Florida $t. Review

In a game that was never as close as the final score, the Gators ended the regular season on a winning note, defeating the Criminoles 24-21.  Gator Nation could enjoy themselves again, and I am so happy for the players, as they were shafted by the former coaching staff.  They finally have something good to remember from this terrible season.

The Gator defense pretty much had their way all afternoon, less some sloppiness in the last 8 minutes.  F$U QB Jordan Travis could only hurt them with his legs, and he did when some players lost discipline and allowed him to break containment late.  But they did the proper things in shutting down RB Jashaun Corbin and containing Travis in the pocket for the most part, where he was never going to threaten them.  Florida’s D-line dominated the LOS for much of the game as expected – F$U’s O-line is worse than Florida’s, and was exposed.

It’s a shame Florida didn’t win by at least the 4 TDs they should have, but that can be traced directly to the horrific play of Emory Jones.  Despite his nice throw to Kemore Gamble for the opening TD, he had 4 additional chances in F$U’s territory in the first half to put the game away, and delivered 3 terrible interceptions and a blown option read.  It’s a shame it ended that way and led to him being benched, but at least the interim staff had the guts to put him on the sideline and let Anthony Richardson do some work.  AR didn’t have to do anything special – just be efficient and supply the occasional run to move the chains.  He made the throws he needed to, including a nice corner route to Justin Shorter in the end zone to make it 17-7 in the 3rd quarter and give the Gators some breathing room. 

Props to the Gator RBs – they all played well when they were called upon, and Dameon Pierce’s disallowed TD run in the 4th quarter after his helmet was ripped off juiced up the entire stadium.  Here’s hoping he gets his shot in the NFL, as he was criminally underutilized at Florida.  Malik Davis had some nice 3rd down runs, and a clutch catch-and-run on 3rd and 21 that led to the TD pass to Shorter.  Nay’Quan Wright had a few good plays until his nasty ankle injury, which will sideline him at least through spring practice.

The Criminoles played true to themselves – a trash team with trash players and a trash culture.  Late hits, undisciplined play, penalties, trash talk……all while being handled by a team with an interim coaching staff, being gifted 3 turnovers that were the only reason they were still in the game at halftime, and simply terrible ACC officiating.  All the talk about them being a team on the rise was bullshit – the ACC was even worse than usual this year, and they still had their 4th consecutive losing season with no bowl game.  Conquered – again.

As of this writing, Billy Napier has been hired as the next head coach for Florida.  He will bring a desperately-needed infusion of work ethic, professionalism, organization, and an understanding that recruiting is the lifeblood of any program.  Dancin’ Danny and the MSU Mafia have left him with a very poor recruiting class.  He has essentially 2 weeks to try and salvage it by trying to get some kids that decommitted to return, get some new names that are still available excited about the Gators again, try and retain some current players, and then hit the transfer portal especially hard in order to try and fill out the 85-man roster.  He also has a lot of dead weight on the current roster that simply isn’t SEC-level talent.  It’s a monster challenge, but he and the guys he hires for his staff will be working with his overall plan and vision for the program.

It will be announced after Championship Saturday where the Gators will go bowling.  It won’t be a game of any real significance, other than the opportunity for Napier and some of his new staff to evaluate what they have to work with, and allowing the younger players that were ignored by the previous staff to get more reps in practice and possibly some live playing time in the bowl game.

Recruiting is already seeing signs of life, and Gator Nation is already emerging from under the dark cloud that followed Dancin’ Danny around the past 11 months – kind of like Pig Pen in ‘Peanuts’.  There is excitement and real hope for the future.  It will take time to rebuild the roster and brand that have been gutted, but Napier has boundless energy and work ethic, which is what it will take.

Go Gators!

Missouri Review / Florida $t. Preview

The last curtain has fallen on Dancin’ Danny’s Theatre of the Absurd, with another embarrassing loss to an inferior team.  The good news?  There will be no curtain call.

Florida lost at Missouri 24-23 in overtime, mucking around on offense the entire afternoon and finally losing on a throw-back 2 point conversion throw that easily should have been defensed.  Of course, it never should have come to that, but Mullen seemingly pulled his Kentucky game plan out of the trash can and thought, “Hey!  It’ll work this time!”.  What a buffoon.

