I loved the field goal with a minute and a half left in the game to run up the score to make it 41-3 after FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger did the same thing to Florida when he coached Miami in 1980.
But that was the happiest moment for me.
Sure, there were bright spots, such as Rainey and Demps running rings around FAU defenders, and Brantley looking a lot more confident, and of course a nasty defense, but something just didn’t seem right for Florida.
In fact, lots of things didn’t seem right.
Let’s start with this stat: 3 picks thrown by Florida, none by FAU. This is after Florida’s defense picked off an FBS 4th best 22 passes last year. Granted, the Gators have lost Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black… but you’ve got ESPNU 150 players taking their places. I understand the lack of experience, but that kind of talent across the board alone should be worth a pick per game, especially against a team like FAU.
On the flip side, Brantley had been hearing all offseason long from Weis NOT to force throws. So, you’d expect him to err on the side of caution in his first game of the new offense, right? Instead Brantley proceeds to dismiss heavy pressure (sack? Nah, that can’t happen to ME. I’m a freaking god) and throw a ball that gets tipped at the line and is picked off. Later, Weis calls for a pop route into the end zone. The way for this play to work is to aim it over the crossbar, so only your receiver has a chance to catch it. The idea is, if he doesn’t, nobody will. But Johnny B throws a numbers-high ball into triple coverage and guess what happens?
Jeff Driskel had an even worse fate- his first pass as a Gator was picked off. He simply overthrew it, and that’s part of being a freshman and taking your lumps. What I don’t get is why you put him in so early. Weis may want him to get experience, but what can he possibly prove against FAU? Even if he shreds them for 500 yards… it’s still FAU. Big whoop.
Brantley, on the other hand, has this and only this season to prove himself. HE needs the big confidence booster, not Driskel. Put him in when it’s 38-3 and leave him in for the rest of the game. Because, like it or not, in tight spots, Brantley will get the call. He has the experience edge over Driskel and will be called upon in crunch time this year. Even Jordan Reed would probably be called upon before Driskel with the game on the line for the simple reason that he has a year under his belt and Driskel does not.
Another major issue is guess where a first down snap went? If you say Brantley’s hands, you’re incorrect. It went way over his head and all the way into Wakulla County. I thought we’d seen that movie before, and it was too nightmare-inducing of a horror film to watch again. I understand it’s the first game, and there might be some sloppiness. Having said that, FAU did not do that once (though it’s worth mentioning they did get a punt blocked). This cannot happen if Florida wants to win big games.
Perhaps the most obvious question unanswered: where was the deep ball? With no exaggeration, Brantley threw deep this game as much as he did against Miami Ohio last year, and if you haven’t removed the 2010 part of your brain, you know that’s NOT GOOD. Wasn’t that why Charlie Weis was brought in?
Actually, Weis was brought in to do what he does best- exploit opponents’ weaknesses over and over. But he did that too much last night. FAU’s weakness was simple- they could not catch Rainey or Demps. Since neither are really tall, the best way to utilize them is to run them outside and throw swing passes to them. But as I’ve stated for months now, Weis does have a tendency to fall in love with his mismatch a little too much. Sometimes, it will be to such an extreme that he forgets about the rest of his team, which was the case tonight. We only saw a couple of deep balls throughout the game, which is OK for now but this will need to be a big part of the offense for Florida to succeed.
And then there were PENALTIES. I mean, EVERYWHERE you look, there was a penalty of Florida. The Gators committed 9 penalties for 65 yards- that’s nearly HALF of FAU’s yardage total. That doesn’t even count all the yards wiped out on Demps’ opening kick TD on- with no apologies- an absolutely bullshit block in the back. You really think anybody’s gonna catch Demps? Come on, be real. If you think the answer is yes, you should be on the bench for sheer stupidity. Once again, it’s the first week of the season, so things might get sloppy, but when Alabama rolls in here, those dumb penalties just gotta go.
There really isn’t a lot of good to take away from the game aside from the obvious stuff- a great defense (look at all the ESPNU 150 guys in the front 7, you can’t honestly tell me you’re surprised), Rainey and Demps being phenomenal (which anybody who watched SEC football over the course of the last 3 years could tell you when blackout drunk), Brantley looking confident (which is what happens when you work with a guy with a track record like Charlie Weis has) and a much improved offense (hard not to do when you consider who our OC was a year ago, my old buddy, Steve Addazio). No pleasant surprises, which is fine for now, but we better get some answers in two weeks against Tennessee if not next week.
So we won our opener with relatively little heartburn, which is great. We also got approximately zero answers, which is not. But next week we get an ever so slightly stiffer test in UAB, so we’ll see if anything new surfaces there.