In the six quarters possessing the football since the Gators left the field at Neyland Stadium with a 21-3 halftime lead, the Florida offense has run 97 plays for 340 yards. That breaks down to 46-117 rushing with 4 sacks factored in at -20 yards, and 30-51 passing (with one interception) for 223 yards. In real terms that equates to 2.54 yards per rushing attempt, 4.37 yards per pass attempt and 3.505 yards per offensive snap.
If you’re into pointing fingers, you’ll need at least two hands because there is more than enough blame that can be spread in varying amounts to numerous guilty parties. There are way too many problems for a team that is five games into the season and has three SEC games under its belt. The last six quarters are a total embarrassment and for those who say the Gators are completely out of their league now that the competition has intensified, the first half of the Tennessee game counters that argument. The Vols are very, very good – perhaps as good or better than all the preseason hype – yet for a half, the Gators showed what they’re capable of doing against a team whose second stringers would start for any of the other four teams Florida has played.
The Gators certainly have the capability and there is adequate, although not dominant personnel. Jim McElwain inherited a roster built for another coach with other ideas and it will take him at least two more recruiting classes before he can see a two-deep that measures up to the vision he has for Florida’s football future.
Until then, he will need a lot of smoke and mirrors, better luck on the injury front, more players figuring out how to fit into this system and a level of consistency that we haven’t seen since the Gators beat Georgia last season.
There isn’t much McElwain can do about the current personnel issues. This isn’t like the NFL where he can dial up a trade or pick up a free agent to fill a hole. In many cases, he’s trying to fit square pegs into round holes and that won’t change anytime soon, although the level of play has to pick up considerably if the Gators are going to hang around in the SEC Eastern Division race.
The Gators have five games remaining on their SEC slate and there isn’t a one that UF is incapable of winning but to win Mac needs a healthy Luke Del Rio, who gives the offense a better chance at operating at a more consistent level. Del Rio isn’t the second coming of Rex Grossman, but in many ways he’s a step above the other QBs who have taken snaps at UF since Timmy Tebow and his flying circus rode off into the sunset. Del Rio knows where to go with the ball whether he’s got a clean pocket or under duress and he’s shown the ability to make the right reads and checkdowns, which we haven’t seen in the last six quarters.
What’s happened since midway through the Tennessee game isn’t all Austin Appleby’s fault although it’s quite obvious he locks too quickly onto one receiver and never sees open receivers who could move the chains or run for big yardage. It is also evident that Appleby isn’t completely comfortable in this offensive scheme, otherwise he wouldn’t have so many overthrows or underthrows of open receivers. Probably 90% of all over- and underthrows have everything to do with a QB panicking. Compared to Treon Harris, Appleby is certainly a step up in quality, but just as Treon wasn’t near the quarterback Will Grier was, you don’t have to be a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist to figure out that Appleby isn’t in the same league with Luke Del Rio.
For Florida to have a chance to stay in the run for the SEC East, Mac will also have to inspire better play from his offensive line. Injuries certainly haven’t helped so you can point a finger at personnel-related issues and claim that’s part of the problem. Part of the problem, however, doesn’t explain the last six quarters. To be more specific, someone needs to do a decent job of explaining Vanderbilt.
This is the same Vanderbilt’s D-line was sliced and diced on the ground by both Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky, the same one that had 3 sacks and 3 quarterback hurries in the first four games. Against Florida, you would have thought Derek Mason reincarnated Doomsday or The Steel Curtain. Florida couldn’t run the ball with any consistency and Appleby spent a good portion of the game in his feets don’t fail me now mode. You expect lockdown by the Tennessee defense considering the number of future NFL studs that dot their roster, but how does that explain Vanderbilt?
Was it coaching? Was it personnel? Was it a combo of both and if so was it more personnel than coaching or the other way around?
If Vandy can stick it to Florida like that, it’s scary to think about LSU coming to town Saturday. LSU is coming off a game with Mizzou in which a 400-yard passing attack was held to 188 and the running game generated only 77 yards. LSU didn’t blitz but spent most of the game in a 3-3-5. Missouri managed 4.5 yards per pass attempt and 3.5 per rush.
Florida cannot beat LSU averaging 2.54 yards per rush and 4.37 per pass attempt. Those are kind of numbers we saw the last six games of the 2015 season and when the Gators finished 3-3 and were within a whisker here and there of losing all six games. No one has to remind Jim McElwain what happened last year, just as no one needs to remind him that the Gators appear to have their wheels stuck in those same ruts this season.
It’s midseason and if the Gators are going to adjust the time is now. If they don’t adjust it’s going to be a long seven games.
