The Monday Morning Quarterback: Florida Gators Struggles Not Limited to Jeff Driskel, It Takes A Village

Quarterback Jeff Driskel runs for a td against LSU in the Swamp. (Credit to Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports)

Quarterback Jeff Driskel runs for a td against LSU in the Swamp. (Credit to Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports)

The Florida Gators finally returned home to the Swamp this past Saturday night after two consecutive tough road games but after fighting through mistakes and some difficult officiating, the Gators fell to LSU 30-27 on a last second 50 yard field goal. While the Gators showed some resiliency and played well at times, they suffered through many of the same old tired mistakes that have plagued them this season and last.

While a large contingent of fans took to Twitter and message boards to vent their disgust with quarterback Jeff Driskel and head coach Will Muschamp, the Monday Morning Quarterback is of the opinion that the Gators’ problems are much deeper and that winning football much like the old expression about child rearing “takes a village”.

In other words, it’s a team game and there are 11 guys on every play who must perform their role diligently, intelligently, and physically in order for their unit to be successful. The problem for the Gators is that all too often there are one or two guys, Driskel included but not limited to him, that are not performing their job correctly at inopportune times particularly third down and it’s those breakdowns that are killing the Gators.

Don’t misunderstand me, the Monday Morning Quarterback has gone on record in the past in support of Will Muschamp as head coach but not Jeff Driskel as starting quarterback and that has not changed. Nothing short of a complete collapse could change my mind on Will Muschamp and nothing short of a miraculous turnaround in play and victories could change my mind about Jeff Driskel

It’s quite apparent to everyone who’ve watched the Gators including one NFL executive who was quoted as saying that Jeff Driskel doesn’t have the necessary “feel” for the position, that Driskel is not the answer for the Gators at quarterback. Having said that, however, the Monday Morning Quarterback believes the Gators have much bigger and deeper issues than simply the poor play of Jeff Driskel. Heck, Jeff accounted for 83% (254 of 306 yards) of the Gators offense against LSU so certainly it’s not all on him.

I realize he also accounted for 3 turnovers and misfired once again on several wide open deep balls but if that were the only mistakes made by the Gators, I’d let it rest. However, that was not the case on Saturday night and hasn’t been the case all season. The fact of the matter is there have been mistakes all over the field, not simply on offense, that have doomed the Gators.

Take the Gators first possession, for instance. After completing a 7 yard swing pass to Brandon Powell to set up a third and one, Driskel ran four yards on a quarterback keeper inside for a first down. On the next play, Driskel hit an open Quinton Dunbar on the numbers with an easily catchable pass, one that should have picked up good yardage and possibly a second first down. Instead, Dunbar, as has been the case all season for Gator receivers, simply dropped the football.

On second down, Driskel kept the ball once again and picked up six yards setting up another third and short. On third down, Driskel had a nice open pass to his right where a blitzing corner vacated and should have had an easy first down. Instead, running back Kelvin Taylor tried to cut across the quarterback from right to left to pick up the free blitzer and tripped up Driskel in his passing motion and the ball fell to the turf incomplete.

Fourth down and punt.

For Dunbar, there was no excuse to drop the pass. He’s a fifth year senior and should be catching those passes in his sleep. That’s not Driskel’s fault, it’s Dunbar’s.

On the third down play, while it looked at first glance to be an error on Driskel’s part for not switching the running back to his left before the snap, it’s apparent that the blitzer was supposed to run free as Driskel was baiting him to vacate his zone for an easy first down pickup. The fact that Taylor, who started the game at running back, played only sparingly the rest of the way tells the Monday Morning Quarterback that he, not Driskel, made a mistake on the play.

It’s mistakes just like those two that have doomed the Gators time and again this season and a multitude of them Saturday night gave the game away.

On the first Driskel turnover, a fumble that set up the Tigers’ first touchdown, fans were fuming over yet another Driskel turnover, but it’s apparent the fumble itself was a lucky helmet to football hit that was set up by a missed block by offensive lineman Trenton Brown. When the ball was snapped he had trouble locating who he was supposed to block which gave linebacker Kwon Alexander time to get to Driskel and get his helmet on the football.

