Sloppiness saturated the Florida Gators’ play in their 24-20 win over Miami on Saturday.
UF ecked out the victory despite poor tackling, destructive penalties and carelessness with the football.
These mistakes prevented strong showings on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and resulted in underachieving grades. However, a win over a strong Hurricane team despite numerous blunders is encouraging nonetheless.
The big question mark for Florida entering Week 0 was how its young offensive line would play against Miami’s experienced front seven. To the delight of the Gator Nation, the offensive line had a decent showing.
UF provided Feleipe Franks with a fortress in pass protection, allowing only one sack and three quarterback hurries on 28 dropbacks. It gave Franks enough time to pass for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Yes, the UF quarterback threw two picks, but both were due to poor passes in a well-formed pocket.
The Florida front five struggled more in the run game, rushing for only 52 yards and allowing six tackles for loss.
Yet, the ground attack was effective enough to keep the Hurricane defense honest. Halfback Lamical Perine rushed for only 42 yards, but he averaged a solid 4.2 yards per carry. Franks also had success in short-yardage situations, picking up a first down and the game-winning touchdown on the ground.
Obviously, the Gators’ grade suffered because of carelessness with the football. Both of UF’s fumbles were unforced and in UM territory. Perine and Franks miscommunicated on a read-option, and Malik Davis played hot potato on a toss play.
Franks’ two interceptions were also self-inflicted.
If Florida takes care of the football, it leaves Orlando with a lopsided win. Instead, the game remained interesting until the end.
The Florida defense couldn’t tackle or force a turnover (UF’s only turnover came on special teams), but it made plays when they counted most.
Miami went 2 for 13 on third down and 0 for 2 on fourth, and it didn’t even get into the red zone.
The Florida pass rush — led by Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga — amassed 10 sacks (a few of them due to great coverage and a flustered, freshman quarterback). The Gators added six more tackles behind the line of scrimmage, bringing the tackle-for-loss total to 16.
The defense decided to forget its Pop Warner tackling fundamentals in the open field, especially when trying to bring down UM power back DeeJay Dallas. Dallas had three plays of over 20 yards, including a 50 yard touchdown run where UF tacklers seemed to bounce off of him like children on a trampoline.
Senseless penalties also proved costly for the Gators. Late hits out of bounds and two (almost three) pass interference calls kept the Hurricanes alive on the game’s final drive.
If the defense cleans up its fundamentals and avoids damaging penalties, it could develop into one of the top units in the country.
Special Teams: A-
To put it plain and simple: Florida does not defeat Miami without excellence on special teams.
The Gators executed in nearly every facet of the critical third phase, and it began with Tommy Townsend’s fake punt in the first quarter.
Townsend showed great awareness of the UM punt block, understanding when he had the space to run. On future punts, Townsend waited for his punt coverage to move down the field before booting the ball, allowing little to no chance of a return. All three of his punts landed inside the Hurricanes’ 20, and one was muffed and recovered by senior receiver Van Jefferson.
Townsend’s performance made him one of Florida’s biggest individual factors in its win.
Kicker Evan McPherson made his only field goal attempt, which was set up by the Jefferson recovery.
Florida punt returner Freddie Swain did a decent job as well, fielding three for 19 yards.
The only miscue for UF on special teams was James Houston’s late hit on kicker Bubba Baxa in the fourth quarter. The Hurricanes attempted a fake field goal that was called back for holding; however, Houston clobbered Baxa after he was well out of bounds, extending the drive.
Along with Baxa, Houston brought down the Gators’ special teams grade.
This score may seem low for a victory, but almost all of Florida’s sloppy play can be attributed to coaching.
Missed tackles, that’s coaching. Senseless penalties and poor ball security, coaching. PASSING the ball on first down with four minutes left and the lead… definitely coaching.
Seriously, what in the world was Dan Mullen thinking?
I understand wanting to exploit a defense that is overcommitting to stop the run, but understand the circumstance.
Miami had two timeouts, so make it use them. If you try a pass, try a screen. If it’s not there, have Franks pull it down and run or take a sack. Mullen had every reason to trust his punter and defense at this stage of the game.
However, as critical I am of one play, it’s difficult to win a football game, especially in a rivalry as juiced as Florida-Miami. Minds wander and tempers flare, so some things a coach just can’t control.
Mullen and special teams coordinator Greg Knox did an excellent job coaching special teams, and John Hevesy’s work to prepare the inexperienced offensive line was a borderline miracle.
Also, give credit to to UF’s resident Jillian Michaels, strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage, for having those players ready for a 60-minute war.
So while there was a lot of obvious bad, there was plenty of good, earning a plus in front of that C.