It was more of the same, as Florida was easily handled by Georgia 42-20 in Jacksonville. Despite a spirited run to start the 3rd quarter, the Gators were outplayed, out-talented, and outcoached……again. Georgia started and finished fast. Yes, the 3rd quarter run by Florida was good to see, but it was as much a function of Georgia’s players easing up and losing focus as it was the Gators playing that much better. I’m not buying all of that fool’s gold.
The Gator defense was again defenseless for a large portion of the game, getting pushed around at the LOS and allowing multiple chunk plays. The lack of talent and depth in the front seven is especially noticeable against legit SEC opponents, and this was no exception. The pass rush from the D-line was nonexistent, and the only times pressure was applied on passing downs was by blitzing, which actually had some effect when utilized……imagine that. Until DC Patrick Toney finally allowed the coverage to tighten, Georgia had easy completions in the middle zones whenever they wanted it. Once the coverage tightened, Florida actually made some plays. LB Amari Burney played very well in coverage against UGA’s talented TEs, and the DBs helped force some turnovers and got the ball back for the offense. Jason Marshall got himself off the back of the milk carton, and Jalen Kimber had some pass breakups. Sadly, it was too little, too late, and couldn’t offset the weak run defense.
Other than the first 10 minutes of the 3rd quarter, the offense again was inefficient and stagnant. Anthony Richerdson was allegedly hurt (again) early and refused to take positive running yards when they were available. He (again) missed some wide open receivers for some possible big plays, and (again) simply blew some easy reads. I really wonder if Jalen Kitna and/or Jack MIller are that bad in practice that they can’t get the chance in a meaningful situation to show if they can’t play at this level……even if only for a few series a game. The O-line struggled with it’s run blocking, and blew a lot of assignments in pass protection, allowing guys to come free at the QB far too often. AR simply cost the offense any chance of making this a competitive game for 4 quarters. The playcalling was (again) very unimaginative, except for some adjustments made at halftime to provide a momentary spark. That’s not good enough in the SEC, though. I remain skeptical of Napier’s OC ability, and wonder if it will change next year.
Florida now travels to College Station to play a similarly-struggling Texas A&M program that has it’s own unique and well-publicized problems. They are now on their 3rd QB, have multiple suspensions/injuries along their O-line, and are getting a huge amount of negative press about other suspensions to some of the (well paid-for) freshman class. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person than Dumbo Fisher, a real hypocrite and unsavory coach.
It will be interesting to see if the Gator defense is allowed to play as aggressively in pass coverage for the rest of the season, or if Toney will fall back into the same passive shell. There is absolutely no reason to do so at this point – let the kids play aggressively, have fun the rest of the way, and improve. The loss of Brenton Cox due to being dismissed from the team could hurt on the field, but at this point he was a one-trick pony who struggled performing even that one trick. Justus Boone, Antwaun Powell, and Princely Umanmielen get their chance at extended snaps now to see if they will be contributors in 2023. The Aggies will start true freshman Conner Weigman at QB, and that actually may be best for them in the long run, as neither of the other two signal callers impressed. He has played well the last 6 quarters, and led a strong comeback against Ole Miss last week that fell just short. The guy that makes their offense run is RB Devon Achane – he’s played at an all-SEC level this year and is a multiple threat running, receiving, and returning kicks. He is by far the largest part of their offense. IF……if the Gator defense can slow him down, they have a chance, but I remain skeptical until I see the proof. True freshman WR Evan Stewart was a strong Gator lean until Napier became the new head coach, and was a big loss – he is already becoming a dangerous target. I think we have seen that there is some real talent in the Gator secondary that just needs the opportunity – and permission – to make plays. Will another inexperienced QB look like an All-American against Florida? Stay tuned.
It’s gonna be very interesting to see if Napier stays painfully conservative with AR and lets him play the entire game. It may be time to allow one of the backups to get a series or two to give the Aggie defense a different look and also perhaps give AR the chance to evaluate what’s happening from the sideline. The passing game is just too inefficient and inaccurate to defeat legit SEC opponents, and needs a major upgrade. The running game was handled easily against Georgia, and must bounce back this week. Trevor Etienne seems to be becoming more and more the #1 RB each game, and Napier has to get him more touches both running and receiving. The WRs played well against Georgia and made some excellent catches. AR’s inaccuracy kept them from doing more and again killed some promising drives. The passing game simply has to improve for any chance of winning.
Florida has a real chance at winning this game, even on the road, but Dumbo hates the Gators with a passion and will have his team ready despite the off- and on-field distractions. The Gator staff will need to show it can get this team to refocus on the game, with all of it’s own off-field issues regarding the roster happening. The running game has to be re-established, and the QB play – whoever that might be – has to be more efficient. Sadly, I see this as another missed opportunity for Florida to get another much-needed SEC win.
Prediction: Texas A&M 27 Florida 17