Leak was off again. He was off in the Kentucky game as well, but wasn't scared to and threw into coverage in that game. In this game, he knew he wasn't going to get away with throwing into coverage a lot. He did have some nice plays and as Coach Zook alluded to yesterday he checked into some good plays and protections at the line of scrimmage. His best throw was of course the long 36 yard Fade route to Bubba Caldwell from deep in Gator territory. Still, he threw behind a lot. He was off target. He sometimes moved out of the pocket when it wasn't necessary, but a lot of this had to do with the LSU defense. They did well disguising their blitzes and making Leak think blitzes were coming and then dropping into zone coverage. They played a lot of Man under, 2 deep safety (2-Man) coverage. That was something they had not done a lot of. Chris did a great job of using his offensive line to protect him.
Ciatrick Fason ran well. I thought the Gators should have utilized him a little more, but hindsight is 20 / 20. We ran inside and outside pretty effectively. The problem came when they did blitz, we ran into it a few times. A Nick Saban coached defense is going to get you some if not more than you can get them.
I have to mention the tight end, because they caught a pass and it was a touchdown. They also continue to block well most of the time. I have to admit that I am in favor of the 4- wide receiver sets myself because of the personnel involved, but maybe the touchdown will be a spark they can use. I must also note that Markell Thompson made the bone headed block in the back on the nice catch and run by Billy Latsko.
The wide receivers did not have a good game. They have played well in all games except this and the Kentucky game in my opinion. Why is that? Both of those teams got in their face and challenged these guys. Arkansas tried to play man a lot but did not do a lot of bumping at the line of scrimmage and really harass our receivers down the field. LSU did not make anything easy for the Gator receivers. They had to work for every play. The Tigers really played well and the young receivers have to fight through that to make life easier for themselves and Leak.
The offensive line continues to be the best unit on the team. The unit that usually gets the least amount of glory certainly has gotten its share of it this year and deservedly so. Lance Butler went down in the second quarter and that may have affected the play calling a little, but it did not affect the execution of the plays that were called. Mo Mitchell stepped into his spot and did a fine job. If I had one major critique of the offensive line, it is the illegal procedure penalties that have added up in the last several weeks. Without going back to check, I don't think the Gators recovered for a first down from one of those since the Tennessee game.
Nobody wants to hear about a young team anymore and at this point only wins are going to heal the wounds of this early season. But, the one thing that youth will rear its ugly head and show is inconsistency. That is the problem this team is having right now, especially on offense. One more drive in that game of any kind, not even a score, just a drive, and the Gators win. One first down at the end, one less dropped catch, one less over thrown ball, it really was that close, and the second time this year.
One of the keys to winning as far as the offensive coaches are concerned are the number of big plays in a game. A big play is described as a run over 12 yards or pass completion over 17 yards. The goal the offense sets for any game is eight. This season the offense has met that goal in every game but the LSU game. They have averaged 10 big plays a game with a high of 11 before the LSU game. That is pretty consistent.
Leak should have looked for his backs more. Yes they went to a man under coverage defense, but after watching the coaches view of the game, the backs were still left open as the underneath coverage was messed up. This is most likely due to the Tigers running less of a regular defense than they normally run.
In the must have category. Leak must make that throw to Small for the long ball. Markell must not block in the back on the Latsko catch. The offense must get just one first down on the next to last drive. Any of these, and the Gators win.
It was a Jekyl and Hyde game for the defensive line. The ends played better than they have all year. They didn't get the sacks, but they were disruptive and forced the quarterback into sacks and scrambles. Unfortunately when the quarterback wasn't sacked, he turned up inside and the help didn't come. The defensive tackles did get some pressure from inside, but I thought they usually got moved around easily in the running game. There was a bright spot as Michael Hill was very aggressive in there and definitely was not overwhelmed by the opponent. He will get a lot more playing time.
The linebackers again were on and off. Channing for all his hustle and all the great plays, still was eaten up by pulling linemen in the running game. That and the fact he was so worn out at the end he missed several tackles. Earl flies around but does get lost in coverage. On one of the dreaded "over the middle" plays, he switched his assignment and was on the wrong player. The result was a 21 yard completion. Travis Harris is best as a rusher, in my opinion but made plays on the opposite side of the line from his spot. Todd McCullough and Brandon Siler were two huge bright spots on the defense. They probably should have played more.
The secondary, believe it or not, played a good game. For all the passing yards, and even the two touchdowns, the secondary was aggressive and played man well when asked. There were certainly some screw ups in coverage. Dee Webb is ready. Coach Zook said it today and it is very true. Dee Webb can play with anyone right now. He is ultra aggressive and when we turn the lights on in a blitz package his aggressiveness will pay off. Reynaldo Hill made an error or two in zone scheme, but has really picked up his aggressiveness. Jarvis Herring has been the most consistent of the DB's he is pretty good in man coverage. I think we need to see more man from the DB's, but I wouldn't have thought that until now. They now just seem a little more secure in playing a man.
We are mixing the play calls up. I don't understand why it is happening, but we just get screwed up in crunch time on defense and leave holes for the offense to go through. I can assure you that no two drives have been "called" the same at the end of a half or game since the Tennessee game. It isn't one person or one coverage, they are different. We mess up in man and blitz, we mess up in cover 2 zone, etc, It is almost as if we are snake bitten. We have to play out of it, and I guess against Arkansas we kind of did.
The defense has to find a way to give Crowder a breather. Of course this week he will get plenty. Enter McCullough and Siler. They played extremely well although neither are coached up much at the Mike linebacker position. Siler will start there.
The freshmen safeties need to get work too. Too many breakdowns need to be answered and they too should get a chance this week with Herring suspended.
The two most glaring things in the game are the deep middle of the field in pass coverage and the quarterback run up the middle. Addai broke some long runs late when the defense was tired, but the quarterback keepers were a new wrinkle. Remember Matt Jones broke off from the outside option. The power-O plays were killing the middle defense in this game.
One stat the defense uses to help with their analysis is running plays over 3 yards. A run of 3 yards or less is considered a good play by the defense. In the first half, the defense allowed just four, including one in the first quarter. In the second half, the defense allowed 20 runs of 4 yards or more. Including 12 in the fourth quarter. That will flat wear a defense out. Before this game, my only concern of our run defense was in the two drives at the start of the Tennessee game. We seemed to make an adjustment and have played good run defense since except for a few broken option plays from Matt Jones.
Things the Gators can't have. If either of the two personal fouls don't happen LSU probably doesn't score on those two series. Both led to touchdowns and the Ray McDonald head butt erased a 4th and one at midfield. By the way, Mincey and the staff know that he was only trying to jump over the guy he did not purposely kick or step on him. Bailey has to make the pick in the end zone on the last play of the first half. The ref has to call the interception by Vernell Brown, one play after the Ray Mac penalty. Any of those happen, we win.
Special Teams Analysis…
What isn't to like except we would have liked to see a field goal try or two instead of the punts inside the 40 yard line. Petro seemed to kick the ball where he wanted to. If we had won Wilbur may have gotten player of the game honors along with Chad Jackson for their duties on punts and covering them. Our coverage was great all night. Vernell let the one punt bounce at the 10, a no-no. It cot us the ball at the two yard line on the next to last drive. Let's not forget the blocked kick by Travis Harris.
We didn't win. That is what matters and it didn't happen. We could point to about 12 or more single plays and the result would have been different. The team is going to have to get to a point where it doesn't come down to the single play that coulda, shoulda, woulda. That is going to come with consistency, and that comes with maturation. It needs to come fast.