Monday Morning Driskel: Florida Gators Thoughts After The Win Over The Tennessee Volunteers

Another win, another new Florida Gators feature at The Bull Gator. The name is inspired by our quarterback Jeff Driskel and Sports Illustrated’s Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback, which discusses a plethora of topics concerning the week’s NFL games. We hope to do something similar–but on a minor, more pertinent-to-us level. Don’t worry, it won’t be nearly as long. Let me know how you think this goes.

Also to take note: I AM NOT CRAZY. I know it’s Tuesday. Sadly, the idea came to me Monday night, so I figured why let a week go to waste?

Let me start this off by saying this was a fantastic college football week. The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers in stunning fourth quarter-shutout fashion, and Florida moved up to No. 14 in the polls, just behind Lane Kiffin and USC, who, to top it all off, lost to Stanford 14-21. And if there’s one thing Tennessee and Florida fans can agree on, I think it’s the happiness brought by seeing Lane Kiffin fail.

Beyond that, there’s not a great deal the Volunteers would be willing to agree with us about, after our 37-20 win in the hostile Rocky Top-land. For the Gators, it was a tale of two halves. The first half was slightly ugly, which featured Mr. Muschamp screaming at the top of his lungs at a referee, and the second half was, as TBG said, “glorious.”

What We Learned

Jeff Driskel is improving, quickly: I don’t think we could ask for much more than what Driskel has given us so far, and he looks like he can be so much better. He was extremely accurate, and his touchdown pass to Jordan Reed with defenders surrounding him was a thing of beauty. I feel bad for Jacoby Brissett, but Team Driskel all the way!

Driskel, calm and composed: The knock on Driskel coming into this year was his composure level. After showing he can effectively control the football game, accurately facilitate the football to his receivers, and thankfully handle the football without coughing it up, Driskel would appear to have better composure tenfold. Seriously, you couldn’t ask for much more from a sophomore quarterback who was starting in only his second game.

Against the run, Tennessee is tough inside, extremely flawed on the outside: If you noticed a trend in Florida’s results from different run plays, you weren’t alone. The Gators busted out long runs, including an 80-yard run by Trey Burton by avoiding the middle of the Tennessee defense, which was stuffing Florida at the line all night. The Vols have a few kinks to sort out on the corners of their defense.

Trey Burton can be a factor running the Wildcat: Burton was potently effective Saturday, running for 91 yards and two touchdowns on only three carries. We knew Burton had a chance to make an impact from the Wildcat, but it’s been a while since he has made much of a difference.

Frankie Hammond Jr. looks like Percy Harvin: Hammond Jr. is nowhere near the athletic level that Harvin is, or was, but Hammond sure has looked explosive and surprisingly smart in the open field.

The defense is great in the fourth quarter: Not so great in the first half, but I think preventing opposing teams from reaching the end-zone in the fourth is somewhat impressive, especially against a couple pretty good offensive teams. Jeff Dillman’s conditioning probably has a lot to do with this.

The safeties are all over the field: Josh Evans was everywhere at once during the first two games, despite getting knocked out of the second. Matt Elam also seemed to be picking up the slack during the last game by leading the team with 10 tackles.

Our defense, Marcus Roberson can’t catch: Very disappointed by Roberson’s hands. He’s always there for an interception, only to find it just beyond his grasp.

Things We Already Knew That Proved To Remain True

Will Muschamp is somewhat of a hothead: Haha, TBG seems to be unhappy about this.

Gilly’s good: Mike Gillislee is continuing to live up to his role as the probable best player on offense.

The Vols would be very sad when they lost: I wish I could have found a picture of the fans crying when they realized there was no chance of a burnt orange win, but if you watched the game on ESPN, you know what I’m talking about.

Surprise Of The Day

Derek Dooley may also be a hothead: Spiking the ball down is not an appropriate reaction after his quarterback Tyler Bray delivered a perfect pass to the disgruntled coach.

Play Of The Day

Trey Burton’s 80-yard touchdown run: This was just great. The Tennessee guy took an awful angle, though.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 37 – Tennessee Volunteers 20

The Florida Gators defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 37-20 on Saturday night after putting together a near perfect second half. I’ll get into the game as a whole, but first, a new feature I call What I Wrote at the Half. (Everything in italics was written at the half without any knowledge of the final 30 minutes. No, I can’t predict the future.)

The offense might not destroy the Florida Gators chances of success. The defense not reaching the highest levels of greatness that everyone expected might not either. What could, and probably will, ultimately kill any chance of the Gators competing throughout the entire 2012 college football season will be penalties. Against Bowling Green, it was infuriatingly comical. Against Texas A&M, it was like a different team was out there…in a good way. In the first half against Tennessee, stupid took on a whole new meaning. Luckily, the Vols had their own problems with penalties too.

