Well, it wasn’t Covid-19 that possibly killed the Gators’ chances at a big season – it was Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham and his crap strategy and schemes. It was so bad that even the Gator offense – having it’s 3rd straight game of only punting 1 time – wasn’t enough to overcome a historically bad defense in a 41-38 loss at College Station. This is the worst scoring defense after 3 games that Florida has rolled out since 1917 – right before the Spanish Flu epidemic. Coincidence?
There was nothing good about any defensive group. The D-line was pushed around the entire second half as the Aggies ran at will, and they did not get enough push into the pocket on pass plays. The LBs were continuously lost in coverage and did a terrible job of filling running lanes. The secondary was soft and out of position too many times to count. Grantham continues to let the DBs play 5-8 yards off receivers, even when the opponent needs 5 yards or less and can complete simple slant routes all game long. This very thing essentially ended the game late in the 4th quarter, as A&M completed an easy slant route pass on 3rd and 8 from the Gator 30 yard line. Instead of a tough FG, the Aggies could leisurely run out the clock for a last-play FG to win. Marco Wilson had his worst game in his Gator career, continually giving up big plays – even when in position to make one of his own – completely whiffing on an easy pass breakup or interception which allowed a long TD pass completion. Florida gave up over 500 yards to a pedestrian offense and QB, and only forced 1 punt. The players look confused and look like they are thinking too much, instead of playing fast and running to the ball aggressively. The only good thing the entire unit did was when Jeremiah Moon forced a fumble early in the 4th quarter that the Gators turned into a TD and their last lead at 38-31. But that was it……nothing else of note for the entire game……brutal.
If Dan Mullen doesn’t have the guts to tell Grantham and the defensive staff to simplify the schemes and calls to let these athletes actually use their abilities to their fullest, he’s not doing his job as the leader of the program. At this point, I’d be fine if he demoted Grantham and demanded major changes, and allowed other guys like DL coach David Turner and CB coach Torrian Gray to have a lot more input.
The Gator offense was terrific once again. Kyle Trask threw another 4 TD passes, spreading the ball around on many long scoring drives. 8 possessions – 5 TDs, 1 FG, 1 punt, and 1 crushing fumble on their last possession by Malik Davis, who has had fumbling issues previously. Again, when will Mullen give Dameon Pierce the chance to be the hammer in the last 6 minutes of a game? But there’s no way I’m going to lay this loss at Davis’ feet. The RBs – including NayQuan Wright – were once again effective in both the running and passing game. Kyle Pitts, even hobbled with a foot injury, scored the first TD and demanded attention from the Aggies, allowing other receivers room to operate. Kedarius Toney looks remarkably improved as a route-runner, and caught 2 TDs.
Well, there won’t be a LSU preview, as a Covid spike within the Gator team and staff has postponed that game until 12/12. Now we wait to see if enough players will be eligible to try and have the Missouri game as scheduled – or possibly moved a few days later to a weekday in order to try and have all 10 games played by the end of the regular season. LSU is in a world of hurt right now, and the Gators would have been able to take further advantage of them as their starting QB would have likely been out for the game.
Seeing games postponed is no surprise, as this was expected across the country. Yes, it sucks that Florida is one of the affected teams, but I am very glad that the SEC had the guts to go ahead with a season, and mitigation plans were already in place for schedule impacts. Here’s hoping the outbreak is contained as well as possible and that things can get back on track in a week or so.
It’s more than interesting at this point that all 3 teams that have played Texas A&M have subsequently had Covid outbreaks. The disregard for Covid protocols in the stands at College Station was just a continuation of ones already seen at Georgia and other schools. The SEC is now threatening a fine of $100K for any offense – even retroactively – but that’s a drop in the bucket to SEC schools. The only thing that will get their attention is the threat of becoming ineligible for the SEC title……but the league office would never have the guts to do it.
Mullen and the entire coaching staff have a lot of work to do – navigate this latest pause in operations, start fixing the defense, and maybe keep an eye on the locker room in case some finger-pointing begins.
We’ll see how things develop the next 7-10 days, and hopefully I will be back then with a preview of the Missouri game.