The Gators gained 227 total yards in the third quarter, 170 yards rushing and 57 yards passing. UF averaged 15.1 yards on 15 plays in the quarter. They had a string of four plays in the quarter where they totaled 150 yards.
Florida had four touchdown drives of three plays or less.
The Gators rushed for a season-high 336 yards – its highest total against Tennessee since 1977 (370). UF averaged 7.8 yards per rush on 43 attempts and scored two rushing touchdowns. While trying to figure some things out in the first half and seemingly get Gillislee warmed up enough to do some things in the first half, the Gators played very well in most every aspect of offense on Saturday. The lone exception is on 2nd or 3rd and short. I will go through all the things that went well and a few things that didn't through the individual positions but I wanted to touch on the rushing game and the short yardage as an aside and at the beginning.
For the most part, they used two main types of runs and they got most of their yards on big plays using the two running styles, schemes or whatever you want to call them.
The wide COUNTER seems to be the running play of choice with this offense. In the wide counter, the play is run to one of the tackle spots along the line of scrimmage. The opposite guard pulls to that point and in the direction of the play, while the play side guard and tackle in this instance pushes in the opposite direction with the center trying to block everything away from the play side as well. The play side tackle will allow the play side defensive end free. In the counter we get a direct handoff and the back is supposed to hit the hole hard following the back side guard through the hole. It is a power running play bringing one of your heavy handed blockers right to the point of attack to help block the traffic at that spot. The back side guard takes the free defensive end and with momentum should be able to move him right out of the play. This requires the guard be able to first get to that point fast enough and second, have the dexterity and wherewithal to find his man and lay him out if possible. We saw James Wilson do this on Burton's 80 yard TD and Jon Halapio actually took out two defenders on Burton's 14 yard TD run.
The Gators ran this for both rushing touchdowns in the wildcat formation and added a lead blocker to the scenario. When running the quarterback here, he will only have one guy to make miss. However, when the QB is the runner and he has a lead fullback like Hunter Joyer was on Saturday, if everyone hits their assignment, there is no one to make miss and the ‘wildcat' guy should be able to hit that hole unscathed. This happened for two touchdowns.
Down by the goal line they ran a counter three times in a row, but it wasn't a lead and not with the ‘wildcat' so the extra blocker is not there. They also run it more in the traditional sense which is the gap between the play side guard and tackle. On the first play there was 1st and goal at the 9 and Mike Gillislee got 8 yards to the 1. With the space at the 9 and the fact it was first down, everything wasn't as tight and the play was a good one.
Then there were two plays at the one yard line. They ran the same play, but there are couple of issues here that I think are the things that they need to look at when Muschamp says they need to rethink what they are doing. It mainly has to do with so much mass in a very small area on the field. The spacing between linemen is very small as well and even though there is a shorter distance to move, they also have tighter traffic to maneuver and the defenders are also much tighter. To me it just seems they need a faster moving play in those scenarios, at least until the guards get so used to running it they become very adept at hitting their target on the pull.
Just like the first play above, they ran the play later in the game with Gillislee in the middle of the field and Gillislee popped it for 33 yards. In all it is a good play, I just think it is hard to run in such tight quarters as the goal line and when they decide to bunch all 11 guys within the tackle box.
The Zone Run
The other play of choice is the Zone Run and in my opinion it is the play that Gillislee runs the best. Gilly has the ability to plant his foot very hard and head up field and through the hole in a hurry. His 45 yard run was on an inside zone play and I had him for two other runs of 8 and 5 yards in the Zone. That is about half of his rushing yardage on the night.
The thing about the Zone is that I also believe it is more of what the current group of linemen are used to running,. I think at this point in time it is just easier for them. When we run the zone read with the quarterback be it Burton or Driskel at this point, it is just zone blocking up front and something the older linemen have done around here for years. Driskel had a nice 6 yard run in the Zone as well.
