A bye week just three weeks into the season isn’t exactly conventional for the Gators but with the health of the offensive line and some glaring issues on offense rearing their ugly head in a loss at Miami, the open week should be welcomed with open arms.
Florida was hit with two devastating injuries to the offensive line before the season even started when it was announced that Chaz Green would miss the whole season following a labrum injury and that Jon Halapio would miss the first two games with a torn pectoral. The offensive line is as deep as it has been since Muschamp has been in Gainesville but an injury to D.J. Humphries has really stretched the offensive line and the open date should give them some much needed rest.
The open date also gives us, the media, a chance to look back and examine the team under a microscope. In an effort to diagnose exactly what went wrong against Miami, we will identify where the team needs to improve and grade each drive the Gators had against the Hurricanes.
Today we’ll break down the first quarter. Let’s get started.
1st Drive: 8 plays, 26 yards, 4:50, Fumble
Florida came out of the gates rearing and ready to go. Of the eight plays on the opening drive, the offense had two or more backs on six-of-eight plays. It appeared that Florida was going to force their will on the Canes and pound the ball down Miami’s throat.
Florida started the drive with two runs. On the first running play, Clay Burton looked lost and failed to block anyone. This happened throughout the game and has been a theme for Burton. When he gets his hands on a defender, Burton can be a solid blocker, but there are times where it appears that Burton doesn’t know who to block and ends up just getting in the way of the play. On the first play of the game, Burton essentially made the tackle for Miami as he ran into Jeff Driskel while trying to find someone to block.
The first passing play of the game — a 22-yard pickup to Quinton Dunbar — looked good on the surface. But when you look closer, Driskel actually stepped into pressure rather than stepping into the pocket to give himself a clean throwing lane. To start the play, Matt Jones went the wrong way on a play-action fake, essentially making the play-action useless. Humphries, Max Garcia and Jon Harrison set a solid pocket on the left side of the line while Kyle Koehne and Tyler Moore got beat by their men on the right side. Rather than stepping up into safety, Driskel’s lack of pocket presence made him side step to the right, directly into two Hurricane defenders.
In the first picture you can see where Driskel needed to feel the pressure coming from the right side and take a step left and up into the pocket.
Instead, Driskel took a step to the right, into the pressure and took on unnecessary contact while throwing.
You can overlook these flaws because the play ended up being an “explosive play” according to the Florida’s coaching staff but Driskel could have delivered a better pass to Dunbar and possibly given his receiver a chance to do something after the catch had he stepped into the pocket correctly.
After this play, things started breaking down on the drive. On the next running play, Tyler Moore missed his assignment on the block and Matt Jones failed to bounce the ball outside. Trey Burton was called for offsides on a third and five but atoned for his mistake with a nice move to pick up a first down after the penalty. The next two plays resulted in no gain due to a Hunter Joyer missed block (he had an uncharacteristically high number of these last Saturday), Matt Jones choosing to go inside when he should have broke the run outside again (a theme on Saturday) and a Denzel Perryman helmet hit on the ball to force a Miami recovered fumble.
Drive Grade: C-
The drive started well, Florida moved the ball very well on the first three plays and it looked like they would be able to control the clock before the fumble occurred. However, the amount of missed assignments, a bad offsides penalty and a turnover left the Gators with a low grade here.
2nd Drive: 5 plays, 12 yards, 1:57, Punt
Following the turnover, Miami went down the field and put seven points on the board. Florida got the ball back and needed to put points on the board to stop the bleeding and get momentum back on their side.
Brent Pease dialed up a wide receiver screen to Solomon Paton on the first play, Trey Burton provided an adequate block and the play to spring Patton for nine yards. It was a great way to get Driskel some confidence to start the drive with an easy completion and get the offense moving in the right direction.
Matt Jones picked up the first down on the next play with a two-yard run despite Moore and Harrison getting beat badly on their blocks. On first down, Pease dialed up a passing play. Driskel delivered a beautiful pass to Dunbar on the outside but the receiver couldn’t get a foot in bounds. Driskel also had Solomon Patton on a dig on the other side of the field but Driskel was locked on to Dunbar. This is something Driskel has looked better at times (very few times) in the first two games but he still has such a long way to go as far as going through progressions and not locking on to one receiver.
The next play went for just one yard because Joyer climbed to the second level too quickly and because Kyle Koehne literally got pushed back into the play. Both Koehne and Joyer had rough games. The drive ended on an incomplete pass to Quinton Dunbar in triple coverage. Driskel had Patton in single coverage running a nine yard route on the outside but he; 1) didn’t have time because Tyler Moore was doing his best Xavier Nixon impression and 2) never even looked to that side of the field.
In the picture below you can see Driskel locking on to Dunbar (blue arrow), Miami’s defense reading Driskel’s eyes (yellow arrows) and Patton in single coverage (outlined in red).
Drive Grade: D
A missed opportunity and missed assignments plagued that short drive.
3rd Drive: 2 plays, 9 yards, 0:40, Touchdown
Loucheiz Purifoy’s blocked punt put the offense inside the Miami 10-yard line. The Gators had to get points here and that’s just what Florida did.
Florida lined up in a diamond formation (Driskel under center, two backs split to either side five yards behind him and another back seven yards off the ball directly behind Driskel). Both Joyer and Ajagbe missed their blocks and the play resulted in no gain. Florida came out in the same formation, this time in shotgun and ran a read-option. Driskel read the play well and the Gators scored six.
Drive Grade: A+
The first play was ugly but Florida did exactly what they needed to do here and it only took two plays to do it.
4th Drive: 7 plays, 54 yards, 2:43, Interception
Following Florida’s touchdown, the defense had a missed assignment that led the Canes to an 84-yard touchdown drive. Florida’s offense was once again tasked with the need to respond and put points on the board. The drive started in the first quarter and bled into the second quarter but we’ll cover the whole drive here.
Florida had very good balance (4 runs, 4 passes) while showing two backs or more on six formations and wildcat on another. A false start and a short screen, left the Gators with a second and long — not exactly where the offense excels. Driskel was able to find Solomon Patton for 46-yards and Florida’s second explosive play of the game. The next two running plays went for a combined six yards and featured a pair of missed blocks by each fullback. This ended the quarter.
Florida brought out the wildcat to start the second quarter. The play featured a jet sweep fake but lost four yards because Tyler Moore and D.J. Humphries got beat like they stole something on the play.
Driskel went under center on second and goal and badly overthrew Dunbar in the endzone for what would have been a touchdown.
In another angle, you can see that there was a linebacker playing shallow, but Driskel still had a very large window to fit this pass into and he just let the ball sail on him. The linebacker bit on the play-action and then opened his body to the sideline (outlined in blue). While it appeared that Driskle needed to put a lot of air on the ball to get it over the linebacker, he really doesn’t. The linebacker had taken himself out of the play by bit on the play action, compounding the error by getting his body in bad position. Driskel simply missed this throw.
Consequently, the play lead into a third and goal scenario. Driskel saw Miami stunt and didn’t have trust in his offensive line. Max Garcia and Humphries picked up the stunt but Driskel had already started to run to his right. This allowed Anthony Chickillo to disengage from Tyler Moore and force Driskel to turn around and run back to his right. Driskel then tried to fit a pass into triple coverage and ended up getting picked off. It was a bad decision and a very real example of just how far Jeff still needs to progress as a pocket passer.
Drive Grade: F
Any drive that ends with an interception in the redzone will get a failing grade.