The Monday Morning Quarterback

It was a solid performance vs. the Hogs, although we have room for improvement. The Gators are still not clicking on all cylinders, but we are getting better.

Let’s start with the defense.  Our defensive captain and Mike LB my sophomore year at Florida (69) was #57, Tom (Sheik) Abdelnour. He was 5-9, 210, but he could bring it and was a great leader. He emailed me a couple times already,  complaining that I don’t talk about the defense enough.

This defense is awesome, leading the SEC in all eight categories.  They stop the run, pressure the quarterback and force turnovers.  One thing I have noticed since last year’s Texas A&M game is the adjustments made at halftime by Coach Muschamp and staff that have shut opponents down.  Saturday night the adjustments were made after the first quarter.  From the second quarter on the D shut down the run and made Arkansas one-dimensional.  They put pressure on Brandon Allen which caused plenty of errant throws.  They allowed only 1.7 yards on first down and had 48% three-and-outs.

Playmakers on Defense: Loucheiz Purifoy sacked the quarterback and caused a fumble, then had that pick six in the second quarter that turned the game in our favor.

Vernon Hargreaves III continues to play like a veteran and combined with #15 (Purifoy) arguably gives us the best two corners in college football.

Mike Taylor (#51) is really coming on at Mike LB allowing us to move #3 Antonio Morrison to SAM.  Taylor made noise with a fumble recovery, tackles for loss and a key pass defense in the Red Zone.

Our front is outstanding even with the loss of Dominique Easely. Dante Fowler continues to impress and leads the team in sacks and TFL’s.  Jon Bullard and Darious Cummings are improving.

However, there were a couple of roughing the passer penalties that could have hurt us against a better team, plus there was an offside that negated a turnover. Those are issues that have to get cleaned up. You can’t keep giving teams extra chances and not expect to pay a price.

I liked it that the defense held Arkansas out of the end zone when time ran out with them inside the UF 10.

This was great defense but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement.

Special teams are hurting us.  We changed kickers when Austin Hardin’s field goal got blocked but the replacement (Brad Phillips) missed a PAT.  You can’t have that.

Kyle Christy averaged 37 yards a punt and shanked one. In a tight game that could have really hurt.

Kickoff coverage is good and I noticed Hargreaves is on the unit. He made a great open field tackle inside the 20.

Our punt returns were bad until the 4th quarter.  Trey Burton let one go rather than fair catch and it rolled to the -5.  We dodged a bullet when the referee said Purifoy didn’t have room when he muffed a punt. Arkansas would have had the ball in the red zone if the official doesn’t know the rule book. They redeemed themselves in the fourth quarter.  Burton had a return of 30 yards and Purifoy another of 15 that set us up in good field position.

Kickoff returns have been average.  We miss #4, Andre Debose.

At halftime we had 0 penalties, but we slipped in the second half, finishing the game with six for 84 yards. Again, do that against a really good team and you pay a price.

Now to the Offense.  The running game struggled all night, especially after Jon Harrison was ejected in the third quarter. Fortunately he won’t be suspended for the 1st half of the LSU game.

The running game mustered only 115 yards on 41 carries, which is just 2.7 yards per rush.  We run a lot of weak side counters and strong side power plays that are very hard to execute and take a lot of time in practice.  On those plays you are blocking down and pulling lineman with a lead back or a tight end and assignments change depending on the defensive front. You can spend a whole week of practice sorting out all the looks you could get on one play.

That’s why a lot of teams have gone to the zone running plays with such frequency. That’s where an offensive lineman usually reach blocks to a gap and takes whatever defender shows up. There’s no pulling; it’s just drop step and go.  The fullback or Y (slot) usually blocks the edge support.

The first time I studied it was when I was offensive coordinator/quarterback coach and play caller at South Carolina in the summer of 1996. I went by the Dallas Cowboys facility and asked if I could come in and study some plays. They graciously allowed me in and set me up in a film room where I watched in awe as Emmitt Smith with fullback Moose Johnson leading ran the inside and outside zones. Emmitt was there and he showed me around, introducing me to everyone and treated me like a champ.  Michael Irving was there working out too.  Emmitt signed a ball for me and I have it today. I took the scheme back to S Carolina where Deuce Staley led the SEC in rushing in 1996.

Solomon Patton made two nice gains on the jet sweep and Tyler Murphy is an excellent runner. Together, they are turning into a lethal combination. Patton is becoming the go to guy in the passing game. Saturday night he was six catches for 124 yards and two TD’s, which is game-changing production. He’s always going to be a threat the way he can run and pick up the yards after a catch.

Trey Burton continues to be a threat in the passing game and Quinton Dunbar is a good target too. I liked the call for a shovel pass that got that fourth quarter touchdown to Valdez Showers which put the game out of reach for the Hogs.

I am impressed with Tyler Murphy’s progress.  His poise, leadership and pocket presence is impressive for a quarterback with such limited experience.  He throws an excellent ball with accuracy and a lot of zip.  He also has touch on passes he has to drop in.  He could be a little quicker with his corner routes but he’s hitting them. The 15-20 crossing routes are passes he needs to put on the upfield hash and on the numbers.

This is impressive – the Gators are 8-8 in the green zone with Tyler at quarterback, which is as good as it gets. You can’t come up empty in that area of the field.

So chalk up another good SEC win for the Gators to go 3-0 in the league. Now comes the stretch run with LSU, Missouri, Georgia, Vandy and South Carolina. Does it get better than this? Our guys should be really pumped because they have their destiny in their own hands. It won’t be easy because LSU and Georgia have dynamic offenses, Missouri is unbeaten and that game’s on the road and then there is South Carolina in Colombia.

So get your motor homes cranked up, your oil changed or your flights reserved. To win the SEC, our guys are going to have to be road warriors.

I like their chances.

John Reaves, QB7

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John Reaves
When he finished his University of Florida playing career in 1971, John Reaves was the most prolific passer in the history of college football. He threw for 7,581 yards in his UF career but he's best remembered for the 70-yard touchdown pass to Carlos Alvarez on the third play of his collegiate career against Houston in 1969. A first team All-American, Reaves played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Bucs, plus three years in the USFL with the Tampa Bay Bandits. He was the quarterback coach at Florida from 1990-94. He's also the father-in-law of former USC coach Lane Kiffin.