NASHVILLE, TN — Despite their SEC East leading 6-1 record, the Florida offense
continues to be a source of frustration. A group loaded with playmaking
skills position players and a pretty good offensive line has not scored in
the fourth quarter since September 30th.
Furthermore, the Gators scored for the first time in the second half since a Tim Tebow faked stepping up to run, dropped back and hit a wide open Louis Murphy with a 35 yard touchdown pass nearly one month ago.
The Florida offense creates catastrophe upon catastrophe on… “the good guys.”
Penalties weren’t among the major problems—the Florida offense simply self-destructed this weekend. After all, the Gators committed only two penalties in the opening half, six for the game. Unfortunately, the myriad mistakes most prominently involved long-suffering quarterback Chris Leak who threw three interceptions, two of them in the second quarter and coverting only two of nine third downs. Leak missed open receivers on two of those interceptions and seemingly could have thrown to an open Dallas Baker on at least 40 of Florida’s 61 offensive plays.
The senior signal caller completed 18 of 25 for 237 yards and a touchdown. However, those first half missed opportunities occurred at the Vanderbilt 28 and 19 yard lines. The crowd of 38,134 and a regional television audience watched Florida soundly beating their Eastern Division hosts in all facets of the game. They needed only to drive the sword further into Commodore Vanderbilt’s heart. Once again, the ofense failed to deliver.
Leak’s third interception came four plays after Vandy had closed the gap in the third quarter to 25-12.
The Gators’ failure to light up the scoreboard, while simultaniously turning out the lights on the opposition is a major concern.
“I thought our execution today was pretty good if you take away the three picks,” Florida head coach Urban Meyer stated. “But you cannot take away the three picks. It is something that he has got to work on. But, we made a concentrated effort to throw the ball downfield today. We matched up well at wide receiver today. Our receivers, I thought, played tremendous. They¹re our best players right now, and I thought DeShaun Wynn actually ran pretty hard.”
Thankfully, their tremendous defense has been able to bail them out of precarious second half situation.
Florida leading receiver Dallas Baker had no pass receptions in the first quarter. However, his number was finally called to start the second quarter. Baker hauled in passes of 23, 18, and 14 yards on Florida’s six, play 49 yard scoring drive. Baker’s 14 yard reception was for a touchdown. He ran open all day long. Vanderbilt couldn’t cover him.
Obviously, it wasn’t all the fault of Chris Leak. Once again the Gators’ third down inefficiency resembles more chaos than competency. Florida is 11 of 42 (26%) on third down over the past four games. You can bet that Meyer will evaluate what isn’t happening on third down.
The Florida offensive line is the walking wounded. Guards Jim Tartt (sprained ankle), Drew Miller (sprained ankle and achilles problem), and center Steve Rissler (knee) will spend plenty of time in the training room.
All of this sets up for an even more interesting match-up with the head ball coach next weekend in “The Swamp”.