Against the team that 11th in the Sec in yards allowed, the Florida Gators mustered just 236. A Vanderbilt offense that is ranked 13th in the SEC had more offense than the Gators accumulating 265 on the day.
I am sure Florida head coach Jim McElwain will say it a few times this week, just like he did last week. The offense is going to have to do more to help the defense than they were doing on Saturday.
There was a table set for the upset in Nashville. The Gators, a 10 point underdog won by seven, but there were several personnel issues the Gators were facing to make this a much more uncomfortable outing.
The Gators entered the contest with three starting defensive linemen out. Bryan Cox didn’t start the game or play much for unnamed reasons. Joey Ivie will miss 4-5 weeks because of an injured finger. Jordan Sherit was hurt and missed the game and the trip entirely.
There was confusion up front because of all of the losses and that helped keep the Gator defense on the field. Give the guys credit, they bent a few times and never broke keeping the Commodores out of the end zone. If they weren’t on the field so much because of the short period of time the Gator offense spent, their play may have looked much better.
So this comes back to the offense, something we have seen around here for many moons as an issue. And, as the title of this piece says, it is sometimes hard to watch.
In the chat room I think the common theme among fans was that the offense was unimaginative, too predictable, and lacked an attacking mentality. I don’t necessarily agree.
The issues as they have all year and as we said they would be start up front. They don’t end there, because you have a backup quarterback in Austin Appleby that isn’t as versed in the offense as starter Luke Del Rio and so getting this offense out of bad play calls isn’t going to come as often as it should.
Appleby started slow. He was off on his early passes and then finally settled down a bit. He missed two possible touchdown passes with receivers that were basically uncovered. One of those he overthrew trying to get it to the right guy, the other was a shorter pass to Antonio Callaway where he just missed him right in front of him. The fumbled snap as they were going into the end zone didn’t help either at the end of the game.
Back to that offensive line… it needs to get better, absolutely. Vandy has a way of making you play ugly anyway, but this group has some real deficiencies (that we knew of coming in) and I think they need help.
Too many times the offense seems to leave the line in one-on-one situations in pass protection. People want to say, ‘well it is Vandy’, and I get it, but even Vandy has a player or two that can make a big difference. In the first half, that man was Adam Butler. He may play for Vanderbilt, but he is one guy that will play on Sundays.
Butler had two tackles for loss, a sack, and tackle for no gain in the first half. He was a terror when he wasn’t making the stat line as well. In the second half, the offense made adjustments on Butler and he had one tackle for a two yard gain.
I am not going to point out who I think should be a featured back, but I do think they need to whittle down the four-headed monster to just two. Jordan Scarlett again looked like the guy in the first half and then we didn’t see him in the first two series of the second half. On a day when the Gators rushed for just 94 yards, Scarlett had 55 of them on a 4.6 yard average and had the longest run of 28 yards.
Again, I am not saying he needs to be the guy, but we saw late in the game where Mark Thompson was running the ball. He finished will 11 yards on 7 carries.
The issues above were the main culprits regarding personnel, but certainly not the only culprits. Dropped passes were an issue again. But for the most part the receivers did their job.
I do think and hope that the staff learned something when they went hurry up on offense and drove the field very quickly. This was when the score was 10-3 and very much in doubt and so the Vanderbilt defense was playing straight up. I believe the drive finally stalled when it appeared Scarlett was banged up on a run near the goal line. They probably should have taken him out there, but he should have taken himself out, especially when he was about to get the ball again.
The hurry up was effective. I don’t know if it was because the defense was caught flat footed, or if running the original play that was called was something that the offense needed to just be doing all along.
They also started helping the offensive line in protection late in the game. That has to happen with this group in my opinion. The Gators have targets that can get open deep. You have to give the quarterback time to do that.
In the end, the object of the game is to win. The Gators did that. They have a ton of work to do and now with a really banged up defensive line, that job has gotten a good deal harder. Hopefully they take a cue from a few things that worked on Saturday and help that defense out. They have a much more grizzled and talented group coming into Gainesville next week.