Inevitably they want to be more of a power running team and that is running counter, ISO, and the like. The more they run those things, the better they will be. That has been Miuschamp's motto and although I have been fighting the idea myself, I have seen enough success from it along with the times it doesn't work just right, to understand that it will get better with repetitions.
I also believe as I think they do, the short yardage situation they are facing will require a change. One I would suggest is to use the quarterback sneak with a 6-4, 240 pound quarterback with power and strength.
Now a positional look at the game…
Driskel just became one of the biggest nightmares for defensive coordinators in the SEC at the quarterback position. On designed runs and scrambles alike, he had career-high 81 rushing yards on 8 carries for a 10.1 average against Tennessee.
He suddenly added an aspect to his game in the eyes of DC's that they will have to account for that on every play. This will absolutely open up the passing game for the sophomore quarterback.
Key runs for me of course included the last big run at the end of the game where the officials missed him taking four steps out of bounds and then the other time he looked like an ice skater sliding just at the right edge of the field in the first quarter directing traffic to block on a scramble and running for 28 yards. One that showed his quickness and ball skills included a muffed hand off to a crossing receiver and he scoops and gets 10 yards in a blink of an eye. As much as he does play the game like Tebow, he is quicker and faster.
Of course there were others including one time that he should have been sacked and had two defenders wrapped around him in the backfield only to get away and then make a third defender miss on the way to first down and 12 yard gain. He showed great strength and awareness on the play.
We saw four passes from Driskel in the game that we haven't seen from a quarterback in the Orange and Blue since maybe a guy named Rex.
A simple pass and the ‘least' of the top four passes was me was a simple slant pass to Quinton Dunbar. The zip on the pass made it completely indefensible in my opinion and is part of what makes Driskel's skill set so good.
The next pass to me was a 20 yard seam route to Jordan Reed. Again this was all arm strength and quickness of the throw. We found out on Tuesday that Brent Pease didn't even see the rotation of the safeties in the back and questioned Driskel on the throw at the time only to see it on film that he made a great read on the play. Still, to me it was the absolute zip on the play.
The third pass for me was one that no coach would teach the quarterback was still a thing of beauty. The offensive line had two more blitzers than they could block and Driskel with two guys in his face and falling back and throwing off of his back foot. He zips the ball to the corner and into the arms of Jordan Reed who was running to the front corner of the end zone. It was a 23 yard touchdown pass and a throw that again not many quarterbacks can make in that situation.
To me, the pass that should most give DC's a headache was a broken play and Driskel has to drift outside and to his right. On the run he sees Solomon Patton running the same way and throws a dart 17 yards on a dime and right at the sideline for a 17 yard completion. To be able to throw that hard and that accurately on the run is something you don't see every day. He also hit Hunter Joyer early in the game in a similar fashion while on the run.
Those are some throws you look at and just shake your head because you just don't see many quarterbacks being able to make them. But, the thing that Driskel has been trying to shake is the ability to throw the deep ball in a way that is easy for the receiver to catch. We saw one last week with the beautiful corner pass to Omarius Hines for 37 yards against the Aggies. Against the Vols it came in the form of a wheel route on the sideline to Trey Burton who caught it and finished with 32 yards on the play. He hit burton in perfect stride and a beautiful easy to catch ball.
All of that and Driskel wasn't perfect. He got away with a couple that he threw deep and into traffic early in the game. Both were because he was being blitzed and didn't want to take a sack. He has to find a receiver near the sideline to throw it out of bounds in that scenario. He got away without a sack on the one run mentioned above because of his physical ability, but that isn't going to happen like that very often.
I think another major thing we saw Saturday was the vision and intelligence that Driskel showed on a few plays. Not only did he seem to tuck and run or throw it away at the right time almost every single time, both of his touchdown throws were done with really heavy pressure and him able to dish out tough passes under duress because he knew exactly where to go.
In all it was an unbelievable night by the sophomore and he earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his play in the game. The improvement from the week before is just amazing and I don't think the talent differential between the two defenses was that different.
