It wasn’t pretty, but Florida fought off a tough challenge from Vanderbilt and got out of Nashville with a 38-17 win. What stuck out in the victory?
The defense is still a problem.
Yes, Florida played better on defense after a miserable first quarter, and sure, Vandy’s offense isn’t as bad as you’d think an 0-6 team’s offense would be, but that doesn’t excuse getting bulldozed for an 11 play, 75 yard touchdown drive on the first series of the game. Nor does it excuse getting tossed around again on the next drive for 68 more yards before finally bucking down and forcing a field goal in the red zone. And the Gator defense displayed more instances of the two main problems that have plagued it all year— soft zones that get pierced and missed tackles— on a 58 yard touchdown catch and run by Chris Pierce. Vandy racked up over 400 yards on the day, which, barring improvements over their final three regular season games, does not bode well for the Gators’ defense in the SEC Championship Game.
Speaking of which, Todd Grantham is wearing out his welcome.
It’s true that Florida had a top ten defense last year, but that statistic is fading farther away in the rear view mirror with every passing day. Without a Jon Greenard type of problem-causer for opponents and a David Reese type of fireman who can clean up the mess his teammates leave for him a lot of the time, Florida’s defense can’t create enough negative plays to make up for the big yards it gives up. Particularly worrisome is his continued use of soft zones on third and long. Vandy converted 7-15 third downs on the day, and one of those “misses” was a 17 yard gain on third and nineteen; the Commodores went for it on fourth and two and naturally picked it up there. There’s no way Florida is going to get rid of him before the end of the season and probably won’t even do so then, but it’s becoming very clear that this defense won’t outgrow its current limitations this season.
Trask had his worst game of the season— and it was more than good enough.
Spectacular, Trask was not: passes came out wobbly, he missed a couple of reads and he even one hopped a wide open receiver four yards away for what would have been an easy first down. But don’t take that as a knock, because it’s actually a good thing. Because the worst game of the season for Kyle Trask did little to hurt his Heisman chances and nothing whatsoever to hurt Florida’s postseason aspirations. Trask went 26-35 for 383 yards and three touchdowns on the day, and most importantly didn’t turn it over for the second consecutive game. If this is the worst he’ll be all season, Florida’s guaranteed to be very much in every game the rest of this year.
Trevon Grimes jumped up a lot of NFL Draft boards today.
A risky decision by Trask to lob a rainbow into double coverage turned into a 34 yard touchdown pass because of a sensational play by Grimes. The ex-Ohio State Buckeye outpositioned both defenders and then used his sheer muscle mass to high point the football and haul it in for the score. Grimes only caught two other passes for ten yards, but that big time play he made came at a critical juncture— it gave Florida its first lead of the day just before halftime. No doubt that grabbed a lot of eyeballs and will be featured on his NFL Draft tape.
The verdict: Florida remains on track for Atlanta, but problems remain.
The good news is that the Gators are just two wins away from Atlanta, and have an offense that, even on a bad day, is still good to score in the high thirties. The bad news? It’s pretty clear by now that we’ve seen the final form of this defense, or at best, close to it. Grantham’s marriage to soft zone looks with multi-yard cushions on third down is a major issue that only gets compounded by bad tackling (or lack thereof), and with no interest in changing his scheme mid-season, Florida’s just going to have to outgun everybody if they want to keep a candlestick in the loss column.