COACHES TOP 25 POLL
(SEC teams in bold face)
1. Alabama (5-0)
2. Ohio State (4-0)
3. Clemson (5-0)
4. Michigan (5-0)
5. Houston (5-0)
6. Washington (5-0)
7. Texas A&M (5-0)
8. Louisville (4-1)
9. Tennessee (5-0)
10. Miami (4-0)
11. Baylor (5-0)
12. Nebraska (5-0)
13. Wisconsin (4-1)
14. Ole Miss (3-2)
15. Stanford (3-1)
16. North Carolina (4-1)
17. Arkansas (4-1)
18. FLORIDA (4-1)
19. Boise State (4-0)
20. West Virginia (4-0)
21. Florida State (3-2)
22. Oklahoma (2-2)
23. Colorado (4-1)
24. Utah (4-1)
25. Western Michigan (5-0)
In each of Tennessee’s four losses last year, the Vols lost the lead in the fourth quarter. That’s quite the opposite of 2016 where Tennessee has trailed by at least 10 points in the first half of all five wins. If Heisman Trophies were won simply by fourth quarter production, the undisputed leader in the clubhouse would be Joshua Dobbs, who almost willed the Vols past Georgia Saturday. His game winning Hail Mary pass to Jauan Jennings on the final play of Tennessee’s 34-31 win over Georgia is the kind of play that looks very good on a Heisman resume. If the Vols keep winning and needing Dobbs to come up big in the fourth quarter, it might be difficult to keep him off the Heisman podium.
This Tennessee team is starting to take on a personality similar to the Vols’ 1998 national championship team, which went 13-0 and was famous for its great escapes.
Has there ever been a weekend with three more incredible finishes? North Carolina got a 54-yard field goal on the last play to knock off Florida State in Tallahassee, 37-35. Then the Vols got the Hail Mary from Dobbs to Jennings to beat Georgia, 34-31, and that was after Georgia went ahead 31-28, with just 10 seconds remaining. Finally, there was Clemson’s 42-36 win over Louisville, a game that Louisville might have won if its receiver had cut inside instead of trying to make it out of bounds.
I came away with the following conclusions:
1. Florida State could lose 4-5 games this year.
2. Larry Fedora is a brilliant offensive mind. Someone (probably Baylor) is going to offer him nearly double the $3 million UNC pays him.
3. If the Vols manage to beat the Aggies on the road and Bama at home in the next two weeks, they will make the College Football Playoff.
4. Lamar Jackson is going to make people forget there was ever such a QB as Michael Vick.
TROUBLE RIGHT HERE IN RIVER CITY
After this weekend, these coaches are wondering when the hammer is going to drop:
1. Charlie Strong, Texas: When word gets out that they won’t fire you at midseason, it’s akin to saying “you either win seven of your last eight games or you’re gone as soon as the regular season ends.” The loss to Oklahoma State won’t seal Charlie’s fate but if Oklahoma blows the doors off the Longhorns this week he might need to be sending out his resume. Texas was willing to offer Nick Saban $100 million three years ago. Would they offer a deal like that to land Houston’s Tom Herman?
2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon: The Ducks lost for the second straight year to Washington State. They are 2-3 and the schedule still includes Washington, Stanford and Utah. The fact that Helfrich is playing a second straight year with a 5th-year grad transfer QB from D1AA should tell you why he won’t be gainfully employed in December. Meanwhile, former Oregon OC Scott Frost has the folks at UCF believing. Oregon needs to move in a hurry.
3. James Franklin, Penn State: AD Sandy Barbour can tell everyone that Franklin is going to be the head coach next year until he’s blue in the face, but the people who donate the money aren’t buying. Penn State boosters don’t donate to a program whose coach loses to Minnesota. Ohio State and Michigan State are still on a schedule that has 6-6 written all over it.
Sunday marked the end of the road for two of the great sports broadcasters of all time. Vin Scully closed out his 60-year career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Dick Enberg, who was the first to make “Oh my!” a signature line, finished things out as the play-by-play man for the San Diego Padres. There will never be two like them.
Maybe it is just my imagination but the Dallas Cowboys seem to play a lot better for Dak Prescott than they do for Tony Romo. It is not my imagination that Jameis Winston has stunk it up the last three games.
I’m not sure whose officials are worse: the ACC or the Big 12. They’re so bad I’m almost starting to think the SEC officials are reasonably competent.
Of all the teams contending for those four College Football Playoff berths, Ohio State is scariest. The Buckeyes are freshman and sophomore dominated and they are only going to get better. Where they’ve come in one month is mind blowing. Where Urban will have them in another four weeks is beyond imagination.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Were you watching football, the Ryder Cup or just finding something else to do on your Sunday afternoon?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Hard Working Americans is a band made up of Todd Snider, Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Neal Casal (Chris Robinson Brotherhood)m Chad Staehli of Great American Taxi and Duane Trucks (Derek’s younger bro). Formed in 2013, the band has put out two outstanding albums including their May release “Rest in Chaos.” Today’s music is an August concert at Lockn Festival.