Every week during the football season, Swamp Music will provide insight and analysis after reviewing the previous day’s game. Florida opened its SEC schedule on Saturday in the Swamp versus Kentucky and needed 3 overtimes to dispatch a spirited, talented, and determined Wildcat team looking to end their 27 game losing streak to Florida.
Jeff Driskel played a good game.
While fans continued their calls for Driskel’s benching during and after the game, upon further review, those calls might be misplaced.
First, Treon Harris will not see anything more than mop up duty this season barring injury to Jeff. The Gators offensive hopes are pinned to Jeff Driskel this season period. Not to say that Harris won’t eventually be the guy, but as a true freshman he’s far too green to expect him to lead this team to a championship right now.
Second, Driskel played better than fans are willing to give him credit for. He recovered from a tough first half start to finish a solid 25-43 for 295 yards and three touchdowns with one ugly interception. If you had told me those stats prior to the game I would have said the Gators win going away.
While he did make some mistakes and continues to have blitz recognition issues as well as continues to make poor decisions when pressured, overall he did what he had to do to get the victory. In the SEC, any victory no matter how ugly is a good one.
Driskel was victimized by dropped passes, poor blitz pickup, and continued poor offensive line execution at critical times. In an offense predicated upon rhythm throws and tempo, mistakes are killers. They ruin the flow of the offense particularly in the play calling, they allow the opponent to rest, substitute, and sideline coach and puts them in difficult down and distance situations.
Make no mistake this offense is a dink and dunk short passing offense which takes occasional shots down the field and similar to a three yards and a cloud of dust rushing attack they cant afford to be in third and long situations. Giving Driskel adequate protection and solid rhythmic play calling will set him up to be a winner.
That having been said, however, the one glaring thing I noticed last night was Jeffs inability to hit the deep ball.
I counted 5 deep shots and on every one the Gator receiver had one or two steps on their man and would likely have scored had Driskel been able to get the ball to them. On one, a deep sideline throw to Dunbar, I think the receiver messed up laying out and getting airborne when I think he should have continued to run under it, but on the others Driskel simply missed the receivers.
For the Gators to be successful offensively, Driskel will have to be able to hit those in stride when they’re open.
Demarcus Robinson is a star in the making.
What can you say about D Rob except welcome to Gainesville buddy, where have you been? 15 catches 216 yards and two touchdowns, now that’s what I call a coming out party in Gainesville.
This is the guy fans drooled over during his flip-flop recruiting process. This is the receiver Will Muschamp raved about on signing day. This is the one that fans have heard so much about during two off-seasons but had yet to quite see it in game action. Until now that is.
Robinson has the rare combination of size, speed, and athleticism that Gator fans have been clamoring for for many years. A big receiver with great hands and the ability to not only make people miss and cut on a dime but also to get down field after the catch and make plays. Exciting plays.
Expect to see Roper and Driskel continue to feature D Rob and find ways to get him the ball in space. Those short throws will set the defense up for them to be gouged by the deep ball allowing him to showcase his speed on the outside. Late in the first half with Kentucky playing press coverage and keeping guys in the box, the Gators almost had a huge touchdown play as Robinson got two steps on his man down the sideline and if Driskel could have hit him in stride in bounds it would have been an easy walk-in score.
Matt Jones is the man.
While fans were welcoming D Rob to Gainesville, it was a welcome back party for Matt Jones. After missing the whole of summer workouts and the first two games last season when he was expected to ably step into the shoes of 1,000 yard rusher Mike Gillislee, Jones showed out yesterday.
Unfortunately, his fantastic stats were lost in the shuffle of fans complaining about Driskel and raving about Robinson. Without a doubt, while Kelvin Taylor may have the namesake and the high school records, Matt Jones is the best running back on this team. He showed it last night running for 156 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown.
Jones is big at 6-2 235 and fast. He has the size and strength to break tackles and run through tackles and get the tough yards in short yardage situations. He also has the speed, vision, and agility to take it outside, make the cut back, and get to the next level often punishing defenders when they attempt an open field tackle.
