Another week brought another win for the Florida Gators, and while Florida definitely has plenty to work on following their 24-14 win over the Gamecocks, there were also a plethora of positives for the Gators to hang their hats on. From Kelvin Taylor passing his father in touchdowns scored in SEC play, to surrendering two late touchdowns to South Carolina, the game had its ups and downs, but at the end of the day the Gators logged one more in the “W” column and got one step closer to perfecting the “art of winning.”
For most of the afternoon, the “Best Defense in the Nation” spearheaded the Gators’ efforts to sweep the East. That was to be expected as the offense continues to find its footing under Treon Harris. Now, let’s get the negatives out of the way first. After what was a terrific first three quarters for Florida’s defense, the Gators gave up 157 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. It was the first time the Gators had given up multiple scores in a quarter since the second quarter of their loss at LSU.
At least Florida had a 17-point lead when the scoring happened this time. It also doesn’t hurt a team’s chances when BDN only gives up 44 total yards the entire previous three quarters of the game. That’s shutdown defense no matter what team is lining up across from them, and only 21 of the Gamecocks’ total 201 yards came on the ground. Despite the injuries that had been plaguing the defensive line and the ejection of Jordan Sherit from the first half of Saturday’s game because of last week’s questionable targeting call, Florida’s line stood tall and took no prisoners.
The Gators had yet another multi-sack day with four, with the aforementioned Sherit registering the most at one and a half sacks. That’s impressive having only played half of the game. Caleb Brantley and Bryan Cox Jr. also got in on the festivities in the backfield with a sack apiece. Jon Bullard, who was questionable for the game due to injury, came in and played with toughness, managing the other half of Sherit’s sack. Florida is now tied for 8th overall in sacks with 31 on the seson — an average of 3.1 sacks a game.
For all of the fan fare that Alabama’s defensive line rightly receives, it should be noted how the Gators have put together a remarkably deep line themselves. Florida boasts the 10th ranked rushing defense in the country allowing only 105.1 yards per game.
Defensive Line Coach Chris Rumph is building a terrifying line that includes freshman CeCe Jefferson, Khairi Clark, and the “Wyoming Wild Man” Taven Bryan in the rotation. He also has some talented redshirt sophomores at his disposal with the previously mentioned Brantley and Sherit and there is only one senior in the group. That would be Bullard, playing like a man on a mission and ready to be drafted in the first round. He will be missed next year, but as was done this year replacing third-overall pick Dante Fowler Jr., the rest of the line will have to up their play and a new dominant threat will emerge.
Coach Mac’s “next man up mentality” really showed Saturday as Alex McCalister (last week’s SEC Defensive Player of the Week) also went down during the game. Despite this, Mac continued to just plug-and-play on the defensive line, and no matter who he’s put in, that player has performed admirably.
The secondary, which have been lauded all throughout the offseason and regular season, had a great day until the fourth quarter. It could be argued that they were trading yards for points at times, but they need to handle that a little better in the future. They will not be able to afford that in the coming big games.
I am critical when it comes to the secondary because I expect the near perfection that they can and have shown. As it stands, they have the nation’s 10th ranked passing defense, only allowing 174.9 passing yards per game.
Despite giving up those two long drives, they were clutch when they needed to be. After the offense bailed the defense out of that minor lapse, cornerback Quincy Wilson came right back and picked the ball off. This allowed the offense to salt away most of the remaining time and hold on to their 10-point lead.
BDN also had another interception in the first half, putting the Gators right back at their plus nine turnover ratio (tied for 13th in the nation with Utah). Unfortunately, Harris threw two picks in the game to knot the number of turnovers for the game up at two apiece.
While Harris did make some mistakes, he and his offensive line played a greatly improved game from last week and moved the offense perhaps the most consistently it has moved since Treon has taken over for Will Grier.
That more consistent offensive play also contributed to the performance of the defense. Saturday Florida retained some of that perfect balance a team needs to win, where the defense performs great and the offense does just enough to put the game away.
Now we come to one of the biggest stats of the day, time of possession. While having been maligned in past years, Saturday’s game showed just how important it could be for a team. Florida held almost exactly a two-to-one advantage in possession time with 39:56 to the Gamecocks’ 20:04. The Gators did this by draining the clock with four six minute plus drives- three of which ended in a score.
What this does for the defense cannot be understated, as it keeps the defense fresh, excited to get back out on the field, and puts in the opposing team’s offense’s head that they may not have many more chances to put points on the board. This in turn makes the other team’s offense push a little more, giving the Gators’ highly opportunistic defense a chance to make plays.
This synergy between offense and defense is key for Florida to maintain especially approaching the season finale with Florida State and the SEC Championship.
While the game may not have been perfect, it provided Coach Mac’s staff with many “teachable moments” and a complete sweep of the SEC East. As usual, though, Mac will immediately turn his attention to FAU, so his team can win the now. If the Gators can continue to focus on winning each day, they will have a chance to “restore the order” in more ways than one this season.
- Money Downs were once again airtight with the Gators only allowing the Gamecocks to convert on 30 percent of third downs (3-10).
- Florida is ranked 15th overall in third down conversions allowed at 31.76 percent.
- The Gators allowed a mere 0.9 yards per carry for South Carolina, allowing them 21 yards on 23 carries.
- BDN is really beginning to show out, being ranked fourth in scoring defense (14.5 points per game) and fifth in total defense (280 yards a game).