For the third time in four weeks, Florida scored a lot of points in a big win that nonetheless has people wondering afterwards just how good the team actually is. With Charleston Southern being an FCS team, Colorado State just having lost at home to an FCS team, and Tennessee losing its two games against Power 5 competition by 26 points each, it’s still an open question.
I don’t have a good answer for you on that, but I can show you what the numbers had to say about the Gators’ win in Knoxville.
This review is based on Bill Connelly’s Five Factors of winning, and sacks are counted as pass plays. Unless otherwise specified, the figures below do not include anything past when the game went into garbage time by the Football Outsiders definition, which, amazingly, was halftime.
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.|
The Gators’ offensive line had one of its best days yet, and that helped spring some longer runs. This is the best explosive run rate in non-garbage time this season, including the game against Charleston Southern.
This also happens to be the highest percentage of explosive passes by a slight margin over the opener, though Franks hit on three passes of 20+ yards on the Buccaneers versus two on the Vols. Dan Mullen finally called runs and passes in roughly equal proportion instead of using the pass a lot more, so the explosiveness rate went up even as the absolute number of big plays through the air fell.
Allowing the three long pass plays — including one on 3rd & 7 and the other on 4th & 1 — is simply the Todd Grantham experience. That’s just going to happen.
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|
Florida’s success rates are barely better than what they were against Kentucky. The Gators compensated for merely average efficiency by becoming more explosive. They only had one long, sustained drive before halftime, the eight play, 66 yard field goal drive shortly before intermission. Other than that, the offense either took advantage of short fields or hit on a 65-yard touchdown pass to score.
This is easily the least efficient that Tennessee’s offense has been this year against FBS competition. Even while the Vols were losing to West Virginia, they still had a pre-garbage time success rate of 49% overall (48.4% rushing, 50% passing). UT only had two decent drives and were quickly off the field otherwise, but they still had those two good drives. Tennessee had no more than two first downs on any of their first half drives against the Gators.
I will note that this was the first time all season in which an opposing offense got into the red zone against Florida’s defense before garbage time. The reason for that lack of red zone plays is that the defense has a knack of stalling opponents out just before it, and otherwise, they’ve given up big-play touchdowns.
Lamical Perine’s fumble was the culprit here, setting up the Vols on UF’s 34-yard-line. They managed to get off two plays inside the Gators’ 20, one a success and one not before a field goal attempt. The only other close call was classic 2018 Florida defense: UT drove down to the Gators’ 23-yard-line before fumbling it away. UK similarly got down to the UF 33 and UF 22 on separate drives before turning it over, while Colorado State in the first half twice got inside the UF 30 before stalling out prior to entering the red zone and attempting field goals.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR|
This game was the first all year when Florida had a better first quarter than second. Franks was the driver of the second quarter inefficiency, as six of the ten non-success plays in that frame were incompletions and a seventh was a rush by him.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
A masterpiece of quarterbacking, this game was not. Franks still came out with a monster passing efficiency thanks to a high yards per completion rate, a pair of first-half touchdowns, and no picks despite completing under half his throws. He wasn’t outstanding, but his long touchdown pass involved some good work by him to buy time for Swain to get open even if the receiver did most of the work in those 65 yards.
This was by far Guarantano’s lowest completion rate and success rate in a single game, and a substantial portion of that was good coverage from the defense. Yes, there still were those three explosive completions that pushed Guarantano’s yards per attempt rate up, but overall this was a pretty good game for the pass defense. Really.
Notice anyone missing? Van Jefferson did have a first-half catch nullified by penalty, but otherwise, Tennessee focused on him and kept Franks from even targeting him.
That helped free up Swain, who might just be Florida’s best receiver and playmaker at this point. He already led the top tier of receivers in catch rate, yards per target, and yards per catch. This game only increased his lead in each category.
Cleveland continues to be something of an enigma. He showed his value on his tough touchdown catch in the second half, but Franks is having a devil of a time getting him the ball. Cleveland only caught five of 12 targets (41.6%) going into this one, and he only caught two of five (40%) in the whole game.
Some of it is a pair of drops on the year and others are bad throws by Franks, but Cleveland is now tied with Jefferson for most targets on the team and has only caught 41% of them. UF can’t afford to have one of its two primary receivers catching under half of his targets regardless of the mix of fault to be applied.
This felt like Scarlett’s best game — and it was easily by yards per carry — but some questionable run calls (2nd & 17, 3rd & 6) kept his success rate down. The answer to what happens with Malik Davis out is that Scarlett and Perine take the meaningful carries without a third back mixing in.
Dameon Pierce did get a couple of third quarter carries, at least. He ran for two yards on each of them. He still got his customary late long touchdown, but when he got a chance with the opposing first team defense in and expecting run (UF was backed up at its own 18 to start the drive), he was basically no different than what the other running backs have done in similar situations.
And no, I don’t have a good answer as to why Toney didn’t get more than one carry and one pass target. Nor that Trevon Grimes also had only one pass target and that it once again didn’t come until after the half.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
Just as you’d expect, Florida dominated field position thanks to turnovers.
Tennessee was able to pull within 20 in the third quarter thanks to field position flipping. Mullen went conservative on consecutive drives that started on UF’s own 13, 17, and 18-yard-lines, and all of them were three-and-outs. That 10-0 run was Tennessee’s best stretch of the game, and field position was a major factor in it.
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|
The Gators got points on all of their scoring opportunities and red zone trips, so that’s a good sign. They still only turned half of their drives into scoring opportunities, though, so you’d like to see that go up in future games.
These were the story of the game, with Tennessee turning it over six total times to Florida’s one. The Vols also turned it over on downs in the first half, and the safety they took is like a turnover only worse since it gifted UF two points.
The Gators got 26 points off of Tennessee turnovers including that safety, and 26 happened to be the margin of victory. That’s something of a coincidence, but it’s also entirely appropriate.
Florida continues to go forward in fits and starts. The first half offense was only slightly more efficient than it was against Kentucky, but it made up for it by being its most explosive so far this year. The defense held Tennessee to easily its least efficient performance, but it also allowed too many explosive plays.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Gators is that when Tennessee tried to give the game away in the first half, Florida took it.
UT miscues set the Gators up on the Vols’ 21 and 7-yard-lines early. Florida turned those opportunities into touchdowns. Tennessee went drastically and obviously conservative with the run when backed up on its own goal line, and the defense got the safety UT was practically asking for them to get. When Tennessee fumbled away the opening kick of the second half, Scarlett wasted no time in running it in on the first play from 19 yards out.
It isn’t hard to imagine this game going very differently with the prior two coaching staffs. Those early touchdowns might’ve only been field goal attempts after ultraconservative play calling designed to ensure that they don’t lose the chance to score points of any kind rather than striving for the end zone.
Maybe the halftime score would’ve only been 12-3 instead of 23-3, and poor attention to detail on special teams might’ve led Tennessee to keep the ball after the fumbled kickoff. The Vols might’ve then taken their second chance at life and driven down for a score, somewhat if not almost entirely erasing the Gators’ small buffer built up from the first half. The run of bad field position luck and the resulting 10-0 run would’ve given the Vols the lead, at which point the Florida offense likely would’ve seized up in anxiety and maybe not generated points again.
Instead, Florida scored the most it ever has in Neyland Stadium. No, it wasn’t pretty at all times. Yes, they got a lot of help from the home team. However, they took advantage of most of the opportunities given to them and put the game away in convincing fashion.
If that doesn’t count as progress over the last seven years, I don’t know what does.