The offense threw away a ton of points.  Emory Jones again missed open receivers and also struggled making correct reads on option plays.  You could see the physical toll the season has taken on him, as he has been asked to run way too often by Mullen.  The O-line was disorganized and soft, and even the RBs had a bad afternoon, missing holes and slipping on the field for some mysterious reason.  The WRs looked good when given infrequent opportunities.  In all, pretty much the norm for what Darth Mullen shoved down the throats of Gator Nation in 2021.

The defense actually looked competent for 3 quarters – they played the run lanes very well, and shut down the passing game.  Until……the 4th quarter, when some bad habits crept in and they started getting gashed in the running game, which was inexcusable as Missouri has NO passing threats.  That, in addition to the ridiculous wheel route TD allowed to the TE on a 1st-and-25 play in the 3rd quarter, were enough to beat a Gator offense that looked out of sync trying to execute a trash game plan.

Then, after the game, Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz clowned Mullen with his “May the force be with you” barb, and Gator Nation just has to sit there and take it.

Welp, at least Gator Nation won’t have Dan Mullen to kick around anymore.  He will dance off into the netherworld of coaching jobs with a $12 million termination package, and Florida can look for a competent, professional coach that is hard-working, recruits his ass off, can put together a professional and organized coaching staff and recruiting office, and doesn’t embarrass the school every time he opens his mouth in a press conference.

And now……unbelievably, it’s a bowl play-in game back at the Swamp against a bad F$U team.  Greg Knox for some reason will be the interim head coach, but thank god he’s not calling the plays – QB coach Garrick McGee gets that opportunity.  It appears that Paul Pasqualoni and David Turner have taken a lot more control of the defense, as they have shown some life the last 6 quarters of play.

The Criminoles come in at 5-6 as well, and seemingly with momentum.  But the ACC is even worse than usual this year, so I’m not putting any real stock into that.  Their offense pretty much starts and ends with the arm and legs of QB Travis Jordan – he’s fast and athletic and can extend plays, but is still an inaccurate passer when forced to throw, and the Gator defense has to put him in situations where he has to do just that.  I would not be surprised to see McKenzie Milton play as well, but he lacks mobility after his horrific knee injury suffered 2 years ago while starting for UCF, and Florida’s team speed could prove problematic for him.  F$U’s O-line is as bad or worse than Florida’s, and the Gator front seven has to dominate them and own the line of scrimmage.  Jashaun Corbin is a very good RB, and is tied for the team lead in receptions as well with 22.  F$U has no real threats at WR, so the Gator secondary needs to shut them down on their own and allow the front seven to wreak havoc.

I’m not sure what to make of Florida’s offense coming into this game.  Jones incurred an ankle injury in practice on Tuesday, so Richardson has been taking all of the 1st team reps.  For now, it appears that he will start.  If so, that means more big plays……but will they be for or against the Gators?  He has to play better – and smarter.  The O-line needs to control Jermaine Johnson, who leads F$U with 10.5 sacks.  A solid performance by the running game would go a long way towards a win.  AR also pushes the ball downfield more, and I believe the Gator WRs have a decided advantage over the Criminole secondary – if given the chance.

It’s Senior Day, and a rivalry game.  Plus, the team, I believe, plays with some enthusiasm and juice with Mullen’s hang-dog attitude no longer around.  It’s a shame the Gators are playing so poorly and with little confidence, because if they were sitting with even 7 or 8 wins at this point, I think they would roll F$U by at least 2 TDs.  It could be another sloppy game by both teams, and another 4th quarter play could decide things.  It would be such a nice change to see Florida actually come out fast for once and get F$U in a hole early, as I don’t believe they have the team nor talent to recover from that scenario.  But that’s why they play the games.

Prediction: Florida 27 Florida $t. 24

Oklahoma Preview

Florida travels to Arlington, Texas for a Cotton Bowl matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners.  Interestingly enough, this is the first ever appearance for the Gators in one of the longest-running bowl games in history.  The fact that Florida remained 7th in the CFP standings after losing 3 games shows a ton of respect from the committee and gives Florida a chance at finishing a trying season with a win against a big-name opponent.

Despite this being one of the few big games outside of the Playoffs, this is starting to feel more like an exhibition.  Florida has been gutted by opt-outs, injuries, and Covid:

Kyle Pitts (opt-out)

Kedarius Toney (opt-out)

Trevon Grimes (opt-out)

Jacob Copeland (Covid)

Kyree Campbell (opt-out)

Ventrell Miller (injury)

Marco Wilson (opt-out)

Shawn Davis (injury)

That’s a loss of over 75% of receiving receptions, yards, and touchdowns, the best run defenders at DL and LB, a 4-year starting CB, and the most experienced safety.  Other than that – “all is well”…as Kevin Bacon’s character in ‘Animal House’ stated during the parade chaos.  LMAO.

