It was fun. It was wild. Later on, it was sobering, as we discussed the future of Will Muschamp. And now that we can finally take a step back and look at things from an objective perspective, it was utterly amazing. Florida not only won the game, but beat Georgia’s defense at their strength- the ground game.
Treon Harris, making his first start, threw only six passes, and completed three of them. Every single play the Gators ran from scrimmage, aside from those six, was a run. I had my doubts that Florida would have success beating the Dawgs on the ground, but who could have guessed that Georgia’s defense would give up the most yards since 1978?
The problems started for Georgia’s defense with about three and a half minutes left in the first quarter. On a 3rd and 2, Harris took a step back as if to passband then shot through a huge hole on a QB draw for 13 yards and a first down. That play showed Jeremy Pruitt that the threat was there and that he had to make sure he was accounted for. Up until and including that run with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter, Georgia’s defense had given up 32 yards- on pace to give up roughly 153 yards of total offense for the game. Instead, Georgia gave up 445 yards.
What the Gators essentially did was run the Wildcat on every play, even though Harris only kept it himself twice more the entire game. The threat was there, and Georgia had to treat him like a running back even though he isn’t exactly built like Matt Jones. Harris rarely took the snap with an empty backfield. He just about always had either Kelvin Taylor or Matt Jones back with him. And once, the snap actually went to Jones, who took it in for a touchdown. That’s the Wildcat. You have two threats to run the ball in the backfield and you have to be ready to stop both of them. Of course they’re different types of running threats, but it doesn’t matter- a running threat is a running threat, and if you ignore him for a second, he can make you pay.
So with that knowledge now in their heads, Georgia’s defense appeared to be confused, and got burned. It’s a pretty safe bet that those three NFL caliber linebackers (Jordan Jenkins, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera) are probably not going to include any plays from this game in any highlight video. In particular, Florida burned Georgia outside the tackle box. They were somewhat successful in running up the middle; however, once Jones and Taylor bounced the run outside, Georgia’s normally stout defense appeared to not know what to do. There were huge holes outside, and that’s because the Gators did something well that they haven’t done well all year: block. I’m not just talking about the linemen, either; everybody in a Gator jersey made some key blocks that Florida wouldn’t have won without.
Now, why the Gators were able to make blocks against Georgia and not against Missouri is a question nobody can answer. I’m not making any sorts of speculations about their efforts- like if they tried for Treon but not for Driskel- but the bottom line is that the team showed up, and made some key blocks for their teammates.
Consider the following three key plays that won the game for Florida. (Note: click on the image to view it in full size)
-Play #1: Mike McNeely fake field goal touchdown
McNeely the holder gets the snap and immediately looks up. He needs three key blocks on the play, and he’s relying on Tevin Westbrook (boxed in blue), DJ Humphries (boxed in yellow) and Clay Burton (boxed in red) to make them and spring him free. Burton is responsible for pulling all the way to the right and taking on the guy to the far right of the screen (CB Damian Swann)- who it looks like Westbrook is about to block. But he better hurry, because Westbrook is going to ignore him and instead take on the second guy from the right (safety Quincy Mauger). Meanwhile, DJ Humphries has been given a simple assignment- bury Amarlo Herrera, one of those three talented linebackers I mentioned. If any one of those three Gators fail to make their blocks, the play will not work, and McNeely will get buried.
Burton hustles over and makes his pull block, stopping Swann dead in his tracks. Westbrook drives Mauger back several yards, and as you’re about to see in the next frame, Humphries makes doggie chow out of Herrera. This gives McNeely a nice hole to exploit. Remember, he’s just thinking about getting nine yards, because it was fourth and nine. He wasn’t necessarily thinking touchdown. He just needed enough blocking help to get a first down.
But McNeely got more than he could have hoped. His teammates continued to drive their assigned men backwards- Humphries actually re-enacted the Brandon Spikes hit on Knowshon Moreno– and McNeely had more than enough room to drive a small tank through.
The result? Touchdown Florida.
Play #2: Matt Jones 44 yard touchdown run
It’s a seven man Georgia front, against a six man offensive line for Florida. The call is a power run up the middle for Matt Jones, which was probably designed to get Florida three or four yards on a 2nd and 8 to set up and 3rd and medium at about the Georgia 40. If it gets you to a 3rd and 5, you can potentially call two more running plays (assuming the first one gets at least a yard or so) because of where you are on the field. You just need a couple of decent blocks.
But Jones gets more than a couple of decent blocks from his five offensive linemen, plus Clay Burton. It gives him an initial hole to get through, and there’s space outside for him to bounce. Now the play appears to have about a six or seven yard potential.
The offensive linemen have done such a great job with the Georgia front seven that Jones has room to get past them. And he does, because he’s got some speed.
Now it comes down to the blocking ability of Florida’s receivers to turn a big play into a huge play. Jones has already gained seven yards at this point, and he’s looking for more. LaTroy Pittman, who makes “block number six”, doesn’t so much make a block as much as he makes Damian Swann fall over himself. He’s just that intimidating, I guess.
But it’s DeMarcus Robinson who’s the real hero on this play. He first takes care of Devin Bowman with block number seven by taking away his balance and allowing Jones to scoot past him.
Robinson isn’t done, though. He then proceeds to make his second block of the play by taking out Quincy Mauger (far right of the screen) and from there, it’s just Matt Jones’ speed doing the rest. Touchdown Florida.
Play #3: Kelvin Taylor 65 yard touchdown run
Florida’s up 31-13, as you can see by the scoreboard. All the Gators really want to do is pick up four or five yards and kill the clock. But Gator center Max Garcia (in blue) and receiver DeMarcus Robinson (in yellow, along with his blocking assignment Damian Swann) have other ideas. Georgia safety Dominick Sanders (in red) is going to creep up into what’s already an eight man box, and this is going to be fatal.
The Gators totally dominate the line of scrimmage here, just like our Rylan Romano said they would have to, and Sanders gets caught up in Max Garcia’s block. By the time the Georgia players have shed their blocks, Taylor has already found the outside hole. Uh-oh.
Meanwhile, DeMarcus Robinson seems interested in taking Damian Swann for a little ride. From about four yards past the line of scrimmage (the 39) to about the Georgia 41, Robinson has the leverage and is basically walking him down the field while Sanders has been caught badly out of position and is now trying to catch him in a footrace- which isn’t going to happen. Taylor (who just enters the right side of the screen) runs behind Robinson, passes him and takes it all the way home.
And Jeremy Foley likes it.