Dead in Duval.
The Gators playoffs dreams are officially over, a trip to Atlanta is now on life support, and a third straight loss to Georgia is simply awful. The final score was 24-17 to the Dawgs, but Florida was never in control of the game.
The Bad and Ugly:
This column is going backwards and getting merged this week because that was a disaster on almost every single level. Everything that was bad was truly terrible. Unlike the LSU game, where it was a Saturday night in Death Valley vs the best team in the country, the best team did not win on Saturday. Against LSU, Florida ran out of gas down the stretch and could walk out feeling somewhat proud. Considering the fact that there was literally everything still to play for on Saturday makes the performance even more atrocious. The loss to Georgia was a gut punch that showed what this team is.
Todd Grantham: The past two weeks, social media has had a civil war on widely different perspectives of our defensive coordinator. Following the Disaster in Baton Rouge, this was viewed as judgment day for Todd Grantham. He failed miserably. I’ve been on the side that he’s making the most out of what he had. However, Saturday was the day I jumped the ship. The Twitter meme that is known as “Third and Grantham” was a real thing in this game. Twelve of eighteen on third down, in the biggest game of the season, was something that simply could not happen. Yes, they only gave up 24 points and two touchdowns; however, this was unacceptable. The offense was working when given the opportunity but it never had the opportunity because the defense couldn’t get off the field.
The scheme benefits nobody but defensive linemen. It has linebackers and bucks in coverages that are often beaten by alignment. The two preseason All-American corners are doing a variety of different things and have regressed, while the safety room continues to be a tire fire. Then there’s Trey Dean, who continues to have his weekly televised spin class at the STAR position. Overall, this defense has regressed big time from a year ago, and that’s a cause for concern. There are serious changes that need to be made.
Offensive Personnel: This has been a problem throughout the season that has been hidden with success. However, today it became an alarming red flag: Dan Mullen’s offense is handcuffed. Florida had arguably the worst rushing performance I have ever seen and this fan base has witnessed incompetence at the offensive line position eight of the last ten seasons.
All afternoon, there was ZERO running game until the final touchdown drive down fourteen. By then it did not matter. A total of nineteen carries for twenty-one yards is just unacceptable. Why Lucas Krull and Dante Lang played over Kemore Gamble is beyond me.
Neither have shown any blocking or catching ability whatsoever. The running back room is paper thin. Kyle Trasks tunnel vision to Freddie Swain and Kyle Pitts is becoming a problem nobody wants to admit we have. Trask has 5 other competent WR’s that are proven playmakers. Tyrie Cleveland is arguably the fastest receiver in the room, but has been on a milk carton. Josh Hammond has had one catch each of the last two weeks, despite making game-changing plays against Miami and Kentucky. The fact that there are solutions to these problems (which aren’t being looked at) is a big cause for concern for the Gators.
Coaching: A year ago in this game, Dan Mullen took Kirby Smart to school from an X and O’s perspective. The execution and depth on that team was just atrocious throughout the entire game, except for two drives offensively. Saturday, this staff got out-coached in every aspect and it wasn’t pretty.
- Three wasted timeouts due to inability to lineup. In game number nine. COMING OFF OF A BYE WEEK.
- Awful play calls in manageable, short-yardage situations.
- Terrible clock management in the fourth quarter.
- Massively out-coached defensively versus a team that hasn’t thrown the ball well all season.
- Continued going under center when literally nothing has worked there the entire season.
- Allowed 12/18 third down conversions.
- Allowed Trey Dean to cost the team AGAIN before switching the corners.
Overall this has to change, The staff continues to call for what they want to have on the roster, and not what they actually have at their disposal. Barring a disaster, this will still get the Gators to 10 wins, but a continuation of this in further seasons down the line won’t take Florida to a championship level.
The Defensive line: As I stated earlier in ranting about the defense, this scheme benefits the defensive line the most. On Saturday, The D-line was hooping against the run. Limiting future first round running back D’andre Swift to 85 yards on 23 carries is one of the lone bright spots. Jabari Zuniga gave it his all on a bad ankle and wreaked havoc in the run game, Kyrie Campbell was a key clog in the middle, while Big Slay had a couple of solid plays. The highlight of the room however, is Jon Greenard. He is truly what the Gator standard is all about. He arrived in January and has stepped in as a leader who refuses to settle for anything less than his best and a win. He played his ass off on Saturday when he clearly wasn’t 100% healthy. Greenard continues to be a monster on the field and a great leader in the locker room for this team, and that’s something Florida needs more of after he leaves.
The Gap: This isn’t a moral victory. This loss sucks. However, the gap from where Florida was versus Georgia in 2017, to now, has shrunk considerably. This game was simply won by Georgia in the trenches, and was a classic case of dominance in the Jimmy’s and Joe’s category of the game. For Florida to be competitive and take control of this rivalry, recruiting on the offensive line and at defensive tackle has to see a massive improvement. The gap is closing in certain areas; there’s no denying that, but Florida isn’t where they need to be if they want to get over the hump.
The Wide Receiver Room: This unit is special; I simply can not say it enough. Despite a majority of the targets going to Kyle Pitts and Freddie Swain, whenever someone’s name is called upon, they deliver. Trevon Grimes had two clutch catches in the second half to move the ball down the field and get a first down. Van Jefferson had a hell of a touchdown catch on a 50/50 ball. With only 3-4 games left in the season, it’s important to appreciate how far this room has come. What these seniors have done for this program over their four years here (in Van’s case: two) has to be appreciated and used as a model. These seniors have helped the Wide Receiver position at the University of Florida go from a five year run of busts and a liability on the team, to one of the most loaded rooms in the country that consistently wins their team ball games. So, to Cleve, Freddie, Josh, and Van: thank you for being the change we need and becoming the leaders in one of the best rooms in school history.
The overall goal for this season was making it to Atlanta and to be competitive in Atlanta. That is now hanging on by a thread. Barring Gus Malzhan pulling his annual one shocking victory out of his ass against the Bulldogs, along with help from one of Missouri or Texas A&M, Atlanta won’t be happening. There’s still a shot at 11-2 with a NY6 bowl victory, and that goal must absolutely be achieved for this to be a successful season. But for now, we’ll take it game by game.
Beat Vandy and Go Gators!
Via: Harrison Tenzer
(Above photo via: fieldstforum.com)