Four things we learned: Defense leads but team effort brings Florida win over Georgia

By Adam Silverstein
October 30, 2016
Four things we learned: Defense leads but team effort brings Florida win over Georgia

Image Credit: SEC Network

While the Florida Gators once again looked uneven on Saturday, they made relatively easy work of the Georgia Bulldogs by using a dominant defensive performance to prevail 24-10 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

With a tough slate upcoming, the Gators have plenty to do if they want to stay atop the SEC East and return to Atlanta in December.

Here are four things we learned from Florida’s win on Saturday.

1. True team effort: Yes, the Gators’ defense was once again dominant. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit. But Florida put together a thorough performance on Saturday that included all three phases stepping up and individual players taking over the game one drive at a time. Florida only posted 231 yards of total offense on Saturday, but it grinded things out on the ground with sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett toting the rock 26 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. He is now the second UF player in the last 12 years with a score in six straight games.

Aside from Scarlett, who was the most efficient runner on either team throughout the game, redshirt sophomore tight end C’yontai Lewis had a series all to himself when he caught a near-impossible pass on the sideline for a 17-yard gain and followed it up three plays later by breaking a tackle and rumbling 19 yards into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown. In the third quarter, sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway took over with a 21-yard gain, 4-yard reception on first down and a jet sweep he took into the end zone for a 4-yard score.

In the fourth quarter alone, senior linebacker Jarrad Davis had four tackles, two for lost yardage — including the game-sealing tackle on fourth-and-3 from the Georgia 47 with 3:08 to play — and a quarterback hurry. “To make that play, it meant a lot because I know it’s fourth down, get the ball back to our offense, we can run out the clock and get out of here. It meant a lot,” he said.

Junior defensive back Duke Dawson, who has made his fair share of miscues this season, had two pass defenses in the same quarter, including one on fourth down the series before Davis ended the game. Senior LB Daniel McMillian also had his best game at UF.

So while Florida may not have been the model of consistency in the game, it was obvious that players were stepping up when they needed to in order to make big plays and pull the Gators to a victory. It’s exactly what head coach Jim McElwain has been asking of his team since he started in 2015.

2. This defense is not to be messed with: It’s easy to throw away Jacob Eason’s 15-for-33 passing performance as true freshman jitters or blame it on his offensive line, but Florida simply dominated Saturday’s game defensively. Eason posted just 143 yards and a touchdown — 66 of it on Georgia’s only touchdown series of the game, which was aided by a 15-yard pass inference penalty. Outside of that series, in which Eason completed 3-of-3 passes all on broken plays, he was 12-of-30 passing for 77 yards on the afternoon.

“Defensively, I mean, what do you say? Other than not losing contain, which really hurt us,” McElwain said. “That quarterback that they have is something special. That guy’s going to be a guy we’re going to have to contend with here at Florida for a lot of years here to come. He did a great job scrambling out of the pocket. I think we did a good job with our rush lanes in the second half and stayed disciplined with our eyes in the secondary.”

In the running game, the Gators bottled up Chubb and Co., holding the solid ground attack to 21 yards on 19 carries. Georgia posted 164 total yards (98 outside of its touchdown-scoring possession). It only had eight first downs (compared to eight punts) and went 4-of-16 combined on third and fourth downs tries. As Jay-Z once proposed, “What more can I say?”

3. There are still plenty of issues: Just because Florida dominated Saturday’s proceedings does not mean it played a clean game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio‘s first-possession interception was awful. Del Rio himself remains a major question mark considering he completed 15-of-25 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and the pick. “Other than that, he took care of the football and managed the game well,” McElwain said.

The offensive line also committed two penalties on its first four snaps of the game, though it did settle down after that and deserves credit for the way it performed overall. The problem is that one of those penalties came as Florida took over at midfield, pushing back solid field position. Another of the Gators’ six penalties also came at midfield as freshman linebacker Vosean Joseph received unnecessary roughness for pushing the Bulldogs’ punter for no good reason. Instead of starting at the 49, Florida began at its own 34, lost 10 yards and punted. And while we’re at it, redshirt sophomore kicker Eddy Pineiro seems to have no interest in making field goals inside 35 yards. It’s great that he can hit the long ones, but the short ones are just as important.

4. See ya later, alligator: Athletic director Jeremy Foley was in attendance for his final Florida game in an official capacity and saw the Gators pull off yet another victory against the Bulldogs. During Foley’s tenure as AD, Florida was 18-6 against Georgia. New AD Scott Stricklin was also in attendance. The transfer of power takes place on Tuesday … exactly one week before the presidential election.


  1. Michael Jones says:

    We beat a weak UGA team but a win in the SEC is a win (just ask the Vols). I didn’t think our coaching was great. That drive in the first half when we unnecessarily “cute” play-called ourselves out of field goal range when we were dominating their defensive line was reminiscent of the Muschamp/Weiss era. Del Rio also gets a little cute and needs to hit the open guy when its 3rd and short and the rest of the time too, for that matter.

    I’m happy we won but I don’t think we’ve played a good team yet. Even the Vols are turning out to be very average. It’l be very interesting to see what happens at Arkansas.

    • MAR says:

      Yes, Arkansas will be interesting. I foresee Applebee taking over at some point. Del Rio did have some nice clutch passes in the game, but we had open receivers deep all game and Del Rio is always late and short when passing more than 20 yards. Del Rio is incapable of looking like Applebee did in the first half at ciTrUs. Just typin’…
      Still a solid win. I liked that we were able to close the playbook and run the clock out. It showed a level of discipline and focus that has been rare with this team.

  2. SW FL Joe says:

    We also learned Luke is hurt worse than what we were led to believe. He has all the mobility of a statue. I expect to see every team left on the schedule to dial up blitz after blitz. Nuss needs to adjust his play calling accordingly.

  3. Tractorr says:

    Is our defense really that great? I think we will be exposed horribly by a team with a good downfield passing game. Look what UT did to us and Dobbs isn’t exactly known as the best passer ever. I have a feeling that FSU is going to make our defense look pretty average.

    • Florida’s had two bad quarters this season on defense. One of those touchdowns resulted from Tabor simply falling down.

      • Tractorr says:

        The only problem with that is that when someone goes long on him he seems to get burned. Had UT been able to catch the ball in the first half there wouldn’t be this we had two bad quarters story everyone keeps telling themselves. All I am saying is we have not played anything near an elite level offense yet. We have played better than average to bad offenses.

        • KB says:

          Keep in mind the pass rush goes hand in hand with the coverage. Those guys play up close to stifle short to intermediate passing routs. They are not designed to cover for 5 seconds. You want the QB to have to get the ball out quick because of the rush and when that is the case I don’t worry about that secondary for a second. They will compete and cover when that is the case against non-mobile QBs who are going to have problems waiting on deep routes to develop. UT had a mobile QB that bought some time and made plays much like Eason did on that one UGA touchdown. We can say it is those offenses UF played but do yourself a favor look at what those same offenses did to other competition in the passing game. Maybe some of it is bad Offense but a lot of it has to do with what the UF Defense is doing to those Offenses.

  4. cline says:

    I am loving it, no need to rip a team that leaves it all on the field. This squad plays to win the game, point blank. GO Gators!

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