1. The Florida Gators defense was exposed without Alex Anzalone
If you were watching the game at home, you might have thought that Quincy Wilson was just a student who won some kind of lottery to win a chance to play for the Florida Gators. The announcers continued to point out that Vernon Hargreaves wasn’t playing in the game, yet, as the game wore on, East Carolina gave up trying to pass outside of the hash marks. Wilson, Jalen Tabor and Brian Poole did a fine job limiting the ECU passing game but the Pirates were able to take advantage of the middle of the field.
Alex Anzalone is Florida’s most athletic and best cover linebacker. Once he left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury ECU started attacking the middle of the field with slants and passes to tight ends.
Anzalone had shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in March of 2013 (his freshman season) and without him the Gators will need Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis to step up in a big way. Davis did his part on Saturday, leading the team with 10 tackles (7 solo) but more will be put on his plate is Anzalone misses time.
2. Will Grier missed an opportunity to take the starting quarterback job.
Grier earned his first start this week against the team his father played college football for, very cool story.
Grier started the game off well completing 4-of-5 pass attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown — a phantom offensive pass interference call negated another passing score. Grier played the first series of the second quarter, completing two more passes before Treon Harris came into the game.
Florida’s offense completely stalled when Harris entered the game in the second quarter. Harris completed all of his pass attempts in the second quarter but indecisiveness on his part in the red zone led to Florida attempting — and missing — two field goals.
Grier was given a chance to start the second half. Florida received the ball to start the third quarter and Grier was able to pick up a first down on a 19-yard scramble, but couldn’t get things going as the drive stalled after just six plays.
Florida’s next drive lasted one play. Grier threw a fastball to Alvin Bailey on a crossing route. The ball bounced off of Bailey’s hands into the waiting arms of Bobby Fulp. ECU scored a touchdown one play later.
Grier and the offense bounced back due almost exclusively to Demarcus Robinson making something out of nothing on quick screen passes. Robinson caught four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown on the drive.
Grier’s two incompletions on Florida’s next drive led to a quick three-and-out and following a Jalen Tabor pick six, Harris was inserted back into the game.
Grier started the game with the hot hand, but never was able to regain that momentum after halftime. He had a chance to take the starting job by the horns and end the quarterback battle but he didn’t.
Florida’s quarterback carousel continues spinning.
3. Jordan Cronkrite might be the best running back on the team
All offseason the talk was about Kelvin Taylor stepping up into the feature back role and freshman running back Jordan Scarlett (yes, I am guilty of this) but Jordan Cronkrite may be the best running back on the roster right now.
Cronkrite was billed as the shifty scat back to the more physical running of Taylor and Scarlett but Cronkrite has run like a bat out of hell and has been delivering punishment more than he has received it.
On the season Cronkrite has rushed the ball 14 times for 71 yards (5.07 per carry) and a touchdown. On Saturday against ECU he carried the ball nine times for 47 yards.
Cronkrite has a no-nonsense running style. There is no dancing, no indecision, nothing cute. He points his pads forward, plants his foot and accelerates through the hole even when the Florida offensive line is getting pushed back into him.
4. Kicking and penalties continue to be issues
Austin Hardin missed two field goals, which really cost Florida in the football game. Hardin’s accuracy issues have been well documented and missing kicks early is no going to help his confidence moving forward. The Gators don’t have another scholarship kicker on the roster but Jim McElwain’s “we lost special teams” comment after the ECU game doesn’t bode well for Hardin.
12 penalties for 105 yards.
The Gators collected enough penalty flags to create an alternate yellow uniform, if the team chooses to go that route. McElwain was beside himself after the game thinking and talking about the penalties and I’d expect the team to hear about it all week.
5. DeAndre Goolsby is going to make a living running wheel routes
I don’t know what it is but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single college team in the country that defends the wheel route effectively or consistently. Brandon Powell had a nice leaping catch on the route and DeAndre Goolsby caught passes from both quarterbacks running the wheel route.
It ain’t rocket science. You have a player in Goolsby who is a mismatch for linebackers and the wheel route is simple and effective.
Expect the Gators to continue to abuse the route with Goolsby, who has found a niche in the offense, one that will get him a lot of yards and touchdowns down the line.