Running Backs and H-Backs (Wildcat)
Mike Gillislee continues to roll for the Gators. He rushed for 115 yards on 18 carries (6.4 avg.) – the second 100-yard effort of his career and of the season (148, Bowling Green).
Nobody can question Gilly's heart, the kid plays hurt and at times you would never know it. In three games I may have seen him miss a pass protection or two, but can't find any other fault with his game.
As I mentioned above I think he actually runs better with the zone ruins simply because he has great vision and such quick cut and run ability. He has terrific speed and is not afraid to mix it up with anyone.
I think we saw Matt Jones start the game because of Gilly's health, but also ahead of Mack Brown near Florida's own end zone because of his ability as a pass protector. He also evidently worked more in the week on the flubbed reverse play that was fumbled on the first play. By the way, that was a scary spot to run that play in the game.
As far as Jones, I agree with everyone that he doesn't run with authority right now. However, I am a guy that believes he may just have that little hesitation that comes with youth and inexperience and that his aggressiveness will come. He does need improve there.
Mack Brown is a harder runner, but he hasn't done enough on the field to show he deserves any more playing time. I think that time will come, but we just don't know right now.
I had several plays highlighted when I made my notes for this piece and none of them really included Jones or Brown.
I truly believe that Hunter Joyer is the best fullback in the conference. The kid knows who to block and then he follows through. I saw one play where he seemed to miss his assignment on a tight play, but otherwise he shows up every play knocking his man out of the way for a back or someone else to follow him.
We also saw that he can be directed on the run when Burton pointed for him to block on the 29 yard scramble and he also caught his first pass as a Gator on a bullet from Driskel. Again, I think this kid is the best out there and he was the number one fullback out of high school when he came to Florida.
Maybe the one guy that will benefit the most the entire season from Brent Pease being the offensive coordinator is Trey Burton. The thing is Charlie Weis was all about using burton, but he wasn't able to put him in situations to be effective because he became way too predictable. Pease loves the different things Burton can do and he did about all of it Saturday night.
Burton had 91 yards and a touchdown on the ground and 38 yards on two catches in the passing game. He blocks very well in the open field. There are times he seems to hold it too much as a wildcat quarterback, but the results overall are very positive so you have to take it. I think his role in the offense will only diversify even more as the season progresses.
Receivers and Tight Ends
There has been no more scrutinized group on the Florida team for the lack of play makers than the wide receivers over the previous two years. I am as guilty as anyone pointing this out.
This season, while we haven't seen the doors blown off by this group, what we have seen is a few of these guys making plays with almost every chance they get. On Saturday it was more of the same.
It starts with Frankie Hammond who seems to always have at least 3-4 key big blocks in the game. Hammond also now has the two longest pass plays of the season at 50 and 75 yards and we saw the big one Saturday night. Although he has had more drops than anyone, he seems to get better in every game, as the game moves on.
Quinton Dunbar has been the victim of not enough throws to him. He gets open a lot and unnoticed it seems, but when his number is called he has come through. He caught a bullet pass from Driskel on a slant with a defender hanging on him. As slim as he is, Dunbar is also an excellent blocker and does it with tenacity.
Solomon Patton keeps making huge impressions as well. He is the king of the Jet sweep now for Florida and had 34 yards rushing on three and all three were effective. Two were for first downs and the third was important to get the yardage needed for the last field goal. Patton also made the critical catch and first down from a scrambling Driskel, a play where he adlibbed his route in order to give Driskel a target, and caught the ball on a dead run right at the sideline and in bounds.
Andre Debose caught a lot of heat for his fumble on the Gators opening snap, and he should. But, he is doing some good things on the field. He had his own jet Sweep for 8 yards in the game and is a very good blocker, he usually brings it when he matches up with a defender to put him in his place.
I don't know how many folks caught this but both true freshmen receivers Latroy Pittman and Raph Andrades were both on the field on the first series of the second half. Pittman drew the personal foul from Vol defensive back Marsalis Teague, a rookie doing that to a senior. The fact that both guys were on the field at such a huge segment of the game says a lot about them and the fact the staff has the trust in them at this point. It also says a lot about the staff as coaches usually fight putting young guys on the field if they can help it.
