After the Florida Gators dismantled the LSU Tigers in The Swamp, there’s more optimism in Gainesville than the offensive line could eat.
The Gators’ got their first win in October under Will Muschamp and it was the biggest of his Florida head-coaching career. Now that the celebrating and crowd surfing is over (that was fun), more eyes will be on this team as their ranking gets higher. We will now see how this team performs now they are considered in the top echelon of the SEC.
With that said, Florida prepares for a road game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, here are some takeaways from the LSU contest and this Gator team as the weekend approaches.
Numbers and notes that have caught my eye
The Gators’ Fourth Quarter Defense: Zero Points
If you’re a rabid Florida follower, you’ve probably heard about the Gators’ fourth quarter dominance. The defense’s “0-fer” extended after a shutout of LSU: the Gators have yet to give up a point in the final period (41-0).
Red Zone Scoring: 94%
Sure, Florida has had some big plays that came from 50 yards out and more (Tennessee comes to mind) that render this stat to only 16 tries in five games. When they do get close, though the Gator offense converts. Brent Pease has had flawless playcalling from 20 yards and in, employing misdirection plays and unbalanced offensive lines to confuse run-heavy defensive schemes.
Complaining For Complaining’s Sake: Passing Offense- 14th in the SEC
As good as Mike Gillislee and the Gator rushing attack has been this season, it seemed that faith in the passing game shriveled in the second half against LSU. QB Jeff Driskel only completed eight passes on 12 attempts that day, dropping the Gators’ passing numbers into the SEC cellar. The Gators quarterback had been improving each week, but during their biggest matchup of the year, the offense looked like they were hiding their signal-caller. Not a good sign.
Granted, Florida won the game with its second-half adjustments, so this may be overstated. Regardless, the coaching staff needs to keep Jeff Driskel’s confidence up for when he gets called on to make a play against South Carolina or Georgia.
There’s will never be a better time this season to instill more confidence in Driskel than this week against Vanderbilt. Pease and Muschamp should try to give Driskel some more reps against a Commodore team the Gators should beat handily. Driskel will then have more experience with situational football against a true opponent rather than only his team’s defense at the Florida practice field.
– Gators punter Kyle Christy continues to raise his profile as one of the SEC’s top punters The sophomore had three punts inside the 10 yard line and his punting average currently ranks fifth in the nation. He has added another element to the Muschamp’s game plans each week with his ability to play field position. This is especially important because Florida rarely takes shots down the field and would rather be patient and get a short field to score points.
Here’s a snippet of Muschamp raving about Christy: “His leg and him being able to flip the field and control the vertical field position has been critical to our success here this season and why we are where we are.”
Click here to listen to Muschamp’s entire press conference
– LB Jelani Jenkins played inspired football Saturday, running around and being active with a cast covering up his right hand. He had a eye-widening highlight as well: a ruthless block on a Gator punt return, knocking two LSU players out of bounds. Jenkins is probable for Saturday’s matchup at Vanderbilt.
– If you want a better idea of how the Gators’ running scheme wore down LSU’s defense, check out this video analysis of Florida’s use of the unbalanced line (I recommend watching the breakdown of their first touchdown against LSU at 7:22 if you want a quick fix). Credit to OnlyGators.com
-Running back Mike Gillislee was awarded the Walter Camp National Player of the Week for his 146-yard, two touchdown performance against LSU. Could more accolades be on the horizon?
More on this in my Florida-Vanderbilt analysis coming soon.
Follow Gator news and general sports musings from Mike Shiekman on Twitter @TheRealShiek.