Five Takeaways from Florida’s 31-19 win over Tennessee

Kyle Trask

Florida didn’t play especially well, but did more than enough to beat Tennessee and wrap up the SEC East for the first time since 2016. What were the major takeaways from the game?

Florida simply does not have a running game

Tennessee came into the game with a five game losing streak. In each of those five losses, the Vols surrendered 165 rushing yards or more. I totally get that when you have a Heisman Trophy candidate at QB in Kyle Trask and a mismatch at tight end like Kyle Pitts that throwing the ball is going to be the preferred method to move the ball, but that’s no excuse to finish a football game with a paltry 19 rushing yards. Florida never could establish a ground attack against the Vols, running the ball seventeen times and barely managing to average a single yard per attempt. That’s not insurmountable against Tennessee, but it will be against Alabama.

The defense is quietly getting better, but still has holes

Yes, it’s very irritating that Tennessee racked up a pair of touchdowns in the final minutes of the game against a prevent defense, but those points had no bearing on the end result of the game. What was more concerning- against an offense decimated by COVID-19 and starting a true freshman quarterback- was getting gutted for an eleven play, 96 yard touchdown drive early in the second quarter. There’s no “the game is over/we’re getting our backups some reps/we’re just playing prevent here” type of excuse for that, and it does not bode well against Alabama. Other than that? The defense was actually solid on the day, forcing punts (or in one case, a failed fake) on the other eight of the Vols’ first nine drives of the game before the garbage time touchdowns. That’s something we haven’t seen yet this year, and it’s nice. But the tackling remains a problem, some of the angles being taken to the ball carriers are still bad, and to be blunt, I’m not convinced that Florida is playing the best players it has at all eleven spots on the defense. As was the case with the running game, this was fine for today; it won’t be in Atlanta.

Kyle Trask is officially the Heisman favorite

How about something positive now? OK: Trask fried Tennessee for 433 passing yards, which is the tenth highest passing total for a single game in Gator football history. Mixed in there were four more touchdowns through the air, which draws him within one of Danny Wuerffel’s single season school record of 39 in 1996. He’ll have a chance to break that next week against LSU, and try to really build a lead on Mac Jones in the Heisman Trophy race before the two square off in Atlanta for the SEC Title. Though it feels like the winner of that game will win the Heisman, with another big game next week, maybe Trask can put enough distance between himself and Jones that it won’t even matter.

Jacob Finn might be the most underrated punter in the country

Not the best, mind you, but man, is he deadly accurate. And it’s about time he gets some credit for it. He pinned the Vols at the four yard line with one punt, and boomed another for 50 yards to flip the field. If Florida’s offense continues to flounder the way it did for parts of the game moving forward, he just may be called upon more down the stretch. And if he keeps booming punts when he needs to boom them and placing them high and short when he needs to do that, Florida might, just might, be able to play field position with teams… if their defense can play the game of its life. But Finn and the special teams are doing their part.

The verdict: Florida’s two wins away from the CFP

At this point, the “blow everybody away but lose close to Alabama and you might jump teams ahead of you and sneak into the Playoff at #4” path to the promised land is gone. Florida has wholly underwhelmed against bottom feeders Vanderbilt, Kentucky and now Tennessee, so that route has been blocked off. Which, OK, not the end of the world: defeating LSU, however close or lopsided it may be, and then Alabama in Atlanta will put Florida in the Playoff. It’s just that now, that’s the Gators’ only possible road to the Playoff. I cannot objectively say that what I’ve seen from this Gator team in the past three weeks is particularly conducive to beating Alabama. But I will assume that Florida holds serve against LSU at home, which will set up a one game season for the Gators in Atlanta. And in a one game season, with everything on the line, crazier things have happened.

5 thoughts on “Five Takeaways from Florida’s 31-19 win over Tennessee

  1. We need a new defensive coordinator. Mullen is not a killer instinct person. I think the attitude of the team is, offense will pull it out. PLAY 60 MIN OF REAL FOOTBALL. This crap of lets ease up, we are ahead, slack off is showing it’s ugly head now. WE NEED TO GET THE LETS STOMP THEM DOWN ATTITUDE. Stop playing around, wake up coach. SOS WOULD NEVER TAKE HIS FOOT OFF THEIR THROAT.

