Alabama Review

It was a totally stunning and deflating defeat in Atlanta — a complete collapse of the defense, coupled with a bizarre offensive gameplan that went completely away from Urban Meyer’s “plan to win”.

Where to begin?  I suppose the defense gets most of the blame, playing a listless, sloppy affair from start-to-finish.  There was something wrong from the very start just from the eyeball test watching the players on the field.

The week began ominously enough, with the suspension of Carlos Dunlap for a DUI offense — shocking for someone who had been a model citizen until then.  It would come to light in the days following the SECCG that there were many significant players at the same party.  The loss of Dunlap was glossed-over by many, but not me, as I stated my concern in my preview article.  Little did I know that after a year of distractions, that this one was more deep-seated than all of the others.

There was no energy of life in the defense from the outset, and the tackling (or lack thereof) was the worst since 2007.  The only signs of life came when Coach Strong started bringing the house in the second quarter, forcing Bama to finally punt.  But after the Gators closed to 12-10, the corner blitz was burned for a 60+ yard screen pass to Ingram, leading to a short TD run a few plays later that swung the momentum right back to the Crimson Tide.  It seemed the defense was never in the game again, making an average Alabama unit look like the 2005 USC Trojans.  Unreal.

On offense, the play-calling was curious at best, and a seemingly complete departure from what had been successful for almost 2 seasons.  4 carries for the RBs?  No speed option to the edges?  It appears in retrospect that the staff actually panicked to an extent when they saw the defense struggle so much from the start.  The funny thing is that the O-Line probably did it’s best job of protecting Tebow all season, and the passing game was working.  Cooper and Hernandez were getting open, and David Nelson came to life, catching the only TD scored by the Gators.

But the lack of running plays to the edges to spread the field was shocking — and a real indictment of Coach Addazio in his first year as Offensive Coordinator.  When the lights shone the brightest and hottest, he failed.  I can understand going against tendencies with the passing game, and it had some success.  But the complete lack of balance killed Florida against a quality defense and a defensive mind like Coach Saban.  Unacceptable.

The most disturbing revelation to come from this game is the word leaking out that a handful of players, including some prominent starters, completely got away from the preparation and focus they had exhibited for 22 straight games.  Even more troubling are the strong rumors that a group of guys did not lay it on the line for this game, with thoughts of a possible NFL future and money being first priority.

Wow — no wonder Tebow looked so devastated after the game.  He already knew that there was a serious lack of focus permeating the locker room, and it showed on the field clearly for all to see.  This outcome is so shocking that it has the entire Gator Nation shaking it’s head — and has caused serious rifts between fans, players, and possibly some of the coaches.  It was an open secret that Charlie Strong was probably going to Louisville.  But the sudden departure of WR coach Billy Gonzales, who was miffed that his input on playcalling was limited and that he wasn’t going to be promoted to the Offensive Coordinator position, was a surprise, made worse with his accepting a spot at L$U — an annual SEC rival.

Coach Meyer and his staff have a major task ahead in trying to re-focus the team on a strong showing in the Sugar Bowl.  Cincinnati is dealing with it’s own drama, losing it’s Head Coach to Notre Dame, but they are a dangerous offensive team.  It will be very interesting to see if the Gators resemble the sleep-walking Bama team that got run off the field by an inspired Utah team last year.

I’ll be back in a few days with my Sugar Bowl preview.  Until then, Happy Holidays from The Visor.