Brandon James return should have set the tone for the Gators in a sense it set the tone for the Gators in the eyes of Tennessee. James return sent an empty feeling on the sideline from the get go and any thought of them playing an aggressive game against Florida went by the wayside.
Everything was on his shoulders on the day with all the ailments of the offensive skill guys. He knew it and played a Tebow like game, minus a couple of turnovers.
The biggest gripe I had was the pump and then throw both in the direction of the best defensive back in college football. You can't pump the ball and give him a chance to think that direction, and then actually throw it in berry's direction. He will eat you alive every time.
Otherwise Tebow played very well and within the framework of what they wanted him to do. He admitted he should have checked down a few times to underneath receivers, but after practicing against a scheme a scheme all week that was aggressive and one that had a chance of winning the game. Tebow took some time to adjust, just like the offensive staff.
Drops by Riley Cooper and Brandon James in or near the end zone possibly cost two TD passes on the day and lengthening his streak to 31 consecutive games with a passing touchdown.
The play of the game may have been Tebow's 3rd and 3 play where he scrambled on a roll out pass and made three defenders miss before tip toeing down the west sideline for a first down. We could call that typical Tebow and that led to a touchdown at the end of that drive.
A lot of folks are allover the pass protection, but two of the three sacks were on Tebow. He held the ball too long, given the circumstances and needs to throw it away or run it. Honestly, 2-3 sacks in a game are really a wash and almost insignificant, although losing 14 yards on one is not good. Given that Tebow ran for over 100 yards without the sacks, it is understandable that he isn't as focused on them as pass rushers as much as most quarterbacks are.
On the one breakdown I saw on a sack from the offensive line, I was quick to write it off on Carl Johnson blocking the wrong guy. When looking at the replay, Johnson was stuck trying to guard two defenders and in that case he is supposed to take the biggest threat, he did that. It would have been left guard, which I imagine was James Wilson that went inside on a double team and gave up an extra outside rusher for Johnson to block
On the first play of the game Tebow had three seconds then threw it away after pressure, Maurkice turned his guy loose a little too quick.
Still on the first drive, Tebow pumped then got sacked. He had time to throw it away and didn't. Or a patented scramble may have been better. Again, with him, you have to live with a sack or two knowing what he sees on the field and how he plays the game.
The run blocking was masterful at times. There were a few (5) tackles for loss that weren't sacks in the game, but the Gators ran 44 times on the day.
Mike Pouncey on the Demps touchdown run drove his defensive tackle back to the 1-yard line and Demps ran right up behind him untouched. On the play Gilbert simply sealed his guy to the right side and it was a huge hole.
Moody and the backs ran so well. I know everyone wants to see Moody run the ball more, but the defense just didn't dictate that on Saturday. After rewatching the game closely I made sure to count how many times that Tebow was the only option to run the ball. In the end, Tebow ran five times when the play was specifically called for him to run it.
Remember, this is a read-option offense. Meaning the quarterback has the read on the closest defender and whether to hand the ball off or not. Most of the time, Tennessee opted to let Tebow carry the ball, probably because of Monte Kiffin's pro background and not used to seeing this type of running game in the pros. As a matter of fact, three of the running plays came in short yardage situations and the Gators made no bones about who was going to run the ball.
There will be days when the defense will react more on Tebow and then he will hand the ball off. On Saturday, the way the backs ran, they were probably safer letting Tebow run the ball because he doesn't have that elite speed.
Chris Rainey showed me that he could take some of those Harvin carries and do some of the same things. It seems that we won't get the finishing speed on long runs from Rainey, but his ability to maneuver so quickly in traffic was very Harvin-esque on Saturday.
You have to give these guys credit for being clutch. David Nelson only had two catches but both were for critical first downs during scoring drives including a 3rd-and-12 where he planted hard and came back for a 13-yard gain with his defender bailing on him. Nelson also took a nice 4-yard stop route and made his defender miss to get 13 yards on another play.
The Tennessee defense bailed all day and everything had to be underneath. Guys like Aaron Hernandez and Brandon James were probably underutilized, but Hernandez had his health issues as well. James had a great day outside of the tough drop in the end zone when he got clobbered. Riley Cooper ended up catching three but dropped what might have been a touchdown pass and another sideline pass near the south end zone. Again, he had a pinched nerve from the first series on, so he has an excuse.
Offensive Play Calling
Credit goes to the defense a little bit early in the game because they really made Florida guess at what they were going to do. Had Florida known that Tennessee would play so passively, they may have never thrown the ball. Especially since all of the receivers were banged up or ill.