What a shame after such an entertaining season, but that’s what happens when your defense blows a Playoff spot in the current era of college football where the Playoffs have such a disproportionate weight.  It looks like Kyle Trask will suit up and start, but how long he plays is a significant question.  There are some talented younger receivers like Justin Shorter and Xzavier Handerson to try and take up some of the slack, but it will be almost impossible to approach that amount of talent loss and production.  Unless the Gators somehow discover a running game to provide some balance, backup TEs Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer, along with all of the running backs, will be called upon to step up and give Trask and/or Emory Jones all of the help they can.  If the passing game struggles, I expect Jones to get more snaps than many expect, both to help with the running game and also to get some experience prior to taking over as the starting QB in 2021.

Oklahoma actually played decent defense for the first time in at least 5 years – nothing spectacular, but compared to the sieve they were previously, definitely improved.  Their secondary came up with 13 interceptions during the year, led by CBs Tre Brown and Tre Norwood.  Fortunately for Florida, Brown has chosen to opt-out of the game, which hopefully lessens the impact of losing all of the main receiving contributors.  The Sooner front seven is led by LBs Brian Asamoah, DaShaun White and Nick Bonitto, along with sack leader DE Isaiah Thomas.  They racked up 36 sacks in 9 games, so once again the Gator O-line will be challenged to keep Trask and Jones relatively clean, especially having to find less experienced targets when passing.

After enjoying a crazy run of elite QB play (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts), this is not a vintage Lincoln Riley offense.  The Sooners are still potent with freshman Spencer Rattler and skill players RB Rhamondre Stevenson and WRs Marvin Mims and Theo Wease, but average more than 2 touchdowns less per game and don’t run plays at the breakneck speed they did under their previous Heisman winners.  Their O-line is also a step down from previous units, as the running game isn’t as strong and Rattler has to scramble often to extend plays.  Given how poorly Florida’s defense has played all season, maybe none of that matters, but one can hope.  With Campbell out, freshman Gervon Dexter will get a lot of snaps at DT.  The loss of Wilson may not be as significant, as he has struggled mightily all season.  Young CBs Jaydon HIll and Tre’Vez Johnson will get their opportunity to make an early push for starting status in 2021.  Trey Dean seems to have locked down a starting spot at safety, and Brad Stewart is coming off of perhaps his best game as a Gator against Alabama.  If…if the young secondary can make Rattler go through his progressions, the Gator pass rushers, led by Brenton Cox, Chris Bogle,and Zack Carter, should be able to disrupt the pocket and get some sacks.

I expect Oklahoma to have a decided advantage in the number of fans allowed to attend the game.  The state of Texas has very relaxed Covid protocol rules regarding attendance limitations, and it’s a short trip for OU fans to simply drive down to Jerry World vs. a very long drive or a riskier plane trip from around the country for Gator fans.  The Florida fan base has to be shaken as well after seeing the offense gutted like a fish and a handful of defenders that actually made some plays this season out as well.  I’m not sure what frame of mind the Gator players will be in.  Have they checked out after losing to Alabama?  Will the absence of so many star players simply be too much to overcome in so short a time?  Will guys that do play and have a chance to be in the NFL Draft be more concerned about staying healthy instead of playing with all-out physical effort?  The coaching staff has a major challenge ahead – can they motivate a suddenly much younger and inexperienced team?

Both Florida and Oklahoma have solid special teams.  Sooner placekicker Gabe Brkic has had an almost identical season to the Gators’ Evan McPherson.  One big impact is Florida losing Toney as a kick returner  – that is a major blow.

After the grind of a Covid season that included so many stops and starts going back to the spring, along with playing 11 straight SEC games, it will be a huge task in gearing up for a game with no title implications.  I hope the Gators can end the season with a win after the players endured so much in 2020.  It’s going to be a tough ask – even if Trask plays (and plays well), there may be too much to overcome.  Oklahoma has a young team that has improved after a 1-2 start, is playing much closer to home, and is familiar with the venue.  Sadly, this game is starting to feel like the opposite of the Florida v. Michigan Peach Bowl of 2 years ago

Prediction: Oklahoma 34 Florida 31

Orange Bowl Preview

Florida gets rewarded for another 10-win season and top-10 ranking with it’s second consecutive New Year’s Six game – this time in the Orange Bowl to play the Virginia Cavaliers.