  2. Neil;

    Appreciate your work and thoughts – perspective in this article…and the podcast! Really enjoyed Alex Brown’s thoughts, and agree it’s time he’s in the Ring of Honor or it becomes the Ring of Dishonor.

    Agree with the Wayne that the Gators better learn how to keep their foot on the other team’s throat the way SOS did, even with the 3’s and 4’s on the field. My belief is that the message a coach sends when they turn off the aggression is the games over guys. What we saw in the 4th quarter at UT it’s obvious the Gators on the field had turned off the on switch! On both sides….

    I believe UT D line and LB’s showed up Saturday determined that the Gators were not going to run the ball. Pruitt admitted as much when he said I wanted to make them one dimensional. Unfortunately for him he chose the wrong answer. On the other hand he played cover 2 and 3 all day with those players often at least 15 yards off the ball, hence there were not going to be many if any home runs over the top. And there weren’t. This goes against every Pruitt game film you’ll see, he’s one of the most aggressive DC’s in the game, including Grantham. I think these facts are the why behind KT’s pedestrian 400 + yards passing, if you call that pedestrian.

    Lastly, let’s not disrespect the Defensive minds we have faced recently – Odom at Arkansas, MAson at Vandy, Pruitt, etc. The SEC is tough from top to bottom and there are players who have lots of pride and athleticism. The Gators just happen to have more at this moment and a system that allows them the opportunity to exploit whatever defense is thrown at them. There is no question in my mind the windows are tighter than 4 weeks ago and the coverages more disguised which makes what Trask and the coaches did very special.

    Do we need to run the ball in 2020? Not if they are selling out 5-7 to slow or stop the run. Utilize the wide receiver screens, bubble screens, wheel routes, etc. Force Bama to play a dime package the entire game is my initial though after watching the LSU game. I’m looking forward to how Pellini approaches Saturday night, will he give in and play cover 2 and 3? OR stay in cover 1 or 0 playing MTM? You would think he has learned a lesson this year – we’ll see.

    So we have one game to make final preparation for a very fast and physical championship in Atlanta? Go Gators!

    1. Hey John,

      Thanks for your comments, your patronage and the kind words!

      Those 3s and 4s are going to one day be on the field with a big game on the line. Oh, maybe not this year, maybe not next year, but at some point. That’s why they became Florida Gators. So they might as well learn to play big time football now, as 3s and 4s, before the pressure on them gets ramped up.

      I have no issue whatsoever with the game tape that Trask put out there. It’s the other pieces of game tape that have me raising my eyebrows. Cope dropped an easy pass (after complaining that he doesn’t get the ball enough), the offensive line play was horrid and some of the route running wasn’t as crisp as usual. This was, statistically speaking, the tenth best passing performance in Gator history! Imagine a world where that’s pedestrian!

      We have faced some good defensive minds recently, but we also have the type of offense capable of shredding any defense. It doesn’t matter how good of a defensive mind you may be, that’s still not an adequate line of defense against Kyle Pitts or Trask’s sniper accuracy. Yet our offensive output is decreasing with each passing week. From 63 against Arkansas, to 38 against Vandy, to 34 against Kentucky to 31 against Tennessee… yes, small increments there, but nonetheless not good. We should be improving on those marks in the home stretch, not the reverse.

      And as I said on the pod, I really think it’s time to completely abandon ship with the run game. You can’t ever really do that as a rule, but this feels like the exception. Because our run blocking is SO bad and the Kyle 2 Kyle combo, plus Toney, Grimes, etc. are SO good. Honestly, I’m really OK with going four or five wide every single play, running the ball zero times, and seeing if all four LSU corners can win their MTM matchups. Oh, sure, one or two will, but I don’t think all four will do so three plays in a row and that’s what they’ll have to do to get off the field. And I recognize how contrary to common football wisdom it is to suggest you run the ball zero time over the course of a game, but that’s just where this team seems to be to me at this point.

      Again, thanks for the comment and the patronage. Go Gators!

      1. I agree with much of your synopsis.
        I really hate the soft defense and when our DBs make no contact near the line of scrimmage and allow receivers to run free for easy slants and digs. I also agree with you that the best personnel is not out there on defense, but I think the same is true on the offensive line. I can’t really fathom that Delance is the best we have on the roster to play tackle.

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