What a waste. The Gators had every opportunity to win the East and go on to bigger things, but the defense simply could never get off of the field at any critical moment, leading to a 24-17 loss that leaves fans and players to wonder “what if?”, which never amounts to anything. The team looked flat most of the game, and there was little to no juice on the sidelines – puzzling. Too many mental mistakes and some poor coaching decisions were enough to expose all of the weaknesses this team has and has tried to cover up until now.
The run defense did an excellent job in allowing only 117 yards playing against the best O-Line and RB in Deandre Swift they will see all year. And then……they allowed 12 of 18 3rd down conversions……many 8 yards or more……AND NEVER GENERATED ONE 3-AND-OUT SERIES THE ENTIRE GAME 😱😠💀 “3rd-and Grantham” personified. Georgia has converted 12 3rd downs in a game only twice in it’s history – in 2017 and now – both against Todd Grantham defenses. Let that sink in. This allowed the Gator offense only 7 possessions the entire game, of which 3 were converted into scores. One was ended by a terrible booth review generated not by the game official but by the league office in Birmingham (hasn’t happened all season), one by a terrible play call on 4th-and-1 in the first quarter, and one when Trask made his only bad play of the afternoon by taking a 19 yard sack instead of throwing the ball away after the Gators (again) had easily moved into Georgia territory. Talk about frustrating – seeing the offense move the ball through the air despite no commitment to running the ball – but never getting enough opportunities to cash in one or two more scores to win the game. The front seven played bravely, but the pass defense was horrendous. Way too many completions against air, and a lack of consistent pressure on the QB. I hate to do it, but I am going to call out a few guys. Trey Dean is completely lost at the Star position, and may need to be moved to safety. Speaking of which……Shawn Davis busted a coverage leading to a wide open TD pass to Lawrence Cager, and Brian Stewart gave up the last 3rd down conversion by simply not being able to knock down a lollipop deep out throw made off the back foot by Jake Fromm, which essentially ended the game and allowed Georgia to run out the clock.
I stated in the game preview that it’s no secret that Florida can’t run the ball consistently, but to call only 10 runs for the RBs was simply too unbalanced an attack. Even with an excellent WR corps and a QB playing at a high level, that is a big ask. Coach Mullen did the offense no favors with some questionable calls. Trying a slow-developing throw on the failed 4th down play in the first quarter was bad, calling a delayed deep handoff which was blown up on 3rd-and-2 to end another drive was worse, and bringing Emory Jones in for only 1 play – a second down deep in Georgia territory that wound up being a telegraphed QB run behind an unbalanced line that was stuffed and wiped away the rhythm that Kyle Trask and the offense had achieved on that drive – ended with only a FG and the only points of the first half. There was no margin for error against Georgia given the weakness of the O-Line, and too many mistakes were made to overcome them. Props to Kyle PItts and Freddie Swain, who each played a great game and were open most of the day.
Finally, the officiating call that allowed Georgia’s TD drive late in the second quarter was criminal. There is no way that was a catch, and even the guys on the TV crew and the official they have on staff to comment were stunned the play was allowed to stand as called. That had a massive impact on the game – at minimum a 4 point swing, and a huge momentum boost to the Puppies.
We’ll see if the hangover of a massively disappointing loss and a noon kickoff lead to a slow start this week against Vanderbilt. The Commodores have struggled mightily this season, and head coach Derek Mason has been rumored to be on shaky ground – a complete joke considering the historical lack of commitment to football by that school. Vandy’s only real offensive threats are RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn and WR Kalija Lipscomb. Florida’s defense should be more than capable of controlling those two, especially with the ‘Dores down to their 3rd-team QB, Deuce Wallace. The Gators will be without DE Jeremiah Moon and LB Amari Burney due to injury, but should have more than enough to control the LOS and force Vandy into another rough afternoon offensively.
Vandy does roll out a decent defense, which is Coach Mason’s calling card. The Gators will hopefully have better success running the ball this week, but I’m still not expecting anything special. Perhaps a few jet sweeps will be in the game plan this week as the ‘Dores don’t have the speed of the elite defenses Florida has already played this year. Trask will once again be counted upon to make quick accurate reads and get the ball into the hands of his playmakers in space. Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce need to provide at least a few good runs to better balance the attack and perhaps hit one of the long runs they have provided most of this season.
It’s going to be a challenge for the coaching staff to have the team mentally into this game, after the huge disappointment of last week. Hopefully the seniors can provide some much-needed leadership for this game and the rest of the regular season, to help ensure a strong finish and a 10-win season. Historically it’s usually a mental slog with some sloppy play thrown in against Vanderbilt, and I expect some of the same again, but Florida has too much talent to allow a huge upset.
Prediction: Florida 31 Vanderbilt 13