Jordan Reed continues to play at a very high level. It was his second game in a row with five receptions and he made the great catch on the touchdown at the corner of the end zone. Reed also caught the bullet of a 20 yard pass on the seam route. We all knew he had the athletic ability to do what he is doing with the ball, we saw it when he played quarterback a couple of years ago. Still, the most impressive thing I have seen him do this year is improve his blocking to where he can actually play on the line of scrimmage and really make a difference.
Not too much criticism on the offensive line when they block for a 336 yard rushing game. The aforementioned issues in short yardage are the main issue and from the sounds of it Muschamp and company may go back to the drawing board because of schematic deficiencies.
Xavier Nixon has had a very good year so far but did have two 15-yard penalties. We can debate the helmet rule until the cows come home, but a guy should be able to pull his helmet off after the play and talk to the officials. That is my opinion on the matter. The other flag was a hands to the face and those things will happen in a physical game like the one on Saturday. By the way the previous penalty was for the very same thing as a defender had their hand inside the helmet of Nixon when he was flagged for the helmet deal.
Props to James Wilson and Jon Halapio who had big nights pulling on all the counter plays. They missed a few, but this is still a relatively new domain for them running the play this much and they made some huge blocks on the night.
Jonotthan Harrison had a tough time early dealing with the massive Daniel McCullers. The 6-6, 370 pound nose guard was able to make some plays early. During one stretch the staff countered with substituting Sam Robey for a couple of plays and they were successful. Over time, the big man wore down and Harrison was able to win the battles late in the game.
Props should also go to Kyle Koehne. He had a couple of penalties, but is normally an inside player and started and played at right tackle the whole night. There were no sacks in the game and the 336 yards rushing means the he and the rest of the group did their job.
Bottom Line on Offense
We have seen a very positive look at the future with the way that Driskel took charge in the game against Tennessee. He was able to make some decisions in changing calls at the line of scrimmage and that will increase as time goes by and he becomes more and more comfortable with the offense. We will also see the speed of this offense in between plays pick up dramatically as Driskel gets more and more comfortable.
One other thing is that I believe he will start having more of a role in the zone read that they usually utilize trey Burton in. Burton will still have his share of that duty, but allowing Driskel to do it just opens up the passing game even more down the road.
We now have seen that he can make all the throws. We knew about the arm strength, but he has shown touch passing in both of the last two games and that complete repertoire is something that will give nightmares to defensive coordinators in the conference down the road.
We just have to remember that he is young and there will be some bumps along the way.
They need to rest Gillislee as much as they can and I know he wants to get that 1500 yards he promised in the preseason. Still, if getting a pro contract was ever a worry, I think the kid has made himself into a high round draft pick or is very close to it. As far as the pros go he needs to be healthy for that. Sit him this week and then the bye and then let him go for LSU.
They definitely need more out of the other running backs, but they are playing and they will grow with experience. Neither had any real college experience coming into the season.
I hope that Dunbar gets his chance to shine soon, he has earned it so far. Every scholarship receiver has played a lot of meaningful downs now except for Stephen Alli. When they are called upon to make plays they have. I think their shots at making plays will be much more often as Driskel grows in the offense.
Jordan reed needs to get the ball at least five times a game as does Trey Burton. Both are money right now.
I know I have been defending the offensive line, but I also believe they need to get tougher and be able to move some of that short yardage mass that is holding them back. I think Muschamp does have it right in keep on keeping on trying to make them tougher, and my mind has changed on that in the last week, but all that goes out the window when it costs them a game.
They aren't kings of any stats really except they are in the top four nationally with only one turnover. The team is also ranked 20th in pass efficiency with Driskel being the main contributor there of course. Gillislee does lead the SEC in rushing at 115 yards per game, a fine stat.
The glaring stat issue to me is the Gators are 111th nationally in 3rd down conversion percentage. That is the issue they must fix on offense.