This is great for the program for many reasons.  First is the ability to practice and be seen in the fertile South Florida recruiting region, with scUM currently a dumpster fire.  It also shows future recruits around the country that Dan Mullen has the program headed in a winning direction again.  Finally, it’s a great reward for the guys that either stayed with or came into the the program to turn things around and reinvigorate the Florida brand nationally.

Virginia is led by head coach Bronco Mendenhall, and the team reflects his personality – fundamentally sound and tough.  Their offense is led by senior QB Bryce Perkins, a true dual-threat QB with almost 200 carries this year.  He is the focus of the Cavaliers’ attack, and the key to whether the Gator defense can slow or shut down Virginia and make it a long night for them.  Perkins isn’t terribly accurate as a thrower, but can hit some big plays on scrambles or if a play breaks down and he improvises.  His main target is WR Joe Reed – Reed is a 1st-Team ACC player, and also a dangerous kick returner with 2 kickoff returns for scores.  The Gators will have one of their better CBs on him all night, and occasionally roll a safety over the top to keep him on check.  The only other ballcarrier with significant snaps is RB Wayne Taulapapa who averages only 10 carries a game, but has 12 rushing TDs.  The Gator defense seems to match up well against Virginia’s attack.  If the front seven does it’s usual good job of controlling the LOS, the DEs are going to make things very tough on Perkins.  It appears that both Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga will play – a huge boost in contrast to many star players sitting out bowl games.  Unfortunately, CB CJ Henderson will be one of those, so freshman Kaiir Elam gets a chance to start and make a name for himself.

Florida’s offense should have success as long as they come motivated to play and keep Kyle Trask upright.  Virginia’s defensive strength is in their LB corps, which plays sound football and tackles well.  However, there is no one outstanding talent that can’t be handled, and the Gator WRs could have another big game.  Indications are that everyone available will play, so Trask has his entire compliment of weapons.  Here’s hoping that the rest and extra practice has the O-line playing one of it’s best games and allowing RB Lamical Perine to go out a winner with some good running and pass-catching.

Head Coach Dan Mullen wants this win in order to keep the positive momentum going for the program, get more top-level recruits interested in Florida, and continue to widen the distance between Florida and it’s in-state rivals F$U and scUM.  He and the staff have shown the ability to keep their players motivated and playing hard, and that will be challenged by a lackluster opponent and a Monday night game after the CFP games have already been played.

Bowl games can be tricky to handicap – some players sit out to avoid injury before leaving for the NFL, some players play but ‘protect’ themselves from injury before the NFL draft, and some are dealing with baby mommas/agents/runners for agents/other distractions that take away from their usual focus.  Finally, Virginia comes in with the motivation to rehabilitate their image after getting completely embarrassed by Clemson in the ACCCG, and I believe they will be fired up for this game.  Florida needs to be ready from the start to match the Cavaliers’ intensity.  The Gators are similar to Clemson in team speed, and ultimately I think they pull away in the second half.

Prediction: Florida 34 Virginia 20

Florida $tate Review

Florida put a second straight beatdown on the Taliban City Losers with a 40-17 win that wasn’t as close as the score suggested.  The only reason the game was even that close was halftime – at that point the Gators were completely dominating the Criminoles on offense and defense, and the break prevented a mercy killing in the Swamp.

As expected, Florida’s strength on offense – the passing game – was a perfect attack to employ, as F$U’s pass defense was horrid all season.  Just like a bad matchup in the NCAA basketball tournament, you could see this was gonna be a long night for their defense, which only made me especially happy that it happened under the watch of interim head coach Odell Haggins, who hates the Gators.  Deal with it Odell……again.

The O-line again struggled to generate a running game, and even were stuffed late in the 3rd quarter with a first-and-goal inside the 1……unacceptable.  More reason to put Coach Hevesy on notice in 2020.  That really bothered me, as Coach Mullen could have just given Lamical Perine a last touchdown run in the Swamp on Senior Night but didn’t even have him in the game.  But it didn’t even matter, as Kyle Trask and the WRs toyed with F$U all night, doing pretty much as they pleased.  Only a few missed deep throws by Trask and a missed RB pass form Kadarius Toney to Dante Lang prevented a 50+ point output.