This is a team with heaps of talent in the defensive backfield. So much talent that I used the word heaps for probably the first time ever (and hopefully the last). But there is pass interference and holding and pass interference and holding. There are occasions where those penalties are okay. If you’re just flat out beat and the receiver is going to make a big play, take the penalty. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than a big play or a touchdown. But when you’re in coverage and you have position and don’t need the hold, well, don’t hold.

And then there was the removal of a helmet on the field. Xavier Nixon, you’re better than that. Or at least, you know better than that. You got dug into by Will Muschamp when you came to the sideline and rightfully so. That wasn’t smart football by any means of the term. That’s just not something you do. You knew where you were on the field and you let your emotions get to you. It was a moment of stupidity. We’re sure you’ll learn from it, but it can’t happen. Not again, and not even once in the first place.

Since I mentioned Muschamp, I might as well express my feelings toward him as well. Yelling, screaming, crazy, red-faced Muschamp used to be funny. Then it became a disturbing sideshow act. Now it has reached the point that I’m about one more profanity-laced tirade away from being disgusted. Get in the face of a player that commits a dumb penalty. Get excited when something goes right. But cut out whatever it is you think you’re doing when you go after the referees. There are bad calls; every game has them. There are also calls that were right on even if they negatively impact the Gators. You screaming and yelling at a ref does nothing and it makes you look like a joke. 16 games into you’re head coaching career at Florida, I’m sick of it and I’m not the only one. You’re the head coach at the University of Florida. It’s a job desired by many. Quit the antics and coach your team.

I now go back to the game and the second half. The Gators are down 14-10. There’s been good and bad, but that’s common of Florida teams of late. I’m surprisingly calm overall, but that’s because I may just be used to this. I’ll throw out another JUST WIN and head back to the television.

That was the first half. The second half was oh so wonderfully glorious, I don’t know what to cover first. Let’s start with the arrogant fan route…

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Football Preview: Florida Gators @ Tennessee Volunteers – September 14, 2012 – 6:00PM ET

The Florida Gators travel to Knoxville, TN to face the Tennessee Volunteers in a rivalry game with few equals for either on the schedule. It’s hate week for both; the first week of the college football season in which the beautiful and the ugly come out from both fanbases. Sure, the Gators and Vols have both played two games early in the 2012 college football season, but take a look at the opponents – Bowling Green, Texas A&M, North Carolina State, Georgia State. Those names mean nothing now.* The season starts in week three for both of these teams. Weeks one and two were glorious times in which our favorite sport returned; now, it’s time to hate.

*These asterisked things usually come at the end of whatever long- or short-winded rant I’ve gone on, but for these special moments, I’m throwing them in wherever. Those games don’t actually mean nothing. They’re important for one of many reasons. You see young pupils, for the 2012 college football season, the Southeastern Conference (also known as the SEC) expanded to 14 teams. The Florida Gators were lucky enough to have both of the new conference members put on their schedule. In week two, the mighty Gators traveled to a foreign land known as College Station, TX. Stories of the vaunted 12th man were legendary, but the Gators would not show fear. No children, the great orange and blue machine road into Texas A&M and came out victorious. SEC record: 1-0.

So those games are actually relevant and important and everything else, but some more so than others. They don’t compare to today though. Today is a new world, but one we’re very familiar with. Florida fans hate everything about Tennessee. Vols’ fans despise the Gators and rightfully so. Rivalries magnify everything. Not much is expected of these two programs this season. They’re both growing and improving, but they aren’t expected to be anywhere near the national championship picture at the end of the year (or even the middle). That doesn’t diminish the rivalry feel and it definitely doesn’t extinguish the hatred. It’s ever present. Playing for a crystal ball does not a rivalry make.

For me, Tennessee is the most hated rival. I’ve mentioned that before and every time I do, people find it hard to understand. For most Gators’ fans, Tennessee falls into the third spot behind Florida State and Georgia. I won’t argue with that. Those top three are the top three and you can put them in any order you wish. But I have my reasons and the Vols are number one. It could be because I don’t know a single person that went there. I didn’t grow up with delusional friends that were Tennessee fans. Then again, I didn’t grow up with friends that cheered for Georgia either, but the Gators beat the Bulldogs fairly consistently during my college football formative years. And this is where my worry sets in about the latest generation.

