Friday, September 25, 2009

Vol Film Review: Florida Gators

Yes I know I am extra late on this one but it has taken me some time to calm down since Saturday. I was one of the few people who gave Tennessee any kind of chance and a just about predicted the final score last week so in quite a few ways I could feel good about that. But I am a Volunteer through and through and the truth is we had every opportunity to win that game regardless of what anybody else had to say. Here are my observations on offense and defense.


Once again we showed the nation that we can run the ball on anybody. And once again, at key times during the game, we went away from our bread and butter. Montario Hardesty is a down hill hard nosed runner with speed and generally if we can get him going north and south he has success. Our offensive line at time created gaping holes in the Gators defense, and by the end of the game it was apparent that we had physically whipped them up front.

The problem of course is that we still have Jonathan Crompton at quarterback and we have an offensive coordinator/head coach who both has no confidence in him at all, AND keeps calling passing plays that don't have a high probability of success.

In the first half we were running up and down the field on Florida, then we get the ball with first and goal at the 5. After running for 2 yards on first down making it 2nd and goal from the 3. Instead of trying to punch it in and make a statement, Lane Kiffin just couldn't help himself. He calls two passes in a row and neiher one of them is particularly creative. And neither pass is an easy throw or catch. So of course at a time when we are down 10 to 3 instead of getting the ball into the endzone running the ball as we had all the way down the field, we have to settle for a field goal after having first and goal inside the 5 which is the quickest way to lose a game.

Still however we are very much in the game at the half being down only 13-6 and getting the ball first to start the second half. What is most important to me is that we keep this first drive of the half going and pick up a few first downs even if we don't score. The reason being is that we were wearing down the Florida defense in the first half and if they had to go through a long drive to start the 3rd quarter then its likely that they would be done in the 4th quarter.

Instead, Kiffin comes out calling passes again and predictibly Johnathan Crompton throws a pick. Now the announcer tried to make light of the pick as if it was just the same as a punt, but that is unqualified horse shit. When you are on defense you have an expectation of the order of how things should go. When a quarterback throws a pick on third down, its almost like you have been cheated out of one more down of rest. Now that is not to make an excuse for the defense because you still have to go out and hit the offense in the mouth even on sudden change. But I am just being real here, Crompton thrown that pick had to be deflating for a defense that had played reasonably well in the first half.

Now while I am talking about the offense, let me take the time out to address something Urban Meyer said the other day. He said that once the Gators were up on Tennessee 23-6 and we were still running the ball then that showed him that Kiffin wasn't playing to win. Now it should be obvious by now that I am not the biggest Lane Kiffin fan in the world, but facts are facts. When Florida went up 23-6, the very next drive Kiffin called 2 passes out of three plays. It just so happens that we suck at passing right now and we ended up having to punt the ball. But there is no way in hell Meyer could makethe case that Kiffin just gave up on the game. And honestly I lost some respect for the guy because he couldn't just admit that Tennessee got off in his teams' ass and gave them all they could handle.

I also take issue with the rhetoric of the commentators for the game. Time and time again they kept saying how Tennessee needed to pass more or they wouldn't have a chance at winning the game. Funny thing about that though, see we through the ball EXACTLY the same number of times that Florida did. AND Florida actually ran the ball 12 more times than we did. So does that mean Florida should have thrown the ball more or that they weren't really trying to win?

Please don't take someone's word as gold just because they have a job on TV, that's all I'm saying.

But I digress.

The truth is of course that because we run the ball a lot better than we throw it at this point that our best option is and will be for the forseable future is to hand the ball off. And once we got back to that in the fourth quarter, Hardesty went back to tearing through the Gator defense like tissue paper. And eventually he got our last touchdown pulling us with in 10 points at 23 to 13.

