At halftime, I was all set to write a lead about how this combination of our offense and defense will be just fine. After the second half, I walked out of the stadium feeling similar to leaving Jordan Hare last season after the Auburn game. Maybe you were like me and the second half of this game depressed you more than anything. After a day to think about it, things aren’t as bad as I first thought.
I’ll admit it. I went into panic mode during the second half on Saturday night. After such an impressive first half, it was tough not to.
But after I cooled down early Sunday afternoon, I started to realize something. It wasn’t that bad. Sure, the entire second half was full of expletives from the entire student side of the stadium, but the bottom line is that Gator fans and students are spoiled. If we don’t score on every possession like during the first half, it’s unfortunately rare that you don’t hear some sort of negative energy from the student section.
But here’s what I started to realize today about last night’s game. Think about it. Up 49-7 at halftime, would you run anymore plays that weren’t extremely vanilla? With the Troy game already in balance, there isn’t much of a reason to break out new plays, or run plays that we plan on being a main part of our offense as SEC play begins next weekend. Tebow did make a few questionable reads, and I somewhat questioned he and Harvin taking so many hits in the fourth quarter, but as Coach Meyer said in the post game press conference, it was a drive where they need to score at all costs.
My favorite play of the entire game came near the middle of the second quarter. It was first down and the pocket was collapsing as Tebow dropped back to pass. Tebow, completely composed, just tucked the ball and scrambled to pick up seven yards. Seven yards on a blown play? I fully respect what Chris Leak did in his time as a Gator, but Tebow adds an incredible element to this offense. Think about how rare it will be to see him get sacked.
But how about this receiving group? It amazes me how they are not getting more national coverage than this. The first week, it was Louis Murphy and Cornelius Ingram who combined for three catches. This week, it was those same two leading the receivers. That’s what you should expect this entire season. One week, it’ll be Harvin with the most receiving yards, the next week’s opponent will take notice and lock him up. So that’s when Cornelius Ingram will step up and go for a big game. When the opposing team figures out how to stop Ingram, Riley Cooper will catch multiple deep passes.
After seeing each of our receivers have one big game either yesterday or against Western Kentucky, don’t be surprised if Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis is having nightmares all week long.
The defense was where most of my frustration came from last night though. As Gator fans, we are all about instant gratification, and expect nothing less. That’s why this “bend but don’t break” defense was so tough for us to accept last season, and why it was tough to watch again on Saturday night against Troy.
This defense will be fine. There is too much speed and athleticism not to make drastic improvements from week to week. Yet there are moves that must be made for these improvements to occur.
The free safety position worries me quite a bit right now. We’ve all heard the coaches speak on how invested Kyle Jackson is and how he is a hard worker. While that may be the case, I just don’t see him being a trustworthy free safety. No matter who you put at the position this season, you would experience a drop off in talent after Reggie Nelson stalked our defensive backfield last season.
I think I only saw Jackson in for the first three or four drives of the game. If the talent level is close enough where they trust Major Wright that early in the game, is it really enough to leave Jackson in to start? Or even Dorian Munroe, who our coaches believe is one of our top eleven players on the defensive side of the ball. I’m just not convinced it would be smart to keep Jackson on the field.
Looking at the defensive tackle position, you have to think something will change there. I’m happy with the leadership provided by Clint McMillan and Javier Estopinan for the young defensive linemen, but I also hope that we allow the best players to see the field at the defensive tackle position.
Judging from yesterday’s game, my guess would be that our two starters at some point this season will come from Torrey Davis, Brandon Antwine and Lawrence Marsh. Of those three, Antwine looks like our best option as a nose tackle. I honestly didn’t watch much of Marsh on Saturday, but all reports on him seem positive. The upside of Torrey Davis is just not fair for opposing teams’ interior linemen. I know I raved about him after the Western Kentucky game, but he continued to impress me against Troy. Before the season started I thought he could be a starter by the LSU game, but it now looks like it could be even sooner than that.
The bottom line for our defensive success against Tennessee comes down to the health of Markihe Anderson. He is without a doubt the most physical cornerback on the roster, and that will be very helpful against a team that likes to run short screens. If Anderson could use his ability to bump some receivers off their routes, expect Derrick Harvey and Co. to have a huge night.
This is it. It’s Tennessee week. This is why you love football if you’re a Gator fan. The Swamp atmosphere was about average for Western Kentucky, maybe just a little above that for Troy, but when Tennessee gets in town, it’s a whole new ballgame. Coach Meyer called recently for a “Blue Out” this Saturday, so you know the Swamp will be rocking. With all the big time recruits that will be in attendance, expect an atmosphere like no other in the country.