Let’s say you’re in high school right now. You may not remember the last time the Vols beat the Gators. This was me growing with with the Georgia rivalry. The Dawgs won so few during that huge span that the rivalry didn’t reach its highest levels for me until years later. It’s there, but the battle with Tennessee was a bigger one. I can see that happening in reverse for those growing up now. As horrible as it sounds, a Vols’ victory may be needed to reignite the rivalry for the youngins. Now before you go postal on me, I don’t want Tennessee to ever win. Ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. I’m fine with seven in a row becoming eight or nine or ten or twenty. I simply want those in their teens to know and understand the history and hate accordingly. Today could have a great outcome or an awful one, but it has the potential to bring that rivalry to the forefront for those of the next generation.

And if that doesn’t make you hate the Vols, than this surely will…

Whiteboy Swag Tattoo

That’s Tennessee starting quarterback Tyler Bray. Huh? What’s that? That’s not a picture of Bray’s tattoo? Oh sorry, this is…

Tyler Bray Tattoo

Nice ink bro.

Now that your hatred for Tennessee has reached epic levels, let’s talk about the game…

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The Defense: Florida Gators 33 – Tennessee Volunteers 23

The offense has been covered; moving on to the defense.
23 points isn’t three and it definitely isn’t zero, but even with Tennessee’s scoring explosion, Florida is allowing less than nine points per game on the season. We knew the Vols would be the biggest test the Gators’ defense had faced all season, but overall Florida played well and got the win. Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray got his yards and his touchdowns, but the defense also intercepted him twice and pressured him throughout the game. It definitely didn’t hurt to watch the Gators completely shut down the Vols’ running game either. Good win; solid play by the defense. Plenty to like and some improvement to be had. We’ll take it and take 3-0 (1-0).
The defensive line was having trouble getting to opposing quarterbacks consistently during wins over FAU and UAB. With plenty of star power across the line, it was hard to understand why pressure was few and far between. You could have asked the question if Sharrif Floyd’s absence contributed, but it was difficult to imagine one player making that much of a difference. Then again, maybe it was the cohesiveness of the unit that was thrown off with Floyd watching from the sidelines. Against Tennessee, the pressure was back. The line only accounted for one sack – a split by Jaye Howard and Ronald Powell – but also helped spring linebackers Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins who each had sacks themselves. In addition, Floyd and Powell each had two hits on Bray and Dominique Easley had two tackles for loss. It was a start and needs to continue against Kentucky. Good to see Floyd back in action and hopefully a spring in Powell’s step.
Bostic and Jenkins were number one and two in tackles against the Vols and that’s the way it should be every game. They’re getting to ball carriers and finishing tackles. This is exactly what we all wanted to see last season and it’s something that makes us smile now. These are two of the more talented players on a roster full of ability and potential. In the new defense, they’re able to make plays and are doing so. Now if we can just get Jenkins to catch sure interceptions, the Gators will be golden! Other than that, these two are improving week after week and have become the leaders of the defense.
16 penalties for 150 yards. I’m sure real journalists would shy away from saying juvenile words in all caps. Luckily for you, I’m not a real journalist. Here’s my reaction to 16 and 150: YIKES! The fact that Tennessee had 10 penalties for 94 yards lessens the impact a little, but not much. At the heart of the Gators’ numbers were more pass interference penalties than you should have in a month of games. There were questionable calls for sure, but for the most part they were reasonable. That’s the nature of a young secondary and something that will improve, but right now it’s an issue. They’ll learn that when the receiver turns his head, they might want to as well because the ball may be coming. They’ll get there, if only because giving up 150 yards a game won’t be acceptable to Will Muschamp. I don’t know about the rest of you, but after watching Muschamp on Saturday, I would never want to come even close to doing something that he might deem unacceptable. The man has just a little bit of fire to him. You know, just a tiny, little bit.
Other than the penalties, the secondary passed its test against Bray. Because of a non-existent run game – the Vols netted a loss of nine yards – and having to play from behind the entire game, Bray did total 288 yards and threw three touchdown passes. He attempted 48 passes though. Brantley’s average per completion was actually higher. The secondary didn’t give up the long play and played well enough to not let him be a star. That’s good on a number of levels, but mostly because Bray may be one of the best quarterbacks the Gators face this season. They intercepted him twice and never broke. They may have bent, but they didn’t break. It wasn’t an A performance, but it also wasn’t a C. Despite the yards and touchdowns, I hope the confidence of the secondary continues to grow.
Allowing 279 yards to one of your chief rivals in a divisional conference game is acceptable. Allowing 23 points may be a little much though. If the penalty issue is diminished and the pressure on opposing quarterbacks continues, it’ll improve. This wasn’t a bad game for the defense and shouldn’t be seen as one. It was a test and, again, they didn’t break. This should be a team to be excited about.
Next up: special teams.