It is at this point that I feel the need to point out that I am not anti passing the ball. Hell I am a fan of some of the most prolific offenses ever. One of the thrills of my life was playing the high powered "Greatest Show on Turf" of the St Louis Rams in the NFC Championship game of 1999. (It was even more of a joy to all but shut them down) But you have to go with what your strength is and right now we have a physical offensive line and a stable of running backs to go along with a quarterback who no one, including himself, has any confidence in.

And even when we do throw the ball, what the hell is wrong with going with the easy pass routes? Where are our 10 yard outs? Where are our crossing routes? Where are our quick slants? Where are our screen passes?

If there is one thing I can't stand, its a supposed "guru" who so complicates an offense that it can't even perform basic plays in the passing game.

Montario Hardesty had 20 carries for 96 yards, I feel like with more carries he wins the game for us. Bryce Brown while a great talent is still running like a high school back, always trying to take the ball outside when the cut back is wide open. I also don't think we are using David Oku nearly enough as he is a back who has a lot more wiggle and probably can exploit some of the huge holes our offensive line creates even better than Hardesty or Brown even if its only on spot duty.


I liked a lot of what I saw on defense, obviously, but there were also things that left me scratching my head. Holding the Gators offense to 23 points, especially considering how many times they made it deep into our territory, was a major feat, as was getting Tim Tebow on the ground for a couple of sacks. We had a great big play in the fourth quarter forcing Tebow to fumble which was returned across the 50 yard line to set up a Tennesse touchdown. More than anything else what was most encouraging was the fact that the defense didn't give up at all even when it looked like the game was out of reach.

Now here are the things I didn't like. For whatever reason Monte Kiffin decided to run some 3-4 fronts against Florida on early downs. Now I like the 3-4 defense, especially for its blitz packages on 3rd down. But its not what you would call a great defense to play against an option team, especially if you don't have some absolute monsters at linebacker. Now physically we actually matched up pretty well against Florida, but the problem is that because we aren't primarily a 3-4 team our adjustments to the Gator formations was off. In a 3-4 defense the outside linebackers, which for us are just the normal defensive ends, have to adjust when there are two or more wide recievers to their side. In a 4-3 one of the outside backers is the one who makes that adjustment. Against Florida when we lined up in a 3-4 and they came out with two wide receivers on a side one of our middle linebackers would adjust as if we were playing a 4-3 leaving us vulnerable up the middle.

This is how Florida was able to use formations to open up their option running game whenever they saw us in that look.

We also were just bad when it came to tackling Tebow. The play that probably won the game for the Gators was when we had him dead to rights for a sack and he ends up shaking off one tackle and avoiding another to pick up the first down in the third quarter on the drive that eventually put them up 23-6. I am not saying that it is easy to bring Tebow down because we all know that isn't the case. But what I am talking about is the angles that we took to get to him and not wrapping up on contact. With better tackling this game would have looked quite differently in my opinion.

Another gripe I have is with Monte blitzing on 3rd and extra long. Right now our four man rush is outstanding and we harrassed Tebow all day with just four guys. I could see blitzing Tebow on 3rd and medium or short to try tog et the ball out of his hands quickly. But on 3rd and 16 we have to let our defensive line do their job and play coverage at times. Had we done that then there is no way Tebow would have been able to complete that pass to his tight end on a screen for a big first down in the first half. And the sad thing is he almost pulled it off again in the second half as well.

These are major issues but nothing that isn't fixable and its hard for me to really bash the defense when they played lights out for most of the game.

Now just as a quick note on special teams, WHO THE HELL THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO KICK OFF TO BRANDON JAMES?! Seriously, whoever that coach is should be running stadium stairs this week. (Staring at Lane Kiffin)

To sum it all up, we have a lot of talent on this team and more than enough to overcome our deficiencies at quarterback. But we are going to need a little better coaching to put guys in the best positions to win in order for us to make it through this season with a respectable record. If not, if we don't start making some adjustments particularly on offense, this is going to be one hell of a long season.

Im just sayin.

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