That was fun, wasn’t it? Well, most of it. Florida’s offense came to play and dropped half a hundred on the road in an SEC and season opener. I can’t imagine we’ll be able to say that too many more times, so enjoy it while you can.
And the defense also attended the game! I kid, I kid. It was not the best defensive performance of the year — it better not be, anyway — but there are some things to learn from all over a barn burner of a Game 1.
This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays. I removed Jerrion Ealy’s run that was the only play on the drive that closed out the first half.
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.|
So look. Florida had the edge in explosive run rate, and four different players logged the four explosive runs. It wasn’t that one guy had the Rebels’ number here. That’s good.
What’s not good is almost one of every five Ole Miss drop backs resulting in a gain of 20+ yards. Matt Corral had all those explosive passes, and he dropped back 35 times (31 attempts, four sacks). Focus on him alone and it was exactly one in five passes going for 20+ yards.
Now, cut out the screens and dump offs to running backs and gadget plays that targeted John Rhys Plumlee. We get 28 drop backs for Corral where he either got sacked or targeted a receiver or tight end. One out of four of those plays went for 20+ yards.
This kind of thing is how Corral got to 12.7 yards per attempt and put up a higher passing efficiency than Kyle Trask did despite throwing a pick and half as many touchdowns. Big plays in the passing game were a huge, huge deal.
After publishing this piece originally, I decided to change the explosiveness definition to runs of 12+ yards and passes of 16+ yards. Others in the analytics community seem to be standardizing on those values, so I’ll use them going forward.
In addition to changing the yards, for the percentages I’m factoring out plays where the field position doesn’t allow an explosive gain. So, pass plays inside the opponent’s 15-yard-line and runs inside the opponent’s 11-yard-line aren’t included in the denominators. Here is the explosiveness table with the new adjustments.
|Team||Runs 12+||Pct.||Passes 16+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
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|
Even as Florida wasn’t as explosive through the air as Ole Miss was, the Gators were right there efficiency-wise. The flip side is that for as many fewer points that the Rebels put up, they still moved the ball about as freely. UF’s defense was able to provide resistance when it counted more often, and that shows up in the red zone figures there.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
These numbers aren’t exactly as explanatory as I’d like, but it was a wonky game in some ways. For instance, the Rebels’ last two drives of the second quarter had four successes in seven combined plays. Third down wasn’t a success down either time, though, so a high success rate went down as a four-play punt series and a three-and-out.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Trask was stellar in his first outing of the year, showing a real command of the offense. He could’ve had three more completions than he did if not for good plays by defenders to break up passes. He still had his requisite couple of passes that were closer to being picked off than complete, but that’s mostly nitpicking. Ole Miss offered him a tasty buffet of options, and he ate.
Florida never got Corral under control. He’s a good quarterback — the McElwain staff recruited him hard and maintained his commitment for a reason — and he had good options to throw to. As good as this performance was, I’m glad he didn’t have more practice time in Lane Kiffin’s offense. As Mullen noted after the game, Kiffin is a master at getting favorable matchups. Corral took full advantage.
I’m still not sure what the plan is with Jones. He’s continues to run three or four plays in a row at seemingly random times before disappearing. I’m glad he got a chance to run a couple more plays after his horrible decision to loft a rainbow into the defense on his first pass, but I don’t get the overarching plan. Yes, he offers quarterback run options. However, Trask played so well that I just don’t see the point.
The run game was better, hallelujah. If you dig into some of the numbers, it wasn’t worlds better. Davis’s 23-yard run propped up his yards per carry rate in a game where he ran into more walls than holes. Wright only ran into walls.
Pierce is your true RB1 for now, and Toney can make even more magic now that he has considerable strength to go with his balance and shiftiness. And Trask is playing so well that the run needs only to exist just enough to keep the passing game flowing.
|John Rhys Plumlee||4||1.0||50.0%|
This is a bit where the game analysis gets weird. Ealy was clearly one of the better offensive players, but he had only one explosive run and got just four yards per carry. His high success rate despite his low YPC rate tells you something about how Kiffin was using his run game. Plumlee basically was a non-factor, which is something you definitely would take going in.
Corral getting a lot of free space to scramble was like watching a better version of Towson’s Tom Flacco from a year ago. I think the Florida defense never really believed he would run much, so it just about never accounted for him (particularly when rushing three and dropping eight on 3rd-and-long). Against an offense with more game tape to watch, which from here on out will be all of them, UF’s defense shouldn’t get caught so flat-footed.
Pitts was an uncoverable monster. He should cruise to the Mackey Award and the top half of the first round of the draft with performances like this one.
The first string receivers of Toney, Grimes, and Copeland were way ahead of the second line of Shorter, Whittemore, and Henderson. Play choice had a little to do with it, but not everything. To wit:
|1st string WRs||16||11||162||10.1||62.5%|
|2nd string WRs||11||6||43||3.9||27.3%|
Ole Miss’s often poor defense made this not matter a lot, but that’s a wide gap. If the receivers are going to rotate as much as they did on Saturday, the second string guys need to do more than that.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
|Ole Miss||Own 26||36||46.8%|
Two of the three yards’ difference in average starting position is entirely accounted for by the short field from the onside kick at the end. Otherwise, this phase was basically even.
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|
When the Gators didn’t give up an explosive gain, they got stops. That’s more or less the difference here. Ole Miss only stymied the UF offense enough to force a punt once. Beyond that, Trask engineered drives long enough that at least Evan McPherson could attempt a field goal if the ball didn’t make the end zone.
The teams had an interception each. Ole Miss turned it over on downs on its first drive, though, but it sort of made up for it by recovering the onside kick. Those latter two things aren’t technically turnovers, but they play that kind of role.
Florida didn’t know what to do with Ole Miss because its upper coaching staff had never worked together. It ultimately meant there were some capital-I Issues that the Rebels couldn’t overcome, but it also meant that UF was reacting more than forcing the issue.
The Gators played long rotations of players, especially on defense, which is necessary in 2020. You never know when someone is going to miss a game due to a positive test or contact tracing. Sure, your true freshman safety might have some coverage busts, but better to have him experience his baptism by fire against a team with no demonstrated hope of stopping the Gator offense.
The ceiling of the 2020 Gators is higher than what you saw on Saturday. A full-strength defense won’t struggle as much, and shorter rotations everywhere in which the first string play more snaps would generally raise the average level of play. But again: this is a year where getting as many players some experience is more important than ever.
UF got away with some things in this one, both in terms of not playing up to full potential and making personnel decisions that weren’t going to maximize the final margin. Even so, the Gators cruised to victory behind a nearly unstoppable offense.
There are areas that need improvement, but that’s always the case after an opener. It wasn’t a clean romp, but the outcome was never truly in doubt. Florida got what it needed from this game, and now it’s on to the next one.