Florida report card: Gators play their worst game this season, still win
I still have my vision after watching that disastrous performance from the Florida Gators on Saturday.
It was ugly, hideous, horrific — whichever adjective you want to apply here works.
But in the end, Florida found a way to win, beating Vanderbilt 9-7 en route to a berth in the SEC Championship game in December.
Coach Jim McElwain said it best in his postgame press conference: “Sometimes there (are) games like this. Champions find ways to win them.” Despite a bad performance on Saturday, the champions of the SEC East found a way to win.
Before we get to the South Carolina game next weekend, here are the grades Florida deserved based on its performance against Vanderbilt.
Entering Saturday’s game, Florida only had six turnovers for the season. The Gators committed four turnovers against Vanderbilt. Florida’s offense was abysmal. In the third quarter alone, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks combined for more yardage than the Gators. Florida had -18 yards in the third. Vanderbilt’s defense is good, but the Commodores didn’t set up barbed wire fences in front of the Gators.
The offensive line was especially bad in this game. Quarterback Treon Harris had no time to throw all day, and it showed. He completed only 50 percent of his passes and threw his first interception of the season.
Florida started six drives in Vanderbilt territory and 11 of 13 possessions found the Gators on the Commodores’ side of the field. Yet the team only scored nine points.
Obviously, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
If it wasn’t for the Gators’ defense, the Commodores would have easily won. When you take away the 74-yard touchdown run by Commodores running back Ralph Webb late in the second quarter, Florida shut down Vanderbilt’s offense.
The Commodores had 175 yards of total offense and only 30 of those yards were through the air.
As I say every week, Florida will be in every game because of how elite this defense is.
Special teams: B
There may come a point this season that Florida’s kicking woes come back to bite it in the butt. Saturday was almost that day. Walk-on kicker Neil MacInnes (“The Dentist,” as Jim McElwain calls him) missed an extra point after running back Kelvin Taylor’s touchdown in the first quarter. It wasn’t until Austin Hardin drilled a 43-yard field goal late in the fourth that the missed extra point was avenged. Bottom line, the Gators need to fix this problem, but it looks like their issues won’t be solved with anyone that’s currently on the roster.
On the bright side, freshman Antonio Callaway looks like one of the best punt returners in college football. Every time he caught a punt, he just looked like he was about to take it the distance. His vision is incredible. It looks like the guy can see every single opening in the defense. He averaged just over 15 yards per return.
Punter Johnny Townsend continued to be a weapon. He averaged 44.4 yards per punt and flipped the field all game.
When the game mattered most, the Florida coaching staff trusted Hardin, despite his woes, to deliver. He did just that. I’m sure there were questions on that sideline on whether or not they trusted Hardin in that situation, but they did.
I just want to know when Wikipedia is going to update Jim McElwain’s page to say 2015 SEC Coach of the Year? This guy is a slam dunk to win the award. If there’s a way to bet on this, put your life savings on the line. He’s winning it.
It wasn’t the greatest game ever, but Florida still won. That’s all that matters. You don’t get two wins for winning by 100 points and you don’t get half of a win for winning by two points. A W is a W.
Now Florida looks to improve when it takes on South Carolina next weekend.