Georgia Review / Vanderbilt Preview

 It was “get well” time for the Florida Gators, as they put together their most complete team effort this season in neutering the Puppies — again!  17 out of 20 now, as the “trail of tears” from Jacksonville back to Athens has become a well-worn route.  After 2 weeks of sloppy play, turnovers, poor play-calling, media scrutiny, and soul-searching, perhaps it’s time for this year’s team to finally start having fun again and put together a strong stretch run to Atlanta.
It was long-overdue to see the Gator offense finally break some keys by throwing more on 1st down, hitting the edges more instead of stubbornly running between the tackles into 8- and 9-man defenses, and taking shots to the end zone from outside the 20.  Georgia’s weakness at defensive end set up most of the offensive game plan, and the players executed it well.  Tebow looked more comfortable throwing the ball in rhythm downfield this game, and the O-Line showed some improvement in pass protection.  Riley Cooper continues to show what a great athlete he is, both with his great one-handed TD catch and his continued excellence in downfield blocking.  This needs to be more of the norm rather than the exception the rest of the season to establish momentum building up to the SEC Championship Game, which Florida has clinched a berth in.  Finally, how poetic that Tebow’s 50th rushing TD, the all-time mark in the SEC to break Herschel Walker’s record, came against the Puppies themselves.  Just one more dagger in their hearts as they sink further behind Florida.
The defense was solid again.  I was a little disappointed in the rushing yards allowed between the tackles, but Georgia did have 2 weeks to prepare, and shuffled their entire O-Line personnel around to their advantage in the running game,  However, the Gators had a distinct advantage with their pass rush, and it really showed in the second half as they got multiple sacks and 3 of their 4 interceptions — all from the LBs.  AJ Jones has really started to perform this year at a high level, and has to be the biggest surprise on defense this season.  It was nice to see Brandon Spikes getting close to 100% health, as he made his presence known with 11 tackles and the interception return for the final score of the game.  I was also surprised it took so long for the safeties to come up and start to take away the seam route to the TE and the 15-18 yard square-ins that were really the only pass plays Georgia had success with.  Once Major Wright laid the wood the AJ Green, though, that took him out of the game and essentially ended any consistent threat from the Puppies.
Vanderbilt is up next for the Gators.  Despite the step down in talent level from the opponent, there needs to be no let up in intensity and execution.  It’s getting closer to money time now, and a tough road game at South Carolina follows.  The Commodores have taken a step back from their performance the past few years, and simply do not have the depth or playmakers to stay with Florida for more than 1-2 quarters.  It will be interesting to see if Coach Addazio continues to mix things up on offense, or goes back into a shell somewhat and be painfully conservative to ensure a win.  I think it would serve the offense best to continue to build on the scheme used against Georgia in order to establish a consistent rhythm and more confidence in the passing game.
This staff is too good, and the players too mature and experienced, in order to have a real letdown this week.  The bigger prizes are starting to come into view, and it’s time to build some real momentum to finish the regular season and peak in Atlanta.
Florida 38        Vanderbilt 10