Where Have They Been?
This weekend the Florida Gators football team got some homecoming revenge against the Missouri Tigers with a 40-14 win. It was a weird game that could have ended much worse but the Gators just couldn’t finish drives with great field position much of the first half.
In his first game in nearly a month, Luke Del Rio finished 18/38 for 236 yards, with one touchdown and 3 picks. It was a ho hum return from injury, but you could see the difference in the offense with him at the helm. Despite the inconsistency from Del Rio the offense managed to accumulate 523 yards of offense but only accounted for 19 of the 40 points. If not for two defensive touchdowns this game might have been closer than expected.
Some of the errant throws from Del Rio could have been credited to some rust. The week off may help with the recovery of his knee but may not help his rhythm. When the Gators finally leaned on the running game in the 2nd half, they were able to pound out 287 yards. Jordan Scarlett accounted for 101 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and true freshman Lamical Perine added 106 yards on 11 carries. Mark Thompson did not have a bad day himself going for 65 yards on 10 touches. One wrinkle we saw is how Brandon Powell was used. He was lined up in the backfield as well as receiver. It will be interesting to see how this evolves moving forward.
Since Antonio Callaway emerged as the primary target this offense was begging for a second option and that may have been found in Tyrie Cleveland who once again showed his big play ability. The best option for this offense to be effective is funneling through the running backs with Powell in the mix. It doesn’t look like the running back rotation is going anywhere soon.
Under the category of ‘Stuff we already know’ Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson are pretty good and continue to prove why they are the best corner tandem in the nation. Coming into the game Drew Lock had been averaging 335 passing yards a game. He finished nearly 300 yards short of that throwing for 39 yards. I am still baffled how Dobbs found any success against this secondary.
Overall there is a lot to learn from Saturday on both sides of the ball. Florida walked away victorious but the final score did not suggest the type of game that was played. Florida will get another off week to clean up some things and get healthier.
Sometimes bye weeks come at the perfect time but for Florida this bye week could be good and bad. With Georgia looming Del Rio could use some time to get his groove back and get some reps. This is an extremely young offense that needs as many reps as they can get. Right now it looks like the wide receiver corp is going with a sophomore in Callaway and the 3 freshman with Cleveland, Swain and Hammond to go along with the variety of Brandon Powell.
While those reps would be nice, Del Rio needs to rest the knee, you could see him compensating at times. More than Del Rio resting his knee the defense needs to get healthy and get healthy fast. Florida is already thin at linebacker and would be depending on some very young guys to step in should Davis or Anzalone went down and that is exactly what happened. The extent of Jarrad Davis’ ankle injury is unknown but it sounds like he could be out for a couple weeks and with Nick Chubb as well as Arkansas coming up, his presence, energy and leadership will be missed on the field.
I was encouraged by a few of the new items that Mac and Nuss presented on Saturday and will have a couple more weeks to think of a few new ways to utilize Powell, figure out the running back rotation and create some more ways to put the ball in the hands of Antonio Callaway.
What’s Down the Road?
As the Gators approach the Georgia game in a couple weeks, the Bulldogs are reeling. What the ‘Dawgs are experiencing is the worst thing that could happen when you fire a coach who wins 9 and 10 games consistently. What Kirby Smart has brought to the table does not prove the decision to remove Richt was wrong, but it does bring into question if Smart was ready. Losing to Vanderbilt is never a good thing for your job resume, losing at home the way they did doesn’t help either. In a couple weeks Florida has the ability to roll Georgia, but Georgia is capable of pulling off an upset should Florida make a few mistakes.
The one game that continues to scares me is the trip to Arkansas. Florida is a better team than the Razorbacks, but it just feels like a game that will not end well. This past weekend the Razorbacks won a back and forth game against Ole Miss.
In what is the most important outcome coming from Saturday’s games was the thrashing the Tennessee Volunteers took at the hands of Alabama. The Tide may not be 39 points better than the Volunteers but Tennessee looked out matched. That could have been partly due to the roller coaster they have been on since the beginning of the year. Obviously this is the loss the Gators needed to get back in the driver’s seat, but the Volunteers should remain confident and not cancel any Atlanta hotel plans just yet because the Florida schedule is just getting hot.
As for the team that altered the Florida schedule the way it is, there is not much to say. LSU won a game at home over Southern Miss. The Tigers will take on Ole Miss this week and like every week moving forward, everyone in orange and blue will be rooting for LSU to lose and lose bad week in and week out.
One team trying to get there groove back is Florida State. The Seminoles continue to try and kill Deondre Francois at quarterback and while their defense has improved over the last two weeks the offense hasn’t been able to put the points on the board like they had been the previous games. They get a much needed bye week this weekend before Clemson comes to town. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ‘Noles rise up and win that game.
The most disappointing thing coming out of last week is the fact that the Gators will no longer take on Presbyterian, but that will not stop me from following their season. This past weekend the Blue Hose got a win over Monmouth 17-13 and improve to 2-4 on the year.
There is still some uncertainty about this team that will be in or near the top 10 come next week. Florida is still an unknown commodity on offense because of the absence of Del Rio against Tennessee.