The Florida Gators came up short against the Georgia Bulldogs. Now they have to regroup and make sure they finish the season without another loss.
By Matt Zemek
Some Gator fans will be upset, and some Gator fans think that Dan Mullen’s coaching performances against Kirby Smart in the Cocktail Party (not just this year, but in the past) have been unacceptable. Yet, Florida did not have an elite quarterback in either of those games. Feleipe Franks had not developed enough to threaten Georgia in 2018, and Kyle Trask was not likely to be up to the task in 2019.
Mullen hasn’t found a quarterback who can take control of a game and make it his own. Every great Florida team over the past 30 years, with the exception of 2006, has needed its quarterback to hold the offense together and provide a foundation which could withstand outside pressures and rugged competition. While that long-term search for an elite quarterback continues – the main piece Florida needs to attain a top-tier position in the SEC – the Gators can’t worry about 2020 and beyond.
They have to win out, go 10-2, and marvel at how they improved upon last season’s 9-3 record through 12 games despite Franks being injured. A 10-2 season with a backup playing the meat of the SEC schedule would be a very good year when adjusted for circumstances. No, this isn’t where Florida wants to be – second place behind Georgia in the SEC East – but without an elite quarterback, this could be so much worse.
Play Vanderbilt. Win. Finish strong. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
1 – Third down
Of course, Vanderbilt’s offense isn’t nearly as threatening as Georgia’s. Nevertheless, if the Florida defense has a priority for this game and the rest of the season, it is getting off the field on third down. That is what killed the Gators against Georgia, more than anything else. Everyone on the defense should be angry and upset. Okay, then: Play like it.
2 – Pass rush
We are not going to try to reinvent the wheel against Vanderbilt, because we don’t have to. Florida needs to get back to basics in this game. If third down was such a problem for the Gators, it started with the lack of a fierce pass rush. Jake Fromm of Georgia was able to survey the field and find receivers on short or short-intermediate passes for first downs.
Get home. Get the quarterback. Anything less is unacceptable for a defense which let down UF in the Cocktail Party. Fix this against Vanderbilt, and keep it fixed for the rest of the season, including the bowl game.
3 – Running game
If Florida can’t establish the run before this season ends, how will the 2020 offense expect to establish the higher standard UF will need to eclipse Georgia? The Gators have to leave the 2019 season knowing they can establish the run. They have a few more weeks in which to make progress. This improvement project needs to get going against Vanderbilt.