Preview: Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers – Saturday, September 17, 2011 – 3:30pm

Preview time and an extra special one because it’s rivalry week. Rivalries don’t fade. It doesn’t matter if one team takes control of the series and puts together a streak of five or even 10 wins. There’s still an aura surrounding the entire experience. Florida and Tennessee are rivals. They’re conference rivals. They’re divisional rivals. They’re whatever name you want to put on it. It’s a great, albeit nerve-wracking, week all around. This is why we love the game though. It’s rivalry week.
The Facts
Opponent: Tennessee Volunteers
When: Saturday, September 17, 2011 – 3:30pm
Where: Gainesville, FL
Broadcasting: CBS, Gator Radio Network, GatorZone
Records: Florida: 2-0, Tennessee: 2-0
Point Spread for Wagerin’ Folk: Florida –9.5
Over/Under for Those Mentioned Above: 51
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 30-21
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 40.0, Tennessee: 43.5
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 1.5; Tennessee: 19.5
Our Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 75, OEW: 70
Where We’ll Be Watching: The TBG Corporate Office
10 Things About Tennessee From Wikipedia
The section of the preview where you learn a little something about the school and not the athletics. Well, that’s not entirely true; there are typically some athletics thrown in there. For football-like stuff, scroll ahead.
1. What became the University of Tennessee was established in 1794. That’s older than, well, anything you know pretty much.
2. In that time, it has been called Blount College, East Tennessee College and East Tennessee University before being what it is today.
3. The chancellor, Jimmy Cheek, spent 34 years at Florida as a faculty member and administrator. Cheek received two of his three degrees from future SEC member Texas A&M.
4. Tennessee’s enrollment is somewhere in the ballpark of 27,000 with more than half of that coming from instate.
5. In 2008, PopCrunch rated Tennessee’s student body the 25th most attractive. USF, Miami, Florida, and FSU all ranked higher. Yes, we love our state. The Gators were 4th.
6. The student newspaper is The Daily Beacon. I personally prefer The Alligator, but I might be biased.
7. Lane Kiffin
8. I’ve got nothing and plenty with no. 7, but it’s there and always be. Since you came here for 10 different facts, here’s one you better already know: Peyton Manning never beat the Gators.
9. In 1953, a contest was held to help choose the hound that would become Smokey. An advertisement in a local newspaper stipulated it must be a “Houn’ Dawg.” You can’t spell Citrus without the U and the T, but you can spell hound without the D apparently.
10. Notable alumni: Dixie Carter – there your first and only Designing Women callout; Kurt Vonnegut – a favorite of one Jonathan Moxon; Scott Abbott – one of the inventors of Trivial Pursuit; and obviously a whole bunch of athletes.
When The Gators Have The Ball
Here we go. What we’ve been waiting for and possibly fearing at the same time. It’s a real, live, living, breathing SEC defense. A defense that will be faster and, yes, better than those the Gators have faced thus far this season. It will be a test and one we all want to see.
From what we’ve heard, Charlie Weis only uses the offensive plays he needs to. Fans have been clamoring for John Brantley to take more shots down the field and work the deep passing game into the offense, but it hasn’t been needed and if it isn’t needed, Weis stays away from it. Part of it is not wanting to show your hand and part of it is controlling the game. Weis does what he needs to do to win and after two weeks, we shouldn’t complain. BUT…we do want to see more. Against the Vols, we will (we think). If Tennessee makes a game out of it, Florida will need more offensive firepower and we’ll all get a chance to see exactly what Weis brings to the offense.
Brantley and the offensive line are where it all begins. The quarterback’s composure is perhaps the most important part of the offense, but the line will keep him in the right frame of mind. Keep the pressure off of no. 12 and he can do wonders (again, we think). We saw glimpses against UAB. There were plays that came together exactly as drawn up where the line formed the ideal pocket around Brantley and he was able to stand strong and fire passes to his receivers. It showed us all the potential Brantley has when given the chance to set his feet and use his arm to his advantage. It’s his responsibility to play to his ability, but it’s also the line’s responsibility to allow him to do so.
The running game was two: Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Against UAB – with Demps limited – it became one: Rainey. All cylinders will have to be going against Tennessee as this is the obvious strength of the Florida offense. And – let’s get a drum roll going here – after the last game, we’re much more comfortable about that two becoming three and even four. After fall practice, there was concerned about a lack of consistent play behind the co-starters. Neither got going during the win over FAU, but Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown saw extensive time against UAB and gave us all a little more confidence in the entire running game from starter to third string. Don’t be surprised if rushes are plentiful against the Vols. Weis wants to control the clock and can do just that if he can keep the rushing average up and the chains moving.