The defense did as I expected – giving up a big play to each of the only two players on FSU’s offense that are legit talents – WR Tamorrion Terry and RB Cam Akers – but shut down everything else for the most part.  The only real complaint was (again) the safeties getting burned deep 2-3 times……they were lucky James Blackman was harassed and missed open receivers for some big plays.  I still can’t believe Akers didn’t enter the transfer portal after last season to get the hell away from that sinking ship……but at least he’ll leave early for the NFL now.  The Gator pass rush racked up 8 sacks and numerous pressures, and never let either F$U QB get comfortable in the pocket.  Jonathan Greenard added 3 more sacks, and should be 1st team all-SEC.  The open-field tackling was adequate, but there were some bad misses by the safeties that allowed a few scoring drives to continue.

Finally, in the ultimate act of schadenfreude, the ACC referees allowed to officiate this game in Gainesville for the first time since the Swindle in the Swamp in 2003 absolutely killed F$U with crushing penalties at the most inopportune times, extending Gator scoring drives and even reversing a Gator turnover.  It was beautiful to watch.

Florida finishes the 2019 regular season at 10-2, which betters the 2018 record of 9-3.  Now the Gators await the results of the conference championship games and the final CFP rankings to see where they fall in the bowl pecking order.  If Florida somehow gets shut out of a New Year’s Six bowl game that would be a disgrace, but it’s college football, and weird, inexplicable things happen.  I’m hoping for an Orange Bowl bid, but the Cotton Bowl is in play as well.

On the heels and momentum of a state championship, Mullen and his staff are now hitting the recruiting trail hard to close on some potential stud players, with some new names popping up on the board now.  There is still some real dead weight on the staff in regards to recruiting (OL – Hevesy, Safety – English, RB – Knox, TE – Scott), and Mullen can only do so much on his own……he needs the position coaches to pull their weight, and we’re going to see soon if they will.

Given the circumstances of how the season developed – especially the season-ending injury to Feleipe Franks, recurring injuries to Jabari Zuniga and Greenard, and no real running game almost the entire season, Coach Mullen gets tons of respect for coaching around the deficiencies and getting to 10 wins, and also being in the LSU and Georgia games deep into the 4th quarter.  F$U and scUM continue to struggle and regress, and it’s time to bury them deeper as well as start to reduce the talent gap between Florida and the 5-6 schools nationally that have dominated recruiting the past 6-8 years.

I’ll be back with my bowl preview later in December.  Enjoy another successful football season, a state championship, and the holidays to come.

Go Gators!

Florida $t. Preview

Florida ends it’s 2019 regular season with its annual rivalry game against Florida $t. in the Swamp.  The Gators ended a painful 5-year losing streak in the series last year in Taliban City, and look to build on that by extending its own streak.

F$U has had a miserable season and (unfortunately) did the right thing by blowing out Slick Willie Taggart 3 weeks ago.  Odell Haggins has taken over in the interim, and the players actually respect him and have played harder recently.  It’s just a shame that they are already bowl-eligible, as the Gators would have loved to prevent the Criminoles from going bowling a second consecutive year.  F$U’s identity this season has been to start fast on offense, then do little to nothing in the second half while the defense collapses.

F$U’s offense has been wildly inconsistent all season, partly due to the uneven play of starting QB James Blackman backup Alex Hornibrook, but moreso by a weak O-line that has performed even worse than Florida’s.  The Criminoles have racked up some big numbers against weaker competition, but have struggled against decent or good opponents.  RB Cam Akers is the best player on the entire roster, and the sole hope they have to be competitive in this game.  He is an excellent runner and also a consistent threat as a receiver out of the backfield.  The only real receiving threat is WR Tamorrion Terry, who has size and deep speed.  The Gator front seven need to remain disciplined and not get fooled by the motion and quick pace of OC Kendal Briles’ offense, which he brought from Baylor.  If the Florida DTs can at a minimum get a stalemate at the LOS or get occasional penetration in the gaps, it could be a long night for F$U’s offense.  The DEs, led by Jonathan Greenard, should be able to disrupt the pocket consistently against the poor OTs, and need to get either QB off their spot and first read.  Jeremiah Moon is out with a foot injury, but it appears that Jabari Zuniga will get at least limited snaps.  The secondary should match up well against any spread sets, especially now that Marco Wilson has moved to the Star position and can slow down the slot receivers and help control the middle of the field.  F$U has enough talent at the skill positions overall to make some plays, but if the LBs and safeties can tackle well in space and force the Criminoles into long drives, that should be enough to disrupt their offense, as it thrives on big plays and isn’t built for long, ball-control drives.  The tackling against Missouri was as good as it’s been all year, and that offense with a mobile QB could help as a preview for what to expect Saturday night. 

