The Florida Gators experienced a distressing loss in College Station on Saturday. Most people have made up their mind where to place blame. Here are some evaluations of Florida’s performance this weekend.
Crazy enough, the Gator offense kept putting points on the board. And it moved the ball without significant reliance on Kyle Pitts. Let’s focus on two players who contributed to the offense in Pitts’s stead. Kadarius Toney had a great game with 92 yards on seven catches and two scores. He’s always been a playmaker but Saturday showed he can be a reliable receiver down the field. Nay’Quan Wright is a player who continues work his way into more involvement in the Gator offense. He led all rushers with 31 yards plus he made a nice play on his lone catch for 26 yards. Also, he scored his first career touchdown. Hopefully he sees more touches.
Now, there were notable mistakes: Kyle Trask throwing a pick that Florida was fortunate enough to have called back, a sack to start a third quarter drive to possibly extend the lead that inevitably ended in a punt, settling for a field goal on a potential go-ahead drive when the Aggies led 31-28 and of course Malik Davis fumbling to set up A&M’s game-winning drive at midfield. Plenty of blame for the offense but this shows how well it needs to play when the other side of the ball isn’t performing. That’s not a sustainable model.
Where do we even start? Should we start? Anyone with eyes or access to postgame recaps knows how poorly the defense played Saturday. Instead, let’s just look at two specific plays.
The first one being Kellen Mond’s TD pass to Caleb Chapman down 38-31. Chapman matched up with Marco Wilson. Wilson is completely in-step with the receiver when the ball arrives. But when he tries to play the ball, he whiffs and Chapman plucks it out of the air for his second TD and ninth catch that day. Just couldn’t make a play when he had the chance. The reason Wilson is in one-on-one so far down the field is because no safeties follow that route. Shawn Davis jumped an over route and the other safety is just playing the left side of the field. Neither helped cover the deepest receiver. Now, that might’ve been because of scheme, some kind of trust in Wilson in man, but with this defense a mistake in coverage wouldn’t be surprising.
The second comes on Isaiah Spiller’s touchdown on 4th and 2 to take the lead 31-28. Two different defenders make their way into the backfield and just can’t quite get Spiller. Most defensive linemen are neutralized at the line especially the tackles. Ventrell Miller makes an attempt to stop him at the first down marker but Spiller sheds the tackle and gallops into the endzone for a touchdown. Another play not made, another big hole to run through, missed tackles and no stop when Florida needed it. Of course the other team’s Jimmies and Joes will make plays in games but that doesn’t mean your team can’t.
Special Teams: N/A
Once again, not much to say about the special teams performance. Evan McPherson made all his extra points and a 53-yard field goal. That field goal came in a crucial moment to tie the game at 31. He also had four touchbacks on kickoff. The Gators didn’t return a single kick on punt or kickoff team. Meanwhile, Jacob Finn’s lone punt went 36 yards and put the Aggies on their own 34 to start a drive. It somewhat flipped the field but I don’t think field position mattered too much in this game.
Everybody knew and knows a good offense with a bad defense is not a recipe for major success. Just look at Texas or Oklahoma. The “earth-shattering” take here is that things still need to change for Florida defensively. People knew that after Ole Miss. Every offense expects to execute flawlessly but relying on that to actually happen to win games won’t put a team over the top. Eventually you need to stop someone. Thankfully for Florida, Bo Pelini’s in the same boiling pot as Todd Grantham with fans for how LSU’s defense is playing. Thus, there’s still a legitimate possibility for the Gators to bounce back in Gainesville next week. But things probably won’t change overnight and a packed stadium won’t make that so either.