As I went over in my offensive film study piece, the Gator offense wasn’t bad to start out against Vanderbilt. They had a couple of bad ends to drives, but they moved the ball consistently.
What turned the game around was the defense righting the ship after starting off poorly. Here is what I found on a close rewatch with that side of the ball.
Vanderbilt likes to load up with two and sometimes three tight ends as former Cardinal assistant Derek Mason tries to have his team be the Stanford of the SEC. Accordingly, Florida matched up with its true 3-4 front when Vandy had its big lineups in the game. When the Commodores spread the field or just had more than two receivers in the game, UF countered with its base 3-3-5.
The Gators’ defensive back-heavy packages were noticeably more effective than front-heavy packages. When Florida had five or six DBs in, Vandy averaged 5.0 yards per play. When Florida had four or fewer DBs in, Vandy got 6.2 yards per play. The difference is even greater if you factor out the 75-yard screen pass that happened against the nickel defense on a busted coverage. Take that out and the nickel and dime looks only allowed 3.2 yards per play, just over half of what the 3-4 allowed.
The reason for the disparity is that Florida’s defensive front didn’t get a good push against those heavier fronts. Vandy dominated the line of scrimmage early, though the Gators did do better after the half. Even so, they sometimes got more aggressive to compensate for the lack of push, and that allowed the Commodores to hit on some misdirection plays.
In a couple of earlier games, the 3-4 was the more effective package. In this one, it was the base 3-3-5.
Beating the linebackers
A constant headache in 2017 was the linebackers getting lost in pass coverage. They’d gotten a lot better in 2018, but this game was a reversion to old form.
On that 75-yard screen, the linebackers are just dropping back into zone in the middle of the field. David Reese has the offense’s left side, while Vosean Joseph has the right.