Florida ended 3 years of frustration by running away from Georgia 44-28 in Jacksonville. The Gators bounced back from a horrid start and took it to the Puppies the rest of the afternoon in convincing fashion. The team deserved a lot of credit for staying together and quickly getting back into the game after falling behind 14-0 only 4 minutes in. The offense simply dominated until midway through the 3rd quarter by going on a 41-7 run, while the defense did just what everyone in Gator Nation pleaded for – getting enough stops to allow the offense to do what it does. A great win and hopefully a springboard into the second half of the regular season. Also, this could turn some key recruits Florida’s way for the 2021 class and improve their chances for some studs in the 2022 class.
Kyle Trask had his best performance as a Gator with 474 yards passing and another 4 TDs – becoming the only QB in SEC history with at least 4 TD passes in 5 consecutive games. Remember that all of these games were against SEC opponents – no cupcakes. The RBs stunned Georgia all day with over 200 yards – in pass receptions – continually burning LBs in coverage with big plays on wheel routes that the great Kirby Smart never made an adjustment to. The much-maligned O-line did just enough in the running game to keep the defense honest, while allowing only 1 sack and keeping Trask upright and comfortable enough to shred the Puppy secondary. Dan Mullen deserves praise for the game plan – isolating the RBs against LBs was something he obviously saw on film as a mismatch. The playcalling in the last 20 minutes was very conservative, but at that point he had decided that Georgia’s offense wasn’t a threat to score many more points. It also didn’t help that Kyle Pitts had left the game in the second quarter after a targeting call for a dirty hit that left him with a possible concussion. Speaking of injuries, RG Stewart Reese left with a shoulder injury, while RT Jean Delance played through a knee injury. Freshman Josh Braun filled in adequately for Reese and redshirt freshman Michael Tarquin held his own while Delance was out.
The Gator defense is improving, and other than the bust on the first play of the game – a 75 yard TD run by Zamir White – they did a nice job of controlling the running lanes and getting a stalemate at the LOS. In just 2 games Kyree Campbell has established himself as the defensive MVP. He, along with Tedarrell Slaton, have formed a solid duo at DT, allowing Zack Carter, Brenton Cox, and the other linemen to play in their natural positions……as the results speak for themselves. However, there were still a handful of complete busts in the secondary, as Georgia had multiple receivers open deep. Fortunately their QB play was so bad that it didn’t matter. It’s perplexing to see a senior like Shawn Davis continually out of position……something has to be done to fix this issue, as other QBs on the remaining schedule won’t miss all of those deep throws. Overall, they did enough to limit Georgia to 3-13 on 3rd down and 1-3 on 4th down – providing the Gator offense with more than enough possessions to pile up points and get the Puppies out of their comfort zone. There is still a LOT of room for improvement, however.
Next up for Florida is Arkansas at the Swamp, led by former Gator QB Feleipe Franks. The Razorbacks have already won 3 conference games this season after winning that many over the previous 3 seasons combined. Head Coach Sam Pittman has revitalized that program, but solid QB play from Franks is the real reason they have been competitive.
Florida’s offense will get a different look from Arkansas, as former Missouri head coach Barry Odom has them playing mostly a zone defense that looks for opponents to make mistakes or force the ball into coverage. I’m not sure that’s going to work against Trask – he’s shown patience and maturity in hitting the open receiver and taking what defenses have been giving him. The Hogs have forced over 2 turnovers per game, and that has lifted them to some surprising wins. Ball security will be important this week, as turnovers are really the only way the Razorbacks could steal this game. What’s great about all of the pass completions to the running backs against Georgia is now that opponents see that on film, they will have to focus a significant amount of practice time on it, which should allow Mullen to be able to break those tendencies with different looks and perhaps more emphasis on the running game. Florida also can’t afford any more injuries along the O-line.
Arkansas’ offense has not been overpowering. They average only about 140 yards a game on the ground and 240 passing. What they have done is rely on occasional big plays from Franks on deep throws or after he has kept a play alive with his legs. New Offensive Coordinator Kendal Briles has them playing with tempo and having Franks making quick reads and getting the ball out. If the Gator defense can force Franks to check down and not allow long completions, they should have success limiting the Hogs’ effectiveness. The Florida D-line is still improving, and they have enough talent and depth to get pressure on Franks and also control the running game.
The Florida coaching staff has a big challenge this week in getting the team focused on the Razorbacks after such a big win. They also have some key personnel to replace due to injury – Pitts and Reese likely are out – so their backups need to step in and contribute in a positive way. I certainly hope that the Gators don’t feel they are suddenly unbeatable and can simply go through the motions and win without too much effort. They are only halfway through their season, with nothing but SEC teams on the schedule. Arkansas will have to play this game with Coach Pittman back in Fayetteville quarantined with Covid-19, so that could lower their energy as the game goes on. I do think there will be a small letdown by the Gators, but eventually their offensive firepower will be too much to overcome. There has been a lot of chirping all week between Franks and the Gator defenders, so at least the defense should be hyped for this one. I could see a sloppy game mentally for Florida for a half, but I think the Gators pull away in the second half and do just enough to get a comfortable win.
Prediction: Florida 38 Arkansas 24