I’ve said this before and I’ll keep saying it: there needs to be a go-to receiver. We’ll go ahead and give the Gators a pass for the first two games because Florida just hasn’t needed one yet, but they will and this could be the game. There’s talent – you’ve been told that a million times by now – but who will step up when Brantley needs someone to rely on in a close game? I could name every receiver on the roster that has ever made a play, but I won’t. Sooner or later one will step up and it could be against Tennessee. This is the first real challenge the Gators face and one that can’t be taken lightly. A receiver will have to make a big play in a clutch situation.
When The Volunteers Have The Ball
Sure it has only been two games and sure the opponents were FAU and UAB, but let’s do the rundown. 1.5 points allowed per game, which just happens to be best in the nation. Opposing quarterbacks have a combined rating of 89.0 and have only passed for 248 yards. The Gators have held opponents to 50.5 rushing yards per game and an average of only 1.9 per carry. Those are impressive numbers regardless of who the opponents were, but you’d think they meant nothing with Tyler Bray coming to town.
Bray is a good passer that had a solid first year in which he showed flashes of becoming a top-notch quarterback. To open the 2011 season against Montana and Cincinnati, Bray had eye-popping numbers: 698 yards, completing 78.5% of his passes, seven touchdowns to zero interceptions, and a rating of 204.2. Those are good numbers. Those are great numbers. From everything we’ve heard, you’d think Bray was a Heisman candidate. He isn’t, yet. That would be similar to ranking Florida no. 1 because they’re undefeated. Bray is good and will be one of the better passers the Gators face this season, but he’s coming into a hostile environment. Bray went 2-2 on the road last season with those wins coming against Memphis and Vanderbilt. He’s not Jonathan Crompton (that’s for sure), but he’s not Peyton Manning either (who as you read above just so happened to never beat Florida). Bray is a young quarterback facing the toughest road test of his career. He’ll have some success, but he’ll also be tested by the defense, the crowd and the aura of The Swamp.
The Gators need pressure and lots of it. Bray will be blitzed, but the front four needs to pressure him without the help of a linebacker or defensive back. That’s where we’ll all look to Sharrif Floyd. Floyd will be playing in his first game after being forced to sit out of the first two for growing up without the privileges some of us take for granted. He’ll be angry and if you’ve ever seen Floyd that’s a very bad thing for anyone in his way. To say he’ll have a fire pushing him on for 60 minutes is an understatement. Hopefully he’s the missing link to the line and can help spring Jaye Howard, Ronald Powell and others into the backfield. If given time, Bray can be very dangerous. The Gators can’t give him that time.
Against Cincinnati, Bray had 405 yards with a long of only 33. That means he was working the intermediate passing game to near perfection. The Gator linebackers know this and will be the most vital part of the defense. Tennessee’s run game hasn’t done much – 127.0 yards per game which is good for 82nd in the country – but if the LBs are too focused on Bray, it can. Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins need to be the leaders of the defense and be everywhere on the field. This won’t be a game with a heavy rotation of personnel like the last two. Bostic, Jenkins and Lerentee McCray will play the bulk and need to stay energized and ready play after play.
Sticking with the “Bray will beat Florida” theme since that’s what plenty seem to think will happen, it’s time to move on to the secondary. After two games, you have to be excited about Matt Elam and Marcus Roberson. You also have to be worried…no that’s too strong…nervous…probably not it either…concerned…yeah, concerned…with the other half of the secondary. Talent is abundant, but consistency isn’t yet. But it’s not just about the other two. Because those two will be tested, it’s important that Elam and Roberson bring their A games. They can’t be the ones to let anything by them. They have to shutdown anything coming their way as the others ease into a game where they will be passed on constantly. This game will be a great chance to see exactly where the secondary is as an entire unit.
Special Teams
I miss Brandon James.
One Eyed Willy’s Detailed Analysis Of The Matchup
“I’m nervously optimistic. Is Bray really the second coming of Joe Montana? Let’s hope not!”
Outcome
Florida is the favorite and should be. This entire game will flow differently than the previous two, but that may be a good thing. The Gators need to be tested. Will Muschamp, Weis and the rest of the coaches need to see exactly where their players are in terms of progress. Tennessee is a good, young team on the rise, but they still have question marks too. This is a level setter for both programs and, of course, it’s rivalry week.