Georgia Review / Vanderbilt Preview

Florida got back on track with a solid victory over Georgia in Jacksonville.  This was a much-needed win to keep the positive momentum created by a great start to the season, and also for recruiting.   Georgia had it’s chance to really swing the series back in it’s favor the past 2 years, but now Florida is rebuilding and reasserting it’s dominance.  Coach Helen Hunt now hears the howls for his head, while Puppy Nation takes the I-75 Trail of Tears back to Athens……AGAIN.  That’s 20 out of 26 for the Gators since 1990 – nice to see more than a generation of Puppy fans being indoctrinated into the series the right way.  Yes, the St. John’s River still flows north for a reason.

The Gator defense again led the way, generating 5 turnovers and dominating the Puppy offense most of the afternoon.  The run defense was as good as it’s been all season, holding Georgia to 77 yards rushing, and never letting them get into any comfortable flow to help out a first-time starter at QB.  Faton Bauta was overmatched, but I will say that the game plan put together by Helen Hunt and Brian Schottenheimer sucked.  They should have leaned on the run game and allowed Bauta to run more read-option stuff, and then go to play-action passes.  Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but that was simply a panic move.  The Florida front seven played very well, and the rotation along the D-Line is really paying off now – those guys are fresh in the second half, and are winning the battle on the LOS.  Georgia has a solid O-Line, but the Gators more often than not had their way.  Tank Morrison and Jarrad Davis continue to wreak havoc at LB, while the secondary simply outclassed the Puppy receivers.  Marcus Maye had another diving interception, and Jalen Tabor’s effort to tip an end zone pass at the last second to Keanu Neal was a great play and the final nail in the doghouse.

Florida’s offense was occasionally painful to watch.  Treon Harris struggled again in the short passing game, but was able to make enough big plays on 3rd down or in a scramble situation to offset his inaccuracy.  His TD throw to Antonio Callaway that stretched the lead to 13-0 allowed the offense to relax somewhat.  I was pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of the running game.  Kelvin Taylor had another good game, and Jordan Scarlett provided some fresh legs and big runs in the second half as the Puppy defense started to wear down.  Taylor’s game has really improved as the season has progressed – he is running more north and south, and is firmly planting his foot and making quick cuts upfield.  Scarlett should get more snaps going forward, and will be a good complement to Taylor.  The play of the O-Line and coaching of Mike Summers have to be recognized.  This group will never be considered even very good, but they have fought hard all season, and have shown marked improvement.  It’s good that Harris is mobile, as the pass-blocking will continue to struggle against better defenses, but Summers has worked a minor miracle with this unit.

Special teams are still a mixed bag.  The kick coverage units were solid less one kickoff return set up by a penalty forcing a kickoff from the 20.  Florida received a gift on it’s first score when Reggie Davis fumbled a punt inside his own 5-yard line into the end zone for a Gator TD – another example of bad coaching.  Austin Hardin continues to excel on kickoffs, but his FG kicking is simply awful.  His head is so screwed up right now that he may be a basket case the rest of the season…..and it could cost Florida eventually.  Johnny Townsend punted very well all day – he pinned UGA inside it’s own 20 repeatedly, putting even more pressure on a young QB and helping his defense by forcing a long field on the Puppies.

Now it’s finally back to the Swamp for Homecoming against Vanderbilt.  The Commodores have taken a huge step back to where they traditionally are – at or near the bottom of the standings.  Their defense has played very well under Head Coach Derek Mason, but their offense has been horrendous……Will Misschump-level horrendous.  They will hope to make this an ugly, low-scoring game, and somehow try to steal a win late.  However, the current Gator staff has done a fine job of limiting penalties and turnovers, which are really the only chance Vandy has.  I expect a vanilla offensive game plan, and not much scoring.  The Florida O-Line has a few guys banged up who may not play much if at all this week – LT David Sharpe and LG Martez Ivey, so we’ll see how Coach Summers handles the thin depth chart and cobbles together a lineup.  This will hamper the offense, so I would not be surprised at all with a close score going into the second half.

Here’s what you’re gonna get with Harris at QB:

1) The staff will hopefully have about 6 scripted pass plays that he is comfortable with and executes well in practice.

2) There will be about 12 “bread-and-butter” plays that the staff can go to throughout the game (maybe with various formations, but the same basic plays).

3) The rest?  Pure sandlot……just hope for the best.

That’s it.  Just hope the defense doesn’t break down like at LSU, and that Hardin gets his mind right and starts making some FGs.  Essentially, the term I’d use for the offense the rest of 2015 is “limited”.

The Gator defense should control the flow of the game, and the ‘Dores should wear down in the second half.  We’ll see how the team reacts to success and if they can keep their edge mentally, play hard this week against an outmanned opponent, and not think about the stakes in play for what could turn out to be a big season.

Prediction:  Florida 24      Vanderbilt 7