On offense, Florida’s passing game matches up well against F$U’s pass defense, which has struggled all season both in coverage and open-field tackling.  The Gator WR corps has a decided advantage in size, speed, and depth.  As always, as long as the O-line can keep Trask clean and relatively upright, he and the receivers should be effective most of the night moving the ball.  It remains to be seen if Mullen can somehow coax any semblance of a running game, which could hit some big plays if the passing game is clicking early.  I have a feeling that Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce may be able to break free for a few chunk plays.  F$U’s defense has been hurt by season-ending injuries to DT Marvin Wilson (a future high draft pick) and LB/safety Jaiden Woodbey, but there’s no sympathy felt here – go after their replacements and keep the pressure on all game long.

Florida’s special teams have a decided advantage.  PK Evan McPherson and P Tommy Townsend have excelled all season, and the coverage units have been some of the best in the nation.  It’s a luxury and a real bonus to field position, and has been a huge help to both the offense and defense.  These hidden yards can’t be underestimated in the Gators’ success this year.  

It’s Senior Day, a chance for the first 10-win regular season since 2015, and the opportunity for Florida to set itself up for a New Year’s Six game.  The bigger goals of winning the SEC East and playing in Atlanta weren’t achieved, but there are still some significant things to play for, and there should be plenty of motivation to put on a great performance.  As always, in-state recruiting is impacted by this game, and Florida can continue to distance itself from scUM and F$U by winning the state title and closing the gap on the SEC schools it still trails in both talent and in the standings.  The Swamp should be electric at night for this game, and Gator Nation is ready to see another winning performance against the Criminoles.

Prediction: Florida 34 Florida $t. 17

Missouri Review

Florida took care of its business in Columbia with a workmanlike 23-6 win over Missouri that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.  The Gators didn’t play an entirely clean game, especially in the first half, but played hard, stayed focused, and proved their superiority over the Tigers with a dominant second half.

Kyle Trask once again was called upon to lead the offense despite no running game to provide any balance, and he did with 284 yards and 2 TDs, both in the 3rd quarter to essentially end the game.  Van Jefferson was the primary target most of the afternoon and was open most of the day.  Josh Hammond and Lamical Perine caught the 2 TS throws from Trask, with Perine making a great catch in traffic – especially good for a running back.  Emory Jones received the most snaps he has in a meaningful game since Auburn, and responded with a handful of good runs to extend drives and one long completion to Kedarious Toney setting up a FG.  The O-line again was pushed around trying to run block, but was able to give Trask just enough time to make some reads and get the ball out.  They did allow 4 sacks, though mostly from inside rushes where the guard play has fallen off recently due to injury and inexperience.

The Gator defense made life miserable for the Tigers and QB Kelly Bryant all afternoon, repeatedly getting penetration into the backfield, harassing him on many throws, and getting 3 sacks and multiple tackles for loss.  The front seven did a pretty good job limiting RB Larry Roundtree, but did get hurt by some designed runs and scrambles by Bryant that extended a few drives that led to their only points.  The pass coverage in the intermediate zones was solid – TE Albert Okwuegbunam was held to 4 catches for 26 yards, and the tackling was better than it has been in weeks, limited yards after the catch.  The improvement in coverage with Marco Wilson playing the Star position was immediately noticeable.  Kaiir Elam got the most snaps he has all season at CB, while Trey Dean moved for Star to CB and at least looked more comfortable – I still think he may be better suited for safety.  The safeties tackled well and didn’t allow any passes over the top.

Special teams were on point as they have been all season.  Evan McPherson made all 3 of his FG attempts, Tommy Townsend averaged 46 yards on his punts with 4 placed inside the 20, and the kick coverage was solid.

Defense and special teams need to travel on the road in the SEC, and this was just another example of that.  Missouri never had any momentum, and knew they would have to be more lucky than good to make anything happen as the game progressed.

Credit to Dan Mullen and his staff for having his players in the right mindset for this game.  No need to look backwards at the embarrassing losses under Won’t Misschump, the Swamp Donkey, or even last year.  No need to be concerned about the weather (it was fine).  No need to read too much into Missouri’s home record which was built up against garbage teams.  Just go out and play hard, and the better team (Florida) would win.

