There’s no real point to talking about the first half because we all saw it, and there’s nothing I can add to what has already been said. Yesterday, I said I would talk about three things, so here we go.
First Half Offense versus Second Half Offense
The first half offense was nearly flawless, and it was helped out by lots of incomplete passes stopping the clock and allowing for more plays. The third quarter was the real problem, because it picked back up in the fourth quarter. Problem number 1 was the defense not stopping Troy anymore, but that’s for later. The entire offensive sequence in the third quarter is as follows:
- Andre Caldwell catches crossing route, fumbles, and is injured: turnover
- Kestahn Moore draw up middle: 1 yard
- Moore triple option handoff up middle: 2 yards
- Percy Harvin dropped pass thrown behind him by Tim Tebow: no gain
- Tebow option run up middle: loss of 3 yards
- Cornelius Ingram very short crossing route: 4 yards
- Tebow sacked on double linebacker blitz from one back set, missed blocking assignment by either Drew Miller or Moore: 10 yard loss
- Louis Murphy bubble screen: 7 yards
- Moore draw up the middle: 4 yards (first down)
- Jarred Fayson blindsided and injured thanks to poorly timed triple option pitch from Tebow and missed block by Riley Cooper: no gain
- Incomplete pass on Tebow scramble thanks to pocket breakdown from blitz, missed block by Maurkice Pouncey, and Tebow not recognizing blitz coming: no gain
- Tebow sacked despite Troy rushing only 3 because all receivers are covered and Tebow slides up in the pocket farther forward than Miller is blocking: loss of 2
That’s 12 whole offensive plays. Not to sound like Bobby Bowden or anything, but blocking was the biggest issue. The offensive line had a terrible third quarter after dominating Troy in the first half. Riley Cooper missing a block didn’t help either, and Tim Tebow forgetting where in the pocket he was led to a sack despite only three rushers and the guy getting the sack being double teamed. That’s the play that gets me the most of all of this.
Another problem was unimaginative play calling. The coaches, probably not wanting to run up a gaudy score, took their foot off the gas and began running mostly inside rushing plays. I understand that winning 70-something to 20-something is considered bad form by a lot of people, but you can’t try to flip switches with such a young team. Maybe last year’s team could have handled it with all of its senior leadership, but not this year. I don’t think the defense will keep too many scores close enough to worry about this, but we saw the coaches turn back the offensive intensity in the BCS title game last year. If another team has a bad first half and the Gator offense runs up a big lead, they had better not pull this crap in the second half because every team on the schedule, except for maybe Ole Miss and FAU, can come back against our defense.
Why the Defense Fared Poorly in the Second Half
First and foremost, the UF defense fared worse in the second half because Troy started playing a lot better. QB Omar Haugabrook stopped missing as many receivers and began running effectively. The Trojans’ play calling was also less predictable.
Another issue is that a lot of the defense backups went in. The easiest way to tell that the backups are going in is the presence of true freshman Carlos Dunlap. He is gigantic, and he’s a defensive lineman wearing #8 so he really sticks out. He has perhaps the most physical ability of anyone on the team, but he came in with what the coaches described as the worst fundamentals because he has poor coaching in high school. Plus, with as big, fast, and strong he is he didn’t need fundamentals against average high school offensive linemen. Anyway, if you see him that means the starters are being rotated out more aggressively.
That is exactly what happened. A lot of guys who were in high school last year were lining up in blue jerseys, and that lead to a lot of missed tackles, mistakes, and penalties. The starters were fine in the first half, but when the guys who needed experience went in, they showed why they need it. As long as the Gators defense stays healthy, it should be able to at least contain most opponents well enough for the offense to give them a shot to win.
Why Florida isn’t in as Big of Trouble as Many Think vs. Tennessee
Tennessee had a hangover half against Southern Miss before waking up and pulling away. That doesn’t take away the fact that Tennessee’s defense looked really bad against Cal. It committed a number of sins, like missing tackles, taking bad angles, and being slower than the guys their trying to cover. The Vols will have the same problem this weekend, so there’s no guarantee that they will keep Florida under 30 or 40 points.
Losing Bubba Caldwell hurts, but that just means Riley Cooper steps in the same place and we don’t miss a beat. Plus, Tennessee’s starting CB Antonio Gaines is now out for the year, so that’s going to be a bigger loss for the Vols than Caldwell for the Gators. Brandon James will be ready to go, and the backups on defense shouldn’t see too much action since the game will be close the whole way. There’s no reason to believe that Florida is in any bigger trouble in this game than Tennessee is.