I don’t know how exactly the Orange Bowl viewing experience was for you, but I did not feel a lot of anxiety throughout. The first half confirmed that it wasn’t going to be a runaway blowout, but Virginia was getting points off of things like turnovers and tough catches. I figured over the course of the game, the Florida offense having a relatively easier time with things would win out. It did, though not exactly how I thought at the time.
This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays. It does not include stats from the drives that killed clock at the ends of the halves.
Everyone has a different definition for what counts as an “explosive play”, but I go with runs of at least ten yards and passes of at least 20 yards.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
Right off the bat, we have the starkest contrast between the teams. Florida — yes, this year’s Florida team — was able to break off a significant number of explosive runs. Virginia, despite having the elusive Bryce Perkins at quarterback, could not.
Some of that was the matchup. Excluding garbage time, the Cavaliers had been allowing runs of 10+ yards on 15.2% of opponent carries. That’s well above the 11.5% of Florida and noticeably above the national average of 14.4%. That national average includes bad defenses of all stripes from P5 to G5, so being worse than the average is a pretty bad sign.
But Kentucky actually allowed a worse pre-bowl percentage than did UVA (15.6%), and the Gators only managed 8.3% on the Wildcats. It shows there has actually been some progress in one particular area in regards to the run game this year.
Note how low Virginia’s explosive rates are. Those will come back later.
The main measure here is success rate. Watch this short video if you need to brush up on it.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
From an overall efficiency standpoint, the teams were pretty even. UF was uncharacteristically more efficient on the ground than through the air — even getting close, much less squeaking out an edge, would’ve been a surprise for the run game — while the Gators largely shut down the Virginia run attack.
The two teams in this contest were fairly similar this year in having to put everything on the pass because of a bad run game. They were different in that Florida was largely successful in supplementing the struggling rush attack with quarterback runs from Kyle Trask and Emory Jones, while Perkins was only able to be a true difference maker on the ground in a couple of games.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
Here is another key to the game. Both outfits were about the same in their efficiency in the first and fourth quarters. However, Florida kept things moving in the second quarter and hit just enough big plays on one drive to kick a field goal in the third.
UF only outscored Virginia 23-21 in those opening and closing periods. In between, the Gators had a 13-7 edge. Both teams had touchdowns in the rougher sledding of the middle periods, but UF was able to grind out a couple of field goal drives in addition that kept the Cavs at bay.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
This was Trask’s only start below 145 in passing efficiency. It looked like he was a bit off at times, perhaps pressing too much early in his first bowl start, and the stats back it up.
For completeness’s sake, the passing efficiency is on the low side because he also had his career-low with just one touchdown pass in a start. The run game actually generated scores, which kept Trask from having multiple. With the way the passing efficiency formula works, the number in the table above rises to 140.3 with a second touchdown pass. With a third, something he did in four of his ten starts, it goes up to 149. So while Trask indeed was a bit off, he wasn’t drastically so in the end.
Perkins impressed me with his ability to avoid rushers. UF’s pass rush this year always was a bit imprecise unless someone had a free path from the blind side, and that allowed Perkins to extend plays. He really leaned on just four receivers, which was reminiscent of Joe Burrow only targeting four players in LSU’s game against UF. The size of Hasise Dubois reminded me some of UK’s Ahmad Wagner, and Perkins exploited the mismatch against some of Florida’s smaller DBs better than Sawyer Smith did.
The receiving story was seniors and Pitts, as the younger targets had a low aggregate catch rate and didn’t do a whole lot. It is a little disappointing to see Josh Hammond go out without so much as a single target in his final game, but the story of this year’s wide receiver room was unselfishness.
Perine having a sub-40% success rate despite 10.6 yards per carry should tell you he was boom-or-bust on the night. Indeed he was with four carries of 10+ yards, including his 61-yarder, and none of his other carries going for more than four yards. Pierce showed some good escapability that he hasn’t always had, while the quarterback runs were fruitful as usual.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
The average starting position surprised me to see, but then I remembered that there weren’t a lot of possessions in this game (more on that below). Three starting spots determined the entire difference: UVA’s pick of Trask to set them up on the UF 34, Tommy Townsend’s bad 28-yard punt that put the Cavaliers on their own 47, and Kaiir Elam’s drive-killing pick that gave UF the ball on its own 3-yard-line.
Take those series out and the average starting position for both teams becomes their own 23.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive where the team has a first down at the opponent’s 40 or closer or where it scores from further out than that. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the opponent’s 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points||Pts./Drive|
Things like a two-play interception drive followed by a one-play touchdown drive and a couple of quick three-and-outs gave this game a few extra possessions. Otherwise, it would’ve been like several other Florida games this year (e.g. Towson, Georgia) where the drive counts for the teams involved were around eight each.
The Gators scored on seven of their ten drives, while the Cavaliers only scored on four of 11. It’s kind of odd since the teams were about even on third down (UF 6-13, UVA 5-13) and didn’t have a ton of fourth down conversions to compensate (UF 2-2, UVA 1-1). As I alluded to above, the difference was Florida’s chunk plays getting them in field goal range several times. The teams each scored four touchdowns. Thanks to a missed two-point conversion attempt, the entirety of the eight-point margin is accounted for in Evan McPherson’s three field goals.
If there’s one thing to take away from this season, it’s that UF’s offense was mostly able to possess the ball and control pace while its defense too often struggled to get off the field quickly. The upshot was a lot of games with low drive counts. There were 19 total possessions in Florida-LSU. There were 16 in the first half alone of LSU-Oklahoma. That’s the 2019 Florida difference.
Florida gifted Virginia a touchdown with a Trask pick and then took one away late with an Elam pick. The teams were even in this respect, though I still think Trask did fumble on the play that was reviewed. I get not overturning the call on the field because the view was obstructed, but that felt a bit legalistic. There was enough there to know the ball was out before his shoulder hit the ground, but I’m not going to belabor the point further.
The Orange Bowl was a microcosm of the whole season for the Gators. There were ups and downs. There were more great plays than avoidable mistakes but both were definitely there. The internal talent gap was on full display, with brilliant performances by guys like Perine and Elam paired with units like the offensive line and safeties that didn’t play so well. And, per usual, the defense was visibly hurt by a key player being missing.
That internal talent difference is another major takeaway from this team for me. Florida gave major some snap counts to players who would’ve been backups on the teams that set The Gator Standard. Some wouldn’t have played outside garbage time. Not to single them out, but it has to be noted here that poor run blocking from the line and tight ends rendered the run game nearly inert in most games.
And yet, Florida won 11 games. With merely a 2-1 record in games decided by one score, it wasn’t a fraudulent 11-win campaign either. The two losses came to teams that’ll finish in at least the top four of the polls, and there were a couple of good wins over Auburn and Virginia. Much of it came with the backup quarterback leading the team too.
The evidence is there for Dan Mullen being a terrific head coach and offensive architect. It’s up to him and his staff to get the roster where it needs to be at every position, but if they can do that, the proof is there that they can do big things.