Georgia Review / Vanderbilt Preview

This was my 35th consecutive Florida-Georgia game, and I have to say it was one of the most shocking results of all of them. The Gators came in with a likely dead-man-walking Head Coach, off of 2 crushing defeats, and with a true freshman making his first ever start. The Puppies came in riding a 5 game winning streak including 2 big road wins, and with a chance to run the table in the regular season and set up a shot at the College Football Playoff if they managed a win in Atlanta.

And Florida kicked their a** right out of Jacksonville.

So much for Georgia turning the series around, and just another example of Helen Hunt, er, Mark Richt, blowing another big game in the clutch. This result was an indictment of the entire Puppy coaching staff, as they couldn’t solve the most basic of game plans and obviously did not have their players mentally ready for such an important game. I hate seeing Florida in a spoiler role, but love to see the Gators do it to Georgia most of all.

There’s not much analysis needed for this one:
60 runs, 6 passes
Total domination of the LOS from late in the 1st quarter until the end of the game
418 yards rushing, the second-most ever allowed by the Puppies
2 RBs just under 200 yards each
A season-crushing loss for Georgia – the best kind
“Come get some” – LMAO

I think that after the staff figured out something in the running game, that plus the windy conditions dictated the play-calling. Still, it was stunning (and fantastic) to watch what looked like a ‘Back To The Future’ performance, one witnessed all too often by Gator fans in the ‘70s and ‘80s in this game – a running game that slowly and inexorably choked the life out the opponent, and left them beat up and humiliated.

Obviously the players of the game are the O-Linemen, who had to relish the chance to play smash-mouth football all afternoon. I’m not going to overlook the blocking by the WRs, especially Demarcus Robinson, who personally helped break 2 long TD runs by picking off 2 separate guys – simply a great effort. I’m not discounting the excellent running by Matt Jones or Kelvin Taylor either – both ran hard and physically. It’s unfortunate that Treon Harris couldn’t get more passing done in order to start building some chemistry with the WRs, but getting a win was paramount to anything else. Hopefully he gets his chance the next few weeks, which will help balance the offense and keep the defense from consistently loading the box.

The defense made some adjustments after the 1st quarter, which started out badly – there’s no way to sugarcoat it. The run defense was gashed for over 100 yards and was on it’s heels. Obviously the emergence of the Florida running game changed a lot of how the rest of the game played out, but the front seven still has some issues to be worked out. I will say that Georgia has successfully run the ball on everyone this season, so it’s not all on the defense – sometimes you have to credit the opponent. Tank Morrison seems to have rediscovered the hard-hitting style he showed 2 years ago as a freshmen, and led the team with 15 tackles. At least the frequency of big runs was slowed dramatically in the second half, and the biggest Gator defensive play was made by Brian Poole, hustling downfield to strip the ball away from Nick Chubb and ending the last real chance of the Puppies getting back into the game late in the 3rd quarter. Once the game was put on Hutson Mason’s shoulders, there was little doubt of the outcome.

Now it’s on to Nashville to face Vanderbilt. Sadly, the Gators have some payback to deliver after last year’s embarrassment. More importantly, though, this team and coaching staff need to put 2 good games in a row together to prove that last week wasn’t simply an aberration, but a sign that this team can actually improve and become more consistent.

I don’t expect much change in the offensive game plan – lots of power running against a suspect rush defense, but perhaps a few more passes and some on 1st and 2nd down in case the Commodores load up the box early. I do think that the windy conditions last week played some part in only throwing 6 times. I don’t expect the weather to be a real factor – the forecast at kickoff is temps in the 40s with a 10 mph breeze. Hopefully the offense continues to respond to Harris at QB, and the OL doesn’t sustain any more injuries – I don’t expect to see Trenton Brown play this week after hurting his knee. We will see how Matt Jones responds to the workload against Georgia – his knee has been an ongoing problem, and he’s a big part of the offense going forward. I know Kelvin Taylor had to have relished the opportunity to get over 20 carries and get into a rhythm after really struggling most of the season. The only worry is that the WRs become disenchanted with the minimal number of passes, but at least for one game they blocked very well and didn’t sulk.

The Gator defense should be able to control the LOS and hold the number of points allowed down. The only consistent threat right now is RB Ralph Webb, but there is no way that Vandy’s O-Line approaches that of Georgia’s. The front seven still have to stop the running game first, and the LBs need to show they can maintain their level of play from last week. It looks like Keanu Neal will be out a few weeks at safety with a high ankle sprain, so Jabari Gorman has to step in and play smart football.

Make no mistake – while beating Georgia was huge for the program and for Will Muschamp, neither is out of the woods. Florida needs to build on it’s performance in Jacksonville and start enjoying football again, while Muschamp likely has to win until the F$U game to salvage his job. This is precisely the kind of set up that the Gators have failed miserably at since the start of 2013, and that is why the staff has to re-focus the players on this week only. It’s definitely not an optimal environment in which to coach and play in, but everyone has contributed to the current situation, and it will take everyone to improve it.

Prediction: Florida 27 Vanderbilt 14