The big day has come and gone. Florida and USF in The Swamp. The game I’ve been waiting for since the two schools announced they would be playing each other. It was pretty much as expected I would think and now we have five seasons to wait until the Gators and Bulls meet up again.
I’m putting this piece together while I watch Breakfast with the Gators, naturally. Mrs. TBG loves college football, but she still doesn’t quite understand watching games twice. Luckily the Sunday paper is bigger than usual and gives her something to do while I occupy the television.
For nearly two and a half quarters on Saturday, the games was exactly what USF wanted and might just have been Florida’s worst nightmare. The Bulls were in the game a lot longer than the final score would indicate. Up 7-0 deep into the first half. Tied 7-7 halfway through the third quarter. It was what the Bulls wanted. To stay in the game against a top-10 team in one of the harshest environments in the nation.
For the Gators, it was the exact opposite. An up-and-down offense and a defense that couldn’t do much against the run. Luckily for Florida, the pass defense was stellar and continued to force USF’s B.J. Daniels into making a number of bad decisions.
At the 7:24 mark of the third quarter, the tide shifted as the Bulls would experience four minutes and 52 seconds of hell. At that moment, Jeff Demps crossed the goal line after a spectacular 62-yard run that proved once again that he’s faster, shiftier, and better than anyone you know. It would end with 2:32 left in the third when Justin Trattou reached the end zone, rumbling 35 yards after intercepting Daniels. In the middle, Mike Gillislee punched in a touchdown from four yards out. Four minutes and 52 seconds. 21 points for the Gators. What was a tie quickly became a three-touchdown lead for Florida.
USF would score just over two minutes after the Trattou touchdown, but that was it for the Bulls. Florida would add 10 more points in the final frame to finish off USF 38-14.
Before getting into the Florida-side of the game, let’s look at some of USF’s positives. Yes, there were some. First of all, the Bulls ran the ball well. After the first game of the season, the Gators run defense looked like it would be a strength in 2010. It may still be, but USF did a number of good things on the ground throughout the game. The Bulls finished with 244 yards and ran for 6.3 yards per carry. They say if you control the run game, you have a great chance to come away with the victory. Early in the game, that was the case. The problem was that second half. Despite the Bulls great day on the ground, the Gators were better. 251 yards, 6.8 yards per carry.
Still, USF looked good on the ground against a team with a heavy rotation of defensive linemen and linebackers. They came into The Swamp and ran well. But they also may have done something Skip Holtz has not wanted to do since he became the head coach. Daniels ran the ball 17 times for 107 yards. That’s a good day. A great day for a quarterback (well, unless you’re comparing it to Michigan’s Denard Robinson, then it’s only a mediocre day), but Holtz wants Daniels to be more of a passer and in that area, he had a day to forget. Five completions to his teammates, four to the Gators. 84 yards passing, 51 of which came on one play. I’m sure Daniels is more than ready for the bye week.
The other positive for the Bulls was the play of the defensive line, at least early. When you give up 251 yards on the ground, you don’t want to think of your defensive line play as a positive, but USF got plenty of pressure on Gator quarterback John Brantley early and was able to slow the Florida offense. Turnovers ended up being the problem and the heat didn’t help. Having to be on the field as much as they did during the second half was tough and as the Gators got rolling, things got difficult for the entire USF defense.
Now for the Gators. This Florida running back had a career-high 139 rushing yards and 255 total yards on the day. Who is Jeff Demps? Demps has now played in two games on the season. Two games in which he averaged over 12 yards per carry in each. Think about that for a second. 12 yards per carry (he actually averages 12.5). There are plenty of receivers that don’t average that per catch. In fact, Brantley is averaging only 8.1 per completion. We expect high per carry averages for Demps – he averaged 7.8 as a true freshman and 7.5 as a sophomore – but over 12 is ridiculous. Even if you remove his 62-yard run against USF and his 72-yard run against Miami (OH), you still get a back averaging over six yards per carry. Can you say weapon?
Other than Demps, Florida has plenty of positives to build on as they head into SEC play. The pass defense was once against its ball-hawking self. That’s now two games and eight interceptions already. Ahmad Black and Janoris Jenkins have accounted for five of those. That’s now nine for Black in his Gator career, one away from jumping into a tie for tenth all-time in school history. Not bad for a “recruiting mistake.” Jenkins has stepped up and has clearly become one of the leaders on defense. The young cornerbacks on the roster have a great player to learn from over the course of the season.
And the young players overall for that matter. Those young players that stepped up and had good performances on Saturday. Stephen Alli, Robert Clark, and Andre Debose all saw plenty of time on the field against USF. While they only totaled one catch for 15 yards (the reception was Clark), they’re all learning and experience is key. On the defensive side of the field, both Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins made great plays in coverage. Depth in the secondary is a concern of many because of the youth at both cornerback and safety, but if the youngsters keep playing like they have been, it shouldn’t be much of a worry.
Good game for Florida and something to build on for USF. The Gators don’t get a rest as they travel to Tennessee in a few short days. The Bulls get a chance to rest after the loss before three straight home games. Saw some good things from both teams and some areas where there can be improvement. If the second half is indicative of how Florida will play from here on out, the Gators can and will have a very good season. For USF, it’s not something to get too discouraged about. This was definitely not a team to be ashamed to lose to. Learn from it and move forward.