Each week, we will take a look at the five main objectives Florida needs to achieve to bring home a victory as well as grade the previous week. This week at The Swamp the Gators square off with UCF, an up and coming member of Conference USA. Last week’s opponent in the season opener, Southern Miss, was also from Conference USA.
For the first game it was all about answering questions that needed to be answered about the season — questions that arose due to departures from last year’s team or the fact that last year’s team was not able to answer some concerns. Here is what I thought about how the Gators met the objectives for the Southern Miss game.
OBJECTIVE I, ESTABLISH THE RUNNING GAME:
While not dominating in the running game, the Gators did average 5.4 yards a carry from the running back position. If you throw in the reverses run by Percy Harvin, the running game was closer to seven yards a carry. Still, there were too many lost yardage plays, and thankfully that was due to missed assignments that after watching the film are very evident. Grade (B-)
OBJECTIVE II, THREE DOWNS AND OUT ON DEFENSE:
Urban Meyer detests the loss of time because of the new clock rules so this is an area of even greater importance. Outside of the scoring drive by Southern Miss from inside the Florida 30 the Gators defense forced five drives of three downs or less. They had another three more of seven plays or less. Only three drives went more than seven plays. Not a bad night. (Grade B+)
OBJECTIVE III, OFFENSE NEEDS TO FORCE THEIR WILL:
I honestly thought they tried to do this. Sometimes it was a little too much trying to run the ball with eight in the box and not enough blockers. USM had very quick linebackers and they were able to knife in behind and make a lot of plays. Grade (C-)
OBJECTIVE IV, CHRIS LEAK NEEDS TO SHOW COMMAND:
I really thought he did this. He was looking at three and four receivers when he had time. He checked down from the main receiver and found others. If there was anything to fault it was awareness of the blitz from a team that blitzes a ton. He still made them pay for that a few times. Grade (A-)
OBJECTIVE V, CONTINUOUS HEAT UP FRONT:
Watching this live it was a little disappointing that there was not more heat on the quarterback. Although there were about four plays where the quarterback had time, there was a bunch of heat coming from the outside. Of course this category was listed last week with the thought that the Gators would be at full force in the middle of the defensive line. That wasn’t a fact and it changed the way the line operated. Despite the fact he didn’t get any sacks, Moss was continually harassing the quarterback and making back side tackles on the running back. Derrick Harvey had a good game from the other side. The heat missing was from the defensive tackles. Grade (B-)
Let’s take a look at what the Gators need to show in the second game in order to come out victorious and make everyone feel better about the season.
OBJECTIVE I, ESTABLISH THE RUNNING GAME:
We are going back to the same one, because this was probably the area that gives the most concern. There are a few factors that need to improve here. First fans need to get used to the “horizontal running” game. The zone blocking is the bread and butter running game of the Meyer system and this year’s line should be very adept at it. I would say after watching the replay, the line made fewer of the mistakes and a lot of blame could be put on other blockers and on the backs themselves. The Gators should be better running this week as UCF is not known for their run defense.
The running backs need to stay ahead of the wall of blockers until they see a crease, and then take it. DeShawn Wynn was doing this very well on the zone stretch early in the game and we saw a couple of times where he planted, cut back, and made a big gain out of it. If the backs drag behind, they risk a back side linebacker splitting a crease and making the tackle in the backfield. This is something to watch improve for game two.
OBJECTIVE II, DEFENSIVE ENDS AND LINEBACKERS STAY DISCIPLINED:
The Gators are usually going to prove to be too much in the match ups on defense from week to week. USM did a good job of relying on the aggressiveness of the defense to throw little screens and to cut back in the zone running game with linebackers over pursuit. These are really the only plays that continuously hurt the Gators on defense. The defense needs to stay disciplined and not let that back get to the second level on the sideline and to not overrun and fight off blocks in the melee of the zone blocking scheme.
OBJECTIVE III, OFFENSE NEEDS TO TAKE WHAT IS GIVEN ON FIRST DOWN:
I switched this category up from “Forcing Their Will” because it looked like the offense would run with eight in the box too many times on first down. I am not sure if the checks come form Chris Leak or from the coaching staff on the sideline, but there has to be a better awareness of the defense on first down and attack where they aren’t. If there are eight men in the box, then throw the ball. If five or six, then run it, when there are enough blockers to do so.
OBJECTIVE IV, PRESSURE FROM THE INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE:
I never thought this would be a worry until last week. With Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris back this should improve dramatically. Once this happens, it really helps Moss and Ray McDonald get a little more single blocking and the pressure then comes from the outside a little faster. Joe Cohen, Clint McMillan, Javier Estopinan, and Lutrell Alford did a good job of stuffing the run most of the night; they just never got much of a push forward.
OBJECTIVE V, SPECIAL TEAMS DOMINATION:
The Gators continue to be good in certain aspect of special teams. Coach Urban Meyer places a premium on all special teams, yet there are parts of it that still haven’t gotten off the ground. We saw glimpses of punt returning with Reggie Nelson and the big return seems close to happening there. With the Gator defense looking really stout, there may not be many chances for kickoff returns, but when they do get the chance it needs to be better than last Saturday night. The insertion of Brandon James may help, and Meyer has vowed to get better.