There are still a few goals to achieve for this year’s team – win 10 regular season games, beat F$U, and get into another New Year’s Six bowl game.  The Gators have their 3rd bye week of the season to rest, get as healthy as possible, and throw everything they have at the Criminoles and beat those clowns down – again.

I’ll be back next week with my game preview.  Happy Thanksgiving, and Go Gators!

Vanderbilt Review / Missouri Preview

Florida came out and dominated Vanderbilt from the start with a 56-0 shutout that was as easy as the score indicated.  For a change, the Gators didn’t struggle with Vandy after a tough game (win or lose), completely shutting down the Commodore offense while getting untracked on offense late in the first quarter and never looking back.

The Gator defense took advantage of the ‘Dores having to play their 3rd-team QB, focusing on controlling RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn and their running game.  After establishing control of the LOS, Vandy’s passing game was never going to be a threat, and the defense held the ‘Dores to 128 total yards while racking up 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 1 fumble recovery returned for a TD by Jonathan Greenard.  Vanderbilt is 126th out of 130 FBS schools in scoring offense, and simply were outclassed all afternoon.

On offense, Florida again struggled to establish a consistent running game, but completely overwhelmed Vandy’s pass defense as Kyle Trask rolled up 363 yards with 3 passing TDs and one running TD.  Emory Jones was able to get a decent number of snaps throughout the game and was efficient throwing and running, including 3 rushing TDs.  The WRs were mismatches for Vandy’s secondary and consistently gained separation all afternoon.  Trask did have 2 interceptions – one was simply a poor read on his part – still some learning to do.  True freshman Ethan White filled in at right guard for the suddenly departed Chris Bleich, while redshirt freshman Richard Gouriage started in place of the injured Brett Heggie at left guard.  It was a glimpse of the future, and they did an adequate job in relief. 

It’s on to Missouri, which has (sadly) won 4 of 7 against Florida since joining the SEC.  For some reason the Gators never seem to go into this game with any real enthusiasm, and the results have reflected that attitude.  Gator Nation is sick of these interlopers having the upper hand, and it sure would be nice to go up to Columbia and punish the Tigers.

Florida’s defense will have to focus on stopping Missouri’s running game first, led by Larry Roundtree.  Tyler Badie is the 3rd down back, and has been effective all season catching the ball out of the backfield.  The Tigers usually have a physical O-Line, and have pushed the Gators around too often in the series.  It’s unknown if Kelly Bryant will be their starting QB, due to a hamstring injury.  If he plays, he is normally a legit dual-threat who could prove to be difficult to contain by the front seven, which has been struggling due to injuries.  Hopefully, he is at least slowed by his injury if he does indeed start.  If he can’t go then backup Taylor Powell will start – he did not impress at Georgia as the Tigers were punked 27-0.  Missouri has one of the best TEs in the country in Albert Okwuegbunam, and he will be a difficult matchup for the Gator secondary.  WRs Johnathon Johnson, Jonathan Nance, and Kam Scott are all good receivers.  The Tigers will be a stern test for Florida’s defense all day.  I can only hope that DC Todd Grantham changes things up in the secondary in regards to both coverages and personnel.  It’s time to move Trey Dean back to CB or possibly to safety and possibly let Marco Wilson man the Star position.  If the secondary isn’t allowed to mix in some press coverage and plays soft again, it could be along, cold afternoon.

On offense, Florida will again have to employ the formula that has been the most successful this season – pass first and lean on Trask and the WRs to make enough plays to win the game.  Missouri’s defense is solid, and will come after Trask and the weak O-line.  The Tiger secondary plays aggressively, and could be susceptible to giving up some big plays if Trask is given time.  Florida really needs Heggie to return at guard, to try and help generate some semblance of a running game for Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce.

After getting embarrassed many times by Missouri recently, it’s time for Florida to rise up and make a statement this week.  It will be a chilly day in Columbia with temps in the 40s for the game, but it should be a dry track.  The Gators will enjoy their 3rd bye week after this game, so they should be able to roll out almost everyone that is healthy enough to play – and they likely will need them.  As much as I’d like a dominant victory, I feel this one will not be decided until the 4th quarter, and will take a solid effort from all 3 phases to win.

Prediction: Florida 24 Missouri 20