Florida took care of it’s business in Columbia with a workmanlike 24-14 win over South Carolina. The defense was dominant for 55 minutes with just one lapse that gave the Lamecocks false hope, while the offense improved over it’s dreadful performance against Vanderbilt with an improved passing game and some timely runs to keep a comfortable lead until the brief tension late in the game.
On offense, Treon Harris improved his passing from the past few weeks, making some nice downfield throws and some clutch 3rd down plays to keep some long drives alive. The TEs were rediscovered, which really helped Harris in some tight spots and made the Carolina defense stay honest and not load the box every snap. Jake McGee and Deondre Goolsby made some nice catches in traffic and Goolsby in particular some runs after the catch for big plays. The WRs got some more opportunities as well – Brandon Powell converted some 3rd downs out of the slot, Antonio Callaway made a few grabs over the middle, and Demarcus Robinson made a great catch of a low throw late in the 4th quarter that continued the drive that iced the game. Harris made a few mistakes that have to be corrected – his interception at the goal line at the end of the first half was inexcusable when the Gators could have put the game away, he took a few sacks where he could have thrown the ball away, and he continues to miss open receivers due to slow progressions. He has 2 weeks to get better before the competition ramps up dramatically. The running game was a tough go most of the afternoon, as Carolina did a lot of run blitzing while daring Florida to throw. Kelvin Taylor earned a lot of tough yards, and his clutch run on the last possession on 3rd and 8 from midfield essentially ended the game. Jordan Scarlett did not get many touches, and that is disappointing. Jordan Cronkrite, however, showed some nice receiving skills, including coming back for the ball on the long TD that made it 14-0. That could be a skill utilized in the coming weeks. The O-line performed better with David Sharpe and Martez Ivey back in the starting lineup, but at this point it is what it is as far as overall ability – just an average unit at best. It’s all about being opportunistic and efficient – this unit simply is not good enough to dominate games against stronger opponents.
The Gator defense completely shut down Carolina for the first 50 minutes, holding them to under 60 yards of offense. Then they seemed to lose focus, allowing a throwback pass to the QB for a TD, then letting Carolina drive the field for their second TD, mainly through the air. That was really the only disappointing moment for the defense. It was good to see Jon Bullard play so much despite being less than 100%, and he again wreaked havoc along the LOS. Caleb Brantley stepped up to the task of getting more reps than usual by stuffing the running lanes. Jarrad Davis and Tank Morrison did their usual damage from the LB position, and the secondary had their way with 3 interceptions, offsetting the one breakdown late in the game. The entire defense seemed to relish the opportunity to pick the offense up after last week and lead the way – another example that great defense travels for road games.
This week Florida Atlantic comes to the Swamp for a big paycheck and (hopefully) a big beatdown. Any time a smaller Florida school plays a larger state school, those players are hyped for the occasion and want to pull off the major upset. The Gators will be down 3 D-Linemen – Alex McCalister, Joey Ivie, and Jordan Sherit. This will be a great opportunity for Ce Ce Jefferson, Khairi Clark, and Taven Bryan to get extended playing time and develop more depth along the line. The mantra for this type of game is always for the offense to get a comfortable lead early, allowing the staff to liberally substitute in the backups on both sides of the ball to rest the starters and lessen the chance of injuries. This will be a difficult challenge for the staff to get the players focused on this game, with 2 huge games to come. We’ll see if the sluggish effort from the offense against Vanderbilt is repeated at home again, or if the O-Line can build on it’s performance against South Carolina and the entire offense can play with an edge. I expect a vanilla game plan on both sides of the ball in order to save up special formations, plays, and coverages for F$U and Alabama. Florida needs to put this game away early and then set it’s sight on bigger prizes.
Prediction: Florida 34 FAU 13