Mac and the staff need to keep the team calm and focused for all 60 minutes.
As exciting as the possibilities are, though, I’m not convinced the offense can do enough to carry it’s share of the load yet, especially on the road. I have the feeling that the defense could be on the field way too long this Saturday, and finally crack enough times to allow Arkansas to win. I simply don’t see enough playmaking ability out of LDR to lead the offense to a tough road win. I’d be glad to be wrong, though.
Prediction: Arkansas 24 Florida 20