Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the Gator defense files a ‘DNP-CD’ (Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision), wasting a solid performance by the offense in an embarrassing 45-35 home loss to LSU. Once again, Florida makes a mediocre QB look like Lamar Jackson and the offense look like the Bill Walsh-era San Francisco 49ers.
Why did I use the basketball term ‘DNP-CD’? Because it’s painfully evident that Defensive Coordinator Patrick Toney is out of his element, and has somehow made Tood Grantham look like a competent DC. How bad are your schemes, alignments, and personnel groupings when you only get 2 stops for an entire game against an opponent who has done very little in SEC competition to date? To add insult to injury, one of those stops was only due to a dropped pass, while the other was running out the clock at the end of the game. That’s 3 games this season where the Gator defense has forced only a single punt, and now is the proud owner of last place in 3rd down defense – 131st – in all of college football. Even if this defensive front seven is the least talented and deep since before Charley Pell took over in 1979, there is simply no excuse – none – for not competently putting a plan in place to get at least marginally better results.
Florida allowed Jayden Daniels to pile up close to 500 yards of offense – well over 300 of it through the air. Lack of pressure, soft coverage, blown assignments, poor tackling – all helping to extend drives and keeping a bad defense on the field far too long. Even LSU’s struggling running game was able to perform well, not to mention another bad job of containing QB runs and scrambles. Just a complete failure all around. It just sucks the life out of a team by the end, even with the spirited offensive play in the 4th quarter.
This is going to be a contentious off week for Billy Napier to show some tough leadership and get the defense some help. Whether that’s allowing some proven guys like DL coach Sean Spencer and/or secondary coach Corey Raymond some input into the overall scheme, or sitting down with Toney and “helping” him scrap what’s not working (everything) and trying new things, something has to be done immediately. To allow this to continue the rest of the season without a fundamental makeover would be professional malfeasance and a slap in the face to the athletes that are putting in the work and the fan base that provided a terrific home atmosphere all season. Once again, Florida wastes what should be enough of a home-field advantage to win these close conference games and help to accelerate the rebuild left behind by the previous group of losers. I just hope that recruiting doesn’t begin to suffer, as the 2023 class, especially on defense, looks very good and has the chance to close on a few more outstanding players. You know that opposing coaches are negative recruiting the hell out of this pathetic defensive performance.
Florida’s offense put up 35 points, which should be more than enough to win a SEC home game. It will never be efficient or always smooth with Anthony Richardson running the show, but he provided enough big plays to offset the usual rough patches in the passing game. The loss of O’Cyrus Torrence for this game was felt on the O-line, but they still generated enough of a running game and protection for AR to win. The RB rotation may have settled in, with Montrell Johnson and Travis Etienne getting the bulk of the carries, and the surprising appearance of Lorenzo Lingard for some 3rd down snaps provided some juice. Nay’Quan Wright was strangely absent, without any news of an injury. The TD pass to Justin Shorter on the 2nd play of the game, the 39-yard TD run by Johnson, and the electric 81-yard TD run by AR show the explosive potential of this offense. But it isn’t efficient and consistent enough yet to control the clock and keep that horrendous defense off the field. Once again, Ricky Pearsall didn’t get enough touches, whether due to inaccurate passing from AR or the playcalling. He is excellent with the ball in his hands, and why he’s not utilized more on some jet sweeps remains a mystery.
After the off week, Georgia and Texas A&M are next on the schedule. Both of those head coaches have a deep hatred for Florida and will have their teams ready to play their best. Sadly, Kirby Smart will likely enjoy another easy win in Jacksonville, one that could be ugly. And Dumbo Fisher somehow gets to play against another bad Florida defense and have a very good chance to win. I can only hope there’s a come-to-Jesus reckoning with the defensive staff the next 2 weeks and these guys give the team a fighting chance. Right now Georgia’s offensive personnel is just a bad matchup, especially at TE. There is a chance for an upset win in College Station with some better defensive coaching, as the Aggies have had their own struggles on offense.
I’ll be back next week with my preview of the Georgia game. It’s gonna be a rough few weeks for Gator Nation. I hope the coaching staff can come up with something – anything – better in the next two weeks to be at least competitive on defense and continue the development of the offense. It’s been 7 straight weeks of football, and the extra rest will help this team physically……and mentally.