Perhaps his best attribute is that he is a one cut runner. He doesn’t dance around, he finds a crease, makes the cut, and gets north quickly and with authority. And, fun to watch once he gets a head of steam built up, he’s a bruiser, running over guys and delivering a blow. His style bodes well for the fourth quarter.
And while I’m on the subject, is it me or did the Brent Musberger spend far too much time talking about Braylon Heard? You’d think Heard was Todd Gurley listening to Musberger. He carried the ball 12 times for 39 yards. Hardly deserving of the praise he received from Brent. Matt Jones was the best running back on that field last night and it wasn’t even close.
Offensive Line depth could end up being the Gators Achilles heel this season.
Since Will Muschamp began his career as head coach at Florida he has repeatedly stressed the point that the SEC is a line of scrimmage league. Hes right and it was on display last night.
For a team like Kentucky that won 2 games last season to come into the Swamp and hold the point of attack and dominate at times against an experienced Gator offensive line tells volumes about the SEC and its defensive lineman.
Unfortunately, this is also an indictment against the Gator offensive line. While experienced and talented, they’re certainly not deep and continue to have breakdowns and uncalled for penalties and missed assignments.
With the line lacking depth, losing starting left tackle D.J. Humphries for a couple weeks hurts. The lack of depth forced guys to move around and change positions leading to mental mistakes which hurt the offensive continuity.
Right now this unit is merely ok. They have some individual talent but its time for them to show some consistency and establish some dominance against lesser opponents.
Right now the offensive line is the weak link for this offense and must improve if this team is going to beat better teams in the SEC.
Florida’s not very good when they only rush three guys.
Here’s where I might get some flak. Florida has two good pass rushers in Dante Fowler and Neiron Ball but only when the Gators scheme to get them free. When the Gators sit back and rush three guys they get zero pressure on the quarterback and if you give any quarterback time they’ll find an open receiver eventually.
The Gator defensive backfield is talented but young and not quite up to the standards of previous teams. The staff will have to find ways to pressure the quarterback to help these young corners and safeties out until they get their feet underneath them.
Top to bottom this is likely the most talented defensive backfield in Gainesville in many years but they are still too green to be expected to cover good passing attacks without a consistent pass rush.
Don’t jump off the Will Muschamp train just yet.
While I understand fan angst, I am one of them, its important to understand progress is taking place even when it doesn’t appear to be.
Did the Gators look a lot like last season last night against Kentucky?
However, there are over 30 underclassmen on the two deep who are contributing. They’re bound to make mistakes.
Keep in mind, Muschamps first two seasons he was playing with Meyers players. Now he has a roster full of his players ripe from two full top ten recruiting classes. It takes time for these guys to mature.
Last season was a lost season. This season the rebuilding continues. Fans expecting the Gators to compete for an SEC championship are simply fooling themselves. These guys are talented but they have a long learning curve and fans should accept the reality that this will be another maalox season for them.
Watch the nuances. Look for the subtleties in improvement rather than focus on the mistakes. Check out the young talent and rest assured that this program will be back to compete for championships under Will Muschamp and soon. Just probably not this season.
Firing him now will only set the program back even further. Continuity on this staff is of utmost importance to the Gator program right now.
The Gators have got to clean up the mistakes before playing Alabama.
While that seems obvious it cannot be stressed enough against a team with the talent and discipline of Alabama. Dropped passes are killers any time but on third down their drive killers for sure. Silly penalties and missed assignments are drive killers as well.
In football as in life the difference between winning and losing or being successful and not is simply taking advantages of opportunities when presented. In a football game a team only gets so many opportunities and its success percentage in those situations needs to be very high. It wasn’t last night.
If Pittman makes the third down catch on the first possession, if Robinson makes the third down catch later in the first half down inside the Kentucky 20, if Dunbar makes the deep sideline catch this is a different game entirely. Allowing these guys to hang around tied at 3 at halftime gave a young team all the confidence it needed. A stirring speech and some halftime adjustments is all it took to give them the confidence that they could play with these guys and win this game.
They almost did.