Saturday’s week zero matchup was the most exhausting football game I have ever attended.
The Florida Gators survived a sloppy, penalty-filled, mistake-ridden game and walked out of Orlando with a 24-20 win over in-state rival, Miami. While there were portions of the game that were a disaster, there were times Florida looked like the team that finished the 2018 season.
Here is this season’s first installment of: What did we learn?
Florida has Trench Monsters, and lots of them: I’ve died on the hill this summer that this D-line would be better despite losing Jachai Polite, CeCe Jefferson, and the coach in the room. Saturday night proved that to be very true. Yes Miami’s offensive line is a complete sack of ass and by the time you’re reading this Jarren Williams just got sacked again. But as expected, Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard raised hell. They probably should split the game ball after living in the backfield. They combined for three of the ten (yes TEN) sacks on the night along with 5 TFL and a QB hurry. In addition, Jeremiah Moon had himself a hell of a ball game getting credited with 2 QB hurries, 2 TFL, and half the credit on the game sealing sack. Now with better depth on the edge and quality interior defensive pieces, this unit has the potential to be one of the best in the country.
The Coming out Parties: Twitter coaches spent nine long months hyping Amari Burney at linebacker, only for Ventrell Miller to steal the show in his first career start. Miller had two sacks, two TFLs, and a PBU, adding an extra weapon to the defense and the linebacker room. Along with Miller, the other coming out party was Miami, Florida’s own: Shawn Davis. Granted, having a coming out party isn’t hard when the rest of your unit is a disaster (more on that later), but despite being somewhat quiet on the stat sheet, Davis asserted himself as the best available safety in the room if he can give that performance consistently.
Hot Sauce: Josh “Hot Sauce” Hammond is the most clutch Wide Receiver to come through Gainesville in YEARS. With 4 catches for a team leading 93 yards, including a beautiful 65 yard catch and run down three in the fourth on the go ahead TD drive, Hammond continues to prove his value in the WR room with his consistency and dependability in big games.
Play Calling/Personnel: Dan Mullen started 2018 not knowing what buttons to hit in his first game vs. a competent team in Kentucky. That trend continued this year with Miami. The play calls were questionable — aside from the two big plays from Toney and Hammond — as the offense struggled to find a flow or rhythm all night. I get the amount of skill position talent this team has is stupid loaded, but the amount of subbing in the first half was ridiculous. Every play it seemed like there was either 1-2 new WR’s or a new RB coming back on the field. The offense’s flow was killed by two fumbles that somehow weren’t recovered, but there was never any established tempo either due to all the substitutions.
50 Shades of Franks: Let me start by saying this: Franks’ performance was good enough to win the game, and you can even say he’s improved in some aspects of his game. However, the fans were treated to the Franks roller coaster. His stats were about the same as where we he left off last season. Throwing 17-27 for 254 yards with 2 passing TD’s while adding a rushing TD on top of that. Though he did miss some reads and locked in on where he’s going to the ball pre-snap. He also lost a fumble inside the 10 on what looked like a RPO in the first half. He also 2 interceptions in the fourth quarter, the second arguably the worst in his time at Florida. Franks led a come back multiple times in the second half. Seriously though, if you’re going to be a complete dickhead by taunting the Miami fans in the crowd and tell the camera, “I do this”, don’t do it up 4 with 8 minutes in the fourth; you simply can’t go back out and throw a God awful INT the next drive with the game on the line. Florida is not winning big games vs. LSU and UGA games being -3 in turnover margin. If the Gators want to make a run, Franks needs to cut down on the turnovers. At the end of the day — for at least two (most likely three) more weeks, until the Gators commence conference play — it’s still OVO SZN.
The Ground Game: Running the football wasn’t very successful Saturday night for Florida. Totaling 27 carries for 52 yards isn’t going to cut it vs Auburn, LSU, and UGA. With a combination of a strange running back rotation which never really allowed a rhythm until La’michel Perine finally found one late. Along with having two new starters on the offensive line doesn’t help, but hats off to Miami’s defense for giving the Florida O-line hell and making them open it up through the air. Coach Mullen, Knox, and Hevesy have essentially three weeks to fix the ground game before a trip to Lexington.
The Not So Safe Safeties: I said the safety room being a borderline shitshow this summer in my Trey Dean piece. Saturday night proved that the word shitshow isn’t even the word. IT. IS. TERRIBLE. Everything about that unit was bad unless your name was Shawn Davis. Donovan Stiner still has a great brain but possess the athletic ability of a toddler. He continues to miss tackles, take bad angles, and play ridiculously far off the damn ball. While Jeawon Taylor has spent another fall camp in a red jersey (shocking), he’s proceeded to forget to be good at the one thing he’s good at, and that’s tackling the person with the football. With the best one of the group — Brad Stewart — being constantly unavailable the safety room, the unit available is the worst I have ever seen at the University of Florida during my time as a fan and couch coach.
Big 12 Officials: Holy shit. Awful isn’t even a valid understatement. For both teams, officiating was an absolute abomination. Them not knowing when a quarter ends was laughable. How the fumbles don’t even get reviewed is beyond me. Holding calls were non-existent for a whole quarter and a half. A terrible pass interference on Al Blades. A missed false start on a fourth down (I’m thankful). Clear missed intentional grounding in the fourth quarter. An unsportsmanlike conduct I still don’t understand on Kyree Campbell, and frankly a whole lot more shit that was either called or missed. For a marquee primetime game, that cannot happen. That was a complete disaster on so many levels, it was a miracle things weren’t thrown on the field at any point in the night.
Tackling and Balls on the Ground: I sent a text to a friend after the first two fumbles saying I had Vietnam flashbacks to the last Miami game. Well by halftime, the team being moving tackling dummies gave me PTSD to last year’s Kentucky game. Florida literally needs to spend the next two weeks working on tackling people and fumble drills. Only two, sometimes three, people in the secondary want to tackle and it’s obvious who they are. While at other times, the front 7 made Jarren Willams look like he was Mike Vick. Somehow by my count there were at least seven balls on the ground and Florida recovered only one, and that’s thanks to elite punt coverage by Van Jefferson.
A win is a win but there’s a lot that needs to improve with this team if they want to make it to Atlanta and possibly the College Football Playoff.
Via: Harrison Tenzer. You can follow Harrison HERE.
(Above photo via: John Raoux/AP)