The Capital One Bowl – What’s left in your wallet?
After last year’s national title game, many people attributed Florida’s win to the Gators having “SEC speed.” While that was true to a degree, Florida was the more physical and aggressive team. I just watched most of the game DVD last week, and that fact was easy to see.
I bring this point up because Michigan dominated Florida on both sides of the ball today. Florida’s defensive line, which punished Ohio State last year, looked like a collection of linebackers going up against the Wolverine offensive line. Florida’s offense couldn’t figure out a way to pick up the blitz. The secondary played terribly as usual, but you knew that was coming. The physicality of Michigan won them this game. It’s rare to see a team completely push the other around and lose.
Urban Meyer gave some very accurate analysis in the postgame press conference. According to the AP, he covered the basics: “Florida didn’t give Tebow much time to throw, couldn’t get pressure on Henne and failed to cover Michigan’s receivers.” It’s just what I was mentioning – Florida couldn’t pick up blitzes all year, Florida never got any push up the middle all year on defense, and the defensive secodary was a sieve all year.
He was quoted as saying, “I don’t think we coached very well in certain areas,” and that’s for sure. The answer to the blitz on offense was to have usually Louis Murphy (who’s a twig compared to most linebackers) come back and block and still run slow-developing pass plays. Kestahn Moore is a much better blocker, but more often then not he was lined up way out by the sideline when he was in the game.
We also saw a return to the Tebow-Harvin tunnel vision offense. Only two rushes in the game were by someone other than those two guys (Moore, 2 rushes for 9 yards). Harvin also had as many receptions as the rest of the receiving corps combined, and more if you throw out Chas Henry’s completion to Aaron Hernandez. I realize that those guys are the two best players on the offense, but there’s more than enough talent on the offense for the ball to get spread around more than that. On defense, we constantly saw a linebacker on the slot receiver, which makes no sense in any situation.
Michigan for its part appeared to go with Auburn’s game plan. Florida’s defense this year was one of the worst open-field tackling squads in the country, so Chad Henne spent most of the game throwing slants and screens. When you know that the first guy is going to miss and the second guy might not arrive until 20 yards later, there’s no reason to try anything riskier. On defense, it was blitz on any 4 or 5 wide receiver set on second or third down. With the Gators never doing anything to make them pay for sending an extra guy or two, it made for a great strategy.
In some ways, Florida was fortunate that it was such a close game. After all, Mike Hart lost two fumbles just short of the goal line, and he had lost only one fumble in the rest of his four year career. Those would have been touchdowns in any other game. Now, some Florida fans might counter with complaints about questionable officiating, but that’s a red herring. The Gators had a four point lead with 5:36 to go. In those final five and a half minutes, Michigan outscored Florida 10-0, and the Gators could only muster 4 yards on 8 downs.
In the end a senior-laden, hugely physical team beat a very young, smaller team. Last season, Urban Meyer preached that he wanted to have the most physical team in college football, and he just may have had it based on the national title game. That toughness was missing this year for a lot of reasons. It’s now time for everyone to learn some lessons, have the young players to get some bulk and technique in the offseason, and get ready to come back ready to blow the doors off Hawaii on Labor Day weekend.