GAINESVILLE, Fla. – “Do your job,” is the mantra of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, so much so that it is the title of the 2014 documentary about the Patriots championship season.
Gators head coach Jim McElwain is a Nick Saban disciple, who has close ties to Belichick. So it was not a huge surprise when SEC Network’s Kaylee Hartung reported that Gators QB Luke Del Rio implored his team to “do your job” in the second quarter against Missouri.
The offense had been moving the ball up and down the field against Missouri, but had been unable to put points on the board. I went back and looked at the film, and Del Rio was correct. While he was guilty of not doing his job properly a few times, he was hardly the only reason the Gators offense struggled.
Here are four examples in which the Gators failed to do their job and cost their team a chance for points or to extend drives.
On the second drive of the game, Florida was driving into Missouri territory and faced a third-and-7.
The play design here is spectacular. Florida starts with both Mark Herndon and Jordan Cronkrite in the backfield. Missouri knows that Florida likes to throw to Cronkrite and so when he heads out to the left flat right after the snap, he’s followed by the middle linebacker. This leaves Herndon guarded by Missouri linebacker Michael Scherer.
Florida offensive linemen Cam Dillard (54) and Tyler Jordan (64) have a double team on Scherer and whiff on the block. Other than Scherer, the closest Missouri defender when Herndon catches the ball is 14-yards away. This should have been a first down, but instead Florida had to punt.
On the next drive, Florida faced a second-and-8 from the Missouri 42-yard line. Missouri initially brings five defenders to rush Del Rio. When the linebacker responsible for covering Florida RB Jordan Scarlett sees he is staying in to block, he rushes the passer as well. Del Rio reads the play correctly and sees that he has 1-on-1 coverage versus receiver Tyrie Cleveland on the outside.
But Scarlett gets lost and doesn’t pick up the the blitzing linebacker. Watching the video, you can see Del Rio start to recoil just before he lets go of the ball. The result is that the ball is underthrown and instead of an easy TD or a pass interference penalty, the cornerback is able to knock down the pass.
Later in the second quarter, Florida had just hit a pass to DeAndre Goolsby down to the Missouri 5-yard line. A false start was then called on Antonio Callaway for not being set (his second false start of the half) and two plays later, Florida was facing third-and-goal from the Missouri 7-yard line.
Del Rio had three different receivers open on this play. Scarlett was open in the flat, though he might not have been able to score. Tight end C’yontai Lewis was open on a fade route at the top of the screen. Del Rio decided to throw across the middle to Tyrie Cleveland, who was open as well.
But Missouri – even though it only rushed four defensive linemen – got to Del Rio and he sailed the pass over Cleveland’s head. Closer inspection shows left guard Martez Ivey getting beat quickly on a spin move, which leads to the overthrow and Florida settling for a field goal.
With just more than three minutes left in the half, Del Rio threw his first interception of the game. It was second-and-1 and they decided to throw deep. Brandon Powell initially looked open, but Del Rio put too much air under the throw.
There are three things of note looking at the play.
First, Florida was in max protection and kept both tight ends in to block. Missouri only rushed four and Florida had seven blockers. This meant that Missouri had seven defenders dropped in coverage against a three-man route.
Second, those seven blockers still allowed the defensive tackle to impede Del Rio’s ability to step into the throw. This is part of what made the throw float and allowed the defender to get back into the play.
These are execution errors, which if you haven’t gotten the hint by now, Florida makes often. But the real error here is on the coaches. It is second-and-1 and the presnap read shows Missouri with only six defenders in the box and two deep safeties. This alignment screams zone.
Missouri was inviting them to take the first down and Florida should have made an audible into a run play. Instead, the Gators did exactly what Missouri wanted them to do and threw into what essentially amounted to triple coverage.
Cam Dillard and Tyler Jordan are 313 and 309 pounds, respectively. Scherer, a linebacker, is 235. That block has to be made.
Scarlett has to know based on the coverage that if he’s staying in to block, the opposing linebacker is taught to rush the QB. It’s his responsibility to at least slow him down so that Del Rio can deliver the ball against single coverage.
Martez Ivey is a former 5-star recruit. He is caught leaning forward in a situation where the route tree just requires that he not get beat immediately.
On second-and-1, I understand that you want to take a shot deep and you can still run for the first down on the next play. But Missouri was giving them the first down and Florida should have taken it.
These four plays are representative of what is wrong with the Florida offense. The Gators can string three or four really good plays together and go up and down the field. But they are unable to all do their jobs consistently enough to put together long drives. Missouri exploited this by playing a ton of zone and daring Florida to run them out of it. In the first half, the Gators were unable – or unwilling – to do so.
And that brings us to Del Rio. First, we’ll talk about what he does really well. He is excellent against the blitz. Perhaps the best illustration of this was in the third quarter on a third-and-7 after Missouri cut the Florida lead to 20-7.
Missouri brings six defenders and Del Rio immediately identifies that he has 1-on-1 coverage on Brandon Powell. The blitz is coming from his right side, so he knows he is going to get blasted. He delivers a perfect strike to Powell to get the first down right before he gets hit.
Del Rio showed the ability to beat the blitz repeatedly. But the quality that he shows against the blitz (locking on to the appropriate receiver based on the coverage) is also his weakness against zone coverage.
On this play in the first quarter, Del Rio should see presnap that the free safety is lined up deep while the strong safety is five yards closer to the line of scrimmage. This alignment typically means that the free safety is responsible for the zone directly behind him – or exactly where Del Rio forces the ball to Callaway.
He was throwing that ball to Callaway the minute the play was called. Had he read the coverage correctly, he might have noticed that Tyrie Cleveland was wide open in the flat after the fake reverse. He certainly would never have thrown to Callaway.
More disturbing is that he did it again in the third quarter.
This is the exact same coverage. The free safety is in the exact same spot and his responsibility is again the zone right behind him. Del Rio locks on to Tyrie Cleveland and throws into the teeth of the double coverage on a ball that should have been intercepted.
I told Gators fans earlier in the week that they should relax if they are getting frustrated with the offense, and that’s still true. The offense put up more than 500 yards and Del Rio looked tentative on his knee. These are all correctable mistakes, and the team now has a bye week to clean them up.
Gators fans should be encouraged at the creativity shown with Del Rio in the lineup. He is smart enough that he is going to fix his presnap reads. And eventually, Georgia is going to bring a blitz and Del Rio will have an opportunity to do what he does best: Take the hit and deliver the ball against 1-on-1 coverage.