Florida only went ten yards on that opening drive but managed a field goal because of the position Brandon James put them in.
After that drive, Florida drove for a touchdown (72 yards), threw an ill-advised and rare interception, dropped a pass in the end zone after a 54-yard drive and settled for a field goal. They started the third quarter with a 47-yard drive that ended in a field goal. Then a 69-yard touchdown drive that was followed by the 54-yard drive that ended in a fumble inside the Tennessee five. So, minus the interception, Florida started the game with six drives that all likely should have been scoring drives.
The screen to Hernandez was great that went for 18 yards and actually they went back to that again and the same play to Brandon James on the opposite side. Credit to Tennessee for stoppi9ng the play two of the four times.
I didn't like the time out at the goal line simply because Florida had to know what they were going to do in that situation, let Tebow run the ball. The timeout was probably caused by mass substitutions, but that is something they need to be better prepared for
The offense was given no choice but to abandon the long passing game. Tennessee bailed on defense throughout the game and they were willing to give up the run. The staff deserves credit for running for 200 plus yards on a very good Tennessee defensive front.
The short passing game was underutilized, but that wasn't always due to play calling, but Tebow's stubbornness to look down field first, something he has talked about since.
The defense played great throughout with a few exceptions that can be pinpointed as reasons Tennessee scored.
On the first drive, the defense went to their Joker package. Give credit to Tennessee for running a draw and a no-no to Jermaine Cunningham who lost gap integrity and allowed Montario Hardesty to get 20 yards a first down. The Vols went backwards on the first two plays of the game, talk about a back breaker if they go three and out there.
Personnel wise I bet if they had to do it over again, they wouldn't play Spikes much if at all. He hurt the Gators tackling wise although I understand he would be in the right place a lot of times. Ryan Stamper was more than adequate when he played at middle linebacker and he led the team in tackles with 12, had a forced fumble, a sack, and three tackles for loss.
The second drive for Tennessee A.J. Jones was caught on the bootleg pass and gave up his assignment of the tight end. The big issue with the defense to start the game is that they came in way too aggressive and overplayed everything and not playing their assignments. As the game passed, this got much better
Ahmad Black was out of position one time that I saw, but again showed why he should be on the field and is just a great player for the Gators. I think what the staff will lean to in the end is putting Black on the field in crucial situations and he was out there a lot on Saturday making 11 tackles, an assist on a tackle for loss and an interception on the day.
On Tennessee's scoring drive after Tebow's fumble two big plays stand out. First, William Green gave up containment on the screen pass to Bryce Brown that got the long first down. He was also lightly blocked in the back on the play and went down because of it.
The second was of course Jaye Howard's excessive celebration that would have been 3rd and 16 instead 2nd and 1. Now, I hate the rule, because the refs will call whatever they want and not call whatever they don't want. But, Howard has to know he can't do that. He was pulled for the rest of that drive which resulted in a touchdown.
Defensive Play Calling
In the first drive the Gators were a little aggressive and Tennessee made them over play the ball. The defense adjusted, but the lone quibble I had was leaving a very injured Spikes in the game and also a sick Cunningham. Both were just taking up space out there most of the day.
In the end 210 yards of offense against an SEC opponent is a good day.
Honestly there are a few things that Tennessee did that befuddled me. One was getting the ball to the three-yard line and not getting anything on first down on the drive following berry's interception. Then deciding to pass the ball with three yards to go on second and third down. They were safe passes, but you only had three yards to go on two plays.
The next of course was the playing to lose close and not to win. Both sides of the ball played passive. So passive actually, that it surprised both the Gator offense and defense in the beginning of the game. Once the game got rolling, they both figured it out, then it was a matter of how much can the Gators run plays while Tennessee decided to run the clock.
You need more proof that Tennessee was trying to run the clock instead of win, even with the game relatively close at the end?
Down by 17 points UT got the ball back at the 40-yard line after a Tebow fumble that "kept them alive". Forget the play calling and how many times they ran the ball on the first drive after the fumble, Tennessee took 30, 30, 24, 24, and 23 seconds off the clock just to snap the ball. This was after the ball was placed by the referee.
Then, down by 10, with the ball, Tennessee took 20, 26, 20, 28, 25, 23, and 22 seconds to snap the ball.
With the 11 minutes on the clock Florida had the ball for one minute, Tennessee had two possible drives to possibly make it a three-point game. After their second drive of four minutes to go 27 yards, there was less than two minutes off the clock when they threw the interception that ended it all.