It was ugly, but it’s a win. That’s what I’ve been hearing anyways. A 13-6 win for the Florida Gators football team over Vanderbilt just does not feel good, but close games with the Commodores have come to be a pretty common occurrence for the Gators over the last few years. For some reason, Vandy almost always catches Florida in an ugly game.
The wins and losses for this game were very clear, with only a few real positive things to take away.
The Gators have a lot to work on this week after the performances they have given in their last six quarters of play. It is hard to get in the right mindset for a noon kickoff on the road, but Florida has shown no energy or sense of urgency since the first half of the Tennessee game.
LOSS #1: Austin Appleby looked very much like a backup quarterback
Appleby did everything and more than what could’ve been asked of him against Tennessee. He did have his issues, as all backup quarterbacks would in their first game as a starter, but for the most part he did his job. It’s like something happened this week. Maybe he lost all of his confidence after surely hearing chatter all week that the Tennessee loss was his fault, when in reality it wasn’t. Or maybe he just isn’t as capable as he appeared. Whatever the case may be, he barely got the job done against Vandy and the Gators need Luke Del Rio back, bad. Appleby was inaccurate all day long. He found who he wanted to throw it to, and that’s where he was going to throw it, which led to him throwing into coverage and missing too many wide open receivers to count.
When it comes down to it, Appleby did get the win against Vanderbilt and he gave the Gators a chance to win at Tennessee, but it’s time to get Del Rio back in action. If Del Rio can walk, then he needs to be out there for Florida to have success against LSU.
LOSS #2: The running back rotation needs to go
It worked for a little while, but now it is time for Florida to throw the running back rotation in the garbage and get the best guys out there running the football. It is painfully obvious who the best running back is, and it is Jordan Scarlett. He is one of the toughest guys on the field and refuses to go down, that’s what the Gators need out there. While he did get more carries than anyone else, he still only carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards. He should be carrying it at least 20 times a game.
Lamical Perine should be the next guy behind him to give him some rest throughout the game, then Jordan Cronkrite is a good third down option. I’m not sure where or if Mark Thompson fits into the picture anywhere. He’s just not getting the job done. Thompson is a power back, but the Gators don’t use him like one. He is not a guy who’s going to run outside and pick up a bunch of yards, he’s a guy who can run up the middle and pick up a few tough yards. If he isn’t going to be used like that, he should not be used at all.
There is just no place for this running back rotation anymore and it is time to realize that. McElwain said after the game that they all do good things in spurts. While that might be true, Scarlett does good things consistently and this should be his job to lose moving forward.
LOSS #3: Offensive line play is horrendous
Again and again, this is in the losses column. It’s becoming a little tiresome to talk about, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. The offensive line got pushed around, again. Appleby went down twice and the running backs were given no chance.
Something has got to change. There is no way around it, the offensive line is not improving week to week like they should. It is going to continue to be a loss every single week until some kind of change is made.
LOSS #4: The defensive line has taken a step back
This defensive line was supposed to be one of the best, if not the best, in the country this year. It started out that way, but lately their play has been slipping. While there were a few injuries, there is still no reason Vanderbilt’s offense should have their way with Florida’s defense. Vandy accumulated 147 yards on the ground in the game, 110 of those yard belonged to Ralph Webb. He absolutely ran it down Florida’s throat.
We have seen what the defensive line is capable of, so it is not time to freak out just yet, but there is a lot of work to be done before LSU comes to town. Leonard Fournette will likely be back for the Tigers, and if the Gators play like they did on Saturday, he could have a career game. Florida just has to find a way to stop the run against LSU and all should be fine.
The game itself wasn’t pretty, but a few players and positions did quietly have a good game and probably saved the game from being even uglier.
WIN #1: Jordan Scarlett
I already mentioned him above, but I’ll say it again, he is good and deserves to be the number one running back. He made the most of every one of his 12 carries in the Vanderbilt game. Scarlett scored Florida’s only touchdown of the day in the second quarter, and then did not return again until the fourth quarter. Not sure what the thought process behind that was.
WIN #2: Johnny Townsend
Johnny Townsend has had a part in saving a lot of games throughout his career at Florida, and arguably he did it again against Vanderbilt. The Gators lost the field position battle against Tennessee, but Townsend helped win it for Florida this week. Townsend averaged 51.9 yards per punt on Saturday, putting Vandy’s average starting field position at the 14-yard line.
A lot of Florida’s success is based on winning the field position battle. Until the Gators can find more offensive success, good field position will be a huge factor for the defense to keep Florida in the games.
WIN #3: The secondary and linebackers
Florida’s defensive line didn’t come to play on Saturday, but the secondary and linebackers made improvements after an abysmal game (especially from the secondary) against Tennessee. Jarrad Davis was the player of the game, with 15 total tackles and three pass breakups, one of which led to the interception by Nick Washington that sealed the game for the Gators. Florida only allowed 118 yards passing, with only 12 completed passes on the day, after giving up 319 passing yards to Tennessee a week ago. The dynamic duo of Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor had a pretty good day, as Wilson picked up a sack with a huge hit on Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur, while Tabor picked up his third interception of the season.
Pass defense will be important against LSU, but it is even more important for the defensive line to get things back together this week and improve on run defense. It is promising that the back half of the defense made improvements in week five.