In what could only be described as a Misschumpian or SwampDonkian performance, the Gators embarrassed themselves in a 38-17 blowout loss on Homecoming at the Swamp to a mediocre Missouri team. A lot of the positives that developed up until this game were wiped away with a horrific effort that reopened a lot of fresh wounds for Gator Nation. Mullen and the staff will say publicly that the loss is on them, but that’s just PR spin. The players regressed and fell back into the bad habits from the previous 2 regimes. No enthusiasm, no energy, and a lazy performance that will reopen a lot of position battles in practice this week – starting at QB.
All 3 phases of the team were bad, but the abysmal performance by the entire offense bled into the attitude and effort of the defense and special teams. As it almost always does, the play at QB dictates how well the offense plays, and Franks was simply terrible. He missed multiple wide-open WRs, checked into bad plays, and sulked on the sideline when Mullen laid into him. *News Flash* – This is the SEC, and it’s big-boy football. Produce or sit. Mullen finally had enough and inserted Trask, and he played well under the circumstances, even leading the offense to a TD in his first possession. Even in that small sample size he exhibited the ability to read the defense and go through his progressions more than Franks has most of the season. While it’s (sadly) likely that Franks gets the start this week, I expect Trask to get snaps no matter what. The O-Line played it’s worst game of the season. There was no push in the running game, and they broke down in pass pro too often. I feel bad for the RBs and WRs, who simply can’t show their skills consistently enough with such poor QB play. There are indications that at least some of the locker room is starting to turn on Franks, and Mullen has to rein in and address the discord before it resembles the end of 2017.
The Gator defense was only minimally better. There was no consistent pass rush from the DEs, while the interior of the line was gashed all afternoon. The poor LB pass coverage was exposed, and even the CBs broke down on two long TD passes, but it’s hard to cover for 5+ seconds when the D-Line is getting stoned at the LOS. Again, it appears there are parts of the team that are reacting to the struggles of the offense and QB, and the team lacks the leadership and maturity to push through it. There is no push from the interior of the D-Line, and they were manhandled all afternoon in their worst performance of the season – even worse than Kentucky.
Evan McPherson hit his only FG attempt, the highlight of special teams. Tommy Townsend inexplicably became a loose cannon on the field, garnering 2 personal-foul penalties along with a targeting call. I can appreciate him wanting to not just be a spectator in punt coverage, but he has to control his emotions. Punters may be people too, but antics like these really hurt the defense and gave Missouri great field position for two scoring drives. If he doesn’t calm down, his ass will be on the bench. It’s something I have never seen in my lifetime of watching college football.
South Carolina is next up and Florida has to get it’s house in order right away, or suffer another home loss, this time to Won’t Misschump. There is some blood in the water in the Swamp right now, and you can count on the petulant Misschump wanting to do anything to beat the Gators.
The Gamecocks are led on offense by QB Jake Bentley. He has been a little inconsistent this season, especially as their running game has really tailed off from prior seasons. He does have a strong arm and isn’t afraid to run when needed, so the Gator DES and LBs will have to keep him contained in the pocket. WR Bryan Edwards is a downfield threat, while Deebo Samuel will get lots of short passes and jet sweeps so he can use his speed and elusiveness in space to make plays. Leading rusher Rico Dowdle is questionable with an ankle injury, so Tyson Williams may have to be the lead ball carrier. Carolina has had difficulty sustaining drives, so look for them to try to hit big plays for chunks of yardage in order to set up scoring opportunities. The Gator defense – if it decides to show up and actually play with some energy – matches up well and should be able to control the LOS. The LBs have a lot to atone for after last week’s disaster – it’s back to basics, starting with playing your run gaps and actually accounting for the TE in the passing game. The secondary has to focus on keeping Edwards in check, and force other WRs to beat them. CGJ has not practiced this week with an undisclosed injury, and that would be a big loss. The defense has to win on 1st down.
As for the Gator offense……what a difference a week makes. If Franks gets the start, will the players just be waiting for him to make a few bad plays and get pulled? I was hopeful Trask would either start or get significant reps, but he is now out for the season with a broken foot, the same injury that derailed his 2017 season. Now Mullen has to SERIOUSLY consider burning Jones’ redshirt and getting him ready to play in every game the rest of this season. No matter the QB, the O-Line has to rediscover it’s run-blocking ability and provide the balance necessary for success. The WRs have to fight harder for balls, but how much of that is the inaccuracy of Franks and their growing frustration? I would hope that after watching the tape from the Missouri game, every player would look himself in the mirror and demand better. Mullen will have even more on his plate than usual, essentially having to prepare 2 full game plans that complement each QB the best. I expect the running game to be featured early and leaned on as long as it is working.
I don’t like what I’m hearing out of practice and from sources right now. There is some locker room sniping going on between the offense and defense, growing frustration with Franks from the WRs, and talk that some draft-eligible players are starting to mentally or physically check out. Mullen still has some key players that are holdovers from the Swamp Donkey, and it appears those guys aren’t providing the effort that he expects. As far as this week’s game is concerned, I think the sum of these issues is enough to lead to another home loss.
Prediction: Carolina 27 Florida 23