The Gators came out and seemed to dictate everything to open the game. Aided by a few miscues from the Vols, Florida kept taking advantage, even when the Gators were backed up against their own end zone.
Aggressive play calling on both sides of the ball pushed Florida to the commanding 21-0 lead, taking advantage of dropped passes by the Vols that very well could have made the game close in the beginning if they had been caught.
The Gators were extremely aggressive to start. On the games second play from scrimmage, quarterback Austin Appleby hit Antonio Callaway for a 51 yard reception to the Tennessee four yard line. Three plays later, Appleby hit tight end DeAndre Goolsby for a touchdown that took all of one minute and 25 seconds.
Three series later and Florida hit on a big play again to Callaway for 43 yards. That would be their next scoring series as three plays later and into the second quarter for a 15 yard score.
The Gators other scoring drive in the first half included a 20 yard pass to Callaway and a 36 yard strike to freshman Tyrie Cleveland. The Gators scored two plays later from one yard out.
The Vols scored three points to close the first half; they would get the ball back to start the second. The Gator defense held on three downs. The enigma began there. From that point on it appeared that the Gators sat on the ball.
The Gators wentinto a run first mode that spiraled quickly. They ran all of 11 plays in the third quarter, eight of which were runs. They netted just eight yards
Given some lousy field position and backed against the end zone for a good bit of it, they lost the aggressive nature that they began the game with. The second play of the game was a scripted bomb to Antonio Callaway, we saw something like it three more times in the first half, but the brakes came on with the big lead and it is hard to discern whether that was forced by Tennessee or done purposely.
In all honesty it doesn’t really matter. They are going to be put in situations like this and they are going to have to find their way out of it. They know the limitations up front with the offensive line, and we saw that glaringly in this game with the heat that the Vols were able to provide in the second half.
They have to coach around it.
Defensive letdown of epic proportions?
Honestly I think McElwain is right when in his postgame he put a bit of the defensive drop on the offense. I also believe that Josh Dobbs should get a lot of credit for being one tough guy that can break a lot of tackles.
The Florida defense was certainly flying around early in the game. They helped cause a few miscues of the Vol offense early on. But they seemed to also go vanilla early in the second half, and what it appeared to be willing to sit on a lead.
Then there were times that they went aggressive, got after the quarterback and almost always left the middle of the field uncovered or with no help for slants or passes to the middle of the field. That was a constant from about midway through the second quarter. Over and over again the middle would be vacated and a receiver would find his way there for a big catch. This was my biggest issue with the defense on Saturday.
Again give Dobbs credit for many of the tackles he broke in the game. We saw it last year as well, he has a strong lower body and if you don’t wrap him up, he won’t go down.
I can live with the long touchdown that Jalen Tabor gave up. He is on an island and he slipped, that stuff is going to happen. It won’t happen much for him. I don’t think the staff can live with the personal foul penalties and it seemed we kept getting banged up on defense during the game. Not sure what to do about the latter.
In the end, the difference on defense from first half to second was the fact they were out there a lot more and the ball carriers for Tennessee were running through everything.
I just never saw this form this defense. Especially when they were so rested in the first half, I never thought we would see what we saw, especially in a game that they had circled for a very long time.
Good, Bad, and Ugly
There were some positives to take away. Austin Appleby can play at a high SEC level. He didn’t do it maybe for an entire game, but the conditions he was put under. In his first career start he was 23 of 39 for 296 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. He can really throw the downfield pass where it is easy to catch. With a lot of pressure on the road in a loud place he was sacked just twice and actually netted 24 yards on the day. His interception wasn’t a good one, but at that time he was a guy trying to make something happen for his team.
Can’t fault Antonio Callaway’s offensive performance. He had three explosive catches on the day and his 134 yards has propelled him to 1,000 yards in his career.
Appleby completed six passes of over 20 yards in the game (five in the first half). That has to be one of the top 3-4 games in terms of numbers of explosive pass plays in the last several years.
Getting the big play to Tyrie Cleveland was just a glimpse of what is to come. We have said for a few weeks now that they were going to try and get him the ball, and they did. Look for him to continue to grow in the offense, understanding that he still has a lot to learn in terms of the playbook.
DeAndre Goolsby had a really good game. He caught five passes for 26 yards and a touchdown and he had a few big time blocks.
Jordan Scarlett ran like a boss for most of the day. He ran the ball 10 times for 44 yards, and a touchdown.
Quincy Wilson is probably the guy that stood out the most from start to finish on defense. I don’t remember him having many if anything completed on him or his direction.
I could name the whole defense if it was just the first half.
I will say the opening game plan was a nice piece of work, on both sides of the ball. Stick with it.
I liked the little bit of what we saw from Joseph Putu as well. He was inserted when Tabor was out for a series or two.
I was disappointed in the play of Duke Dawson. Several plays over the middle seemed to be Dawson in man coverage. I say this before really watching game film, but that seemed to be the case. Tabor didn’t have his best day either, despite the interception.
Callaway’s punt returns. The kid is the most explosive punt returner in the country, but they need to take him out when the ball is going to be punted inside the 10 yard line. McElwain said he was right to catch the ball at the eight the one time he did, but twice inside the five yard line was way too much for these old eyes.
The offensive line… the outside on pass plays… the inside on run plays. The outside speed was too much for Sharpe and Taylor on the outside. Only 2 sacks, but Appleby was running for his life a lot. After the first half, the push disappeared in the middle of the line.
Again, I could point to just about everyone on the roster of we were just talking second half, but these are the things that really stuck out to me.
I am going to give all the ugliness in this game to the conservative nature of play calling on both sides of the ball in the second half. The unforgiving part to me is the fact that the aggressive nature of play calling in the first half worked so well, it made no sense in my mind to change that up.
I have already hashed through all of this above, but as much as some of the defensive players need to be humbled by their play and all the talk they had, the staff needs to look in the mirror as well about putting on the brakes.