And, of course, the poor execution was not limited to the offense. On the ensuing LSU possession, Gator middle linebacker Antonio Morrison allowed himself to be blocked out on consecutive possessions which resulted in an LSU touchdown to tie the game.

The Tigers did not throw any unusual formations at the Gators on that posssession. Both plays were simple textbook I-formation power inside runs that defensively were designed for the inside linebacker to step up and make the play. The lineman held their blocks as expected but Morrison due to either poor angle or poor recognition simply allowed the fullback to take him out of the play springing Leonard Fournette for two big runs and a touchdown.

On the TD play, Morrison’s poor execution left the smallish safety Marcus Maye to be steamrolled as he himself made a poor attempt at a high tackle something you simply cannot do to a 230 pound running back.

Defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., as great as he’s been heralded, repeatedly failed to secure the edge during the game allowing both quarterback Anthony Jennings and the Tigers’ running backs to pick up big gains and convert huge third downs simply due to poor execution.

On the Tigers’ second td drive, the Gators had the Tigers in a third and three situation which without a passing game to speak of should have been an easy three and out for the Gators. Instead, Dante Fowler tried to jump inside failing to secure the edge allowing running back Terrence McGee to easily take the zone read handoff outside for a huge pickup which jump started the drive for the Tigers.

Of course, there was also the third and 25 given up on the Tigers’ last possession, a missed defensive assignment by Brian Poole as well as the third and 17 given up on the Tigers last td drive on a holding call on Brian Poole the third and fourth times this season the defense has given up a third and 15+ which is inexcusable for any defense. Throw in the dropped wide open td pass by tight end Tevon Westbrook which if caught may have basically sealed a victory for the Gators and it’s obvious that the issues with this team are much deeper than Driskel’s struggles.

These are simple mistakes in execution by players who know better. They are not young guys making freshman mistakes. They are experienced players who are not executing the way they are taught. They’re trying to “make a play” out of position rather than staying home and doing their job.

Football is a series of one on one matchups but it’s not enough for ten guys to do their job correctly. All eleven must play together and execute correctly. One guy playing out of position, missing a block, getting blocked, or trying to do too much is enough to doom an entire squad. And therein lies the totality of the problem for the Gators.

It’s not simply Jeff Driskel overthrowing a wide open receiver, although that is a huge problem for the offense to this point, or turning the ball over. It’s one guy here and one guy there dropping a pass, missing a block, and making mental mistakes that shut down the offense on third down stopping promising drives.

It’s one guy missing the defensive call (Brian Poole) that allows the opposition to convert on third and 25.

It’s one guy negating great coverage by grabbing a jersey resulting in a pass interference on third and long (Poole and Bryan Cox, Jr.)

It’s one guy not securing the edge or getting blocked that prevents the Gators from holding their opponent to a three and out and jump starts scoring drives.

Former Gator wide receiver Chris Doering was very actively vocal on Twitter during the game Saturday night and he sums up the bigger issue with this team in a series of Tweets.

Simply put: veterans are not doing their job up and down the lineup including but not limited to Jeff Driskel. While a change at quarterback may jump start the downfield passing game for the Gators, the Monday Morning Quarterback believes that receivers will have to quit dropping passes and quit making flailing attempts at catching passes which has led to interceptions and the offense must do a better job at recognizing and executing blocking assignments otherwise it will be in vain.

Contrary to what many Gator fans believe and have expressed repeatedly on Twitter and sports message boards, the Gators are far from a change at quarterback from competing for an SEC championship. While the Monday Morning Quarterback believes this team is talented enough to compete, they have a long ways to go in simple execution in order to be considered a top flight team.

Period.

End of story.

I am the Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out.

 

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One thought on “The Monday Morning Quarterback: Florida Gators Struggles Not Limited to Jeff Driskel, It Takes A Village

  1. Pingback: Gator Chomps: Two-Quarterback System, Will Muschamp’s Hot Seat, Brandon Powell Shows Out, Taylor’s Brouhaha | Swamp Music

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