Before this week’s game against Missouri, HailFloridaHail posted 5 keys to look for in this game. Now we’ll take a look back at yesterday’s game and see how the Gators did.
While the fan intensity was somewhat muted due to a number of empty seats at gametime, the players came out with great effort and intensity. Missouri presented a tough challenge defensively with the up-tempo quick passing scheme they employ, but the Gators played tough, hard-nosed football.
The defensive backs and linebackers were very busy in coverage. While they gave up some yardage and some first downs, they did play good tight coverage all afternoon on the outside and on the crossing routes keeping the Tiger receivers in front of them and preventing them from making any big plays in the passing game. The tackling was excellent in space and Missouri receivers rarely made any yards after the catch.
The defensive line played perhaps their best game this season in terms of the pass rush with freshman Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard, filling in for injured star Larentee McCray at the buck, stepping up big time. Both of those guys were virtually unstoppable in the pass rush and stepped up well against the run as well.
Offensively, they played with great effort but once again they were inconsistent in execution. The running game ran with toughness and authority, the passing game was efficient, and special teams got a great block on a field goal attempt.
Overall, the effort and intensity was where they needed it to be in order to win this game.
After uncharacteristically turning the ball over six times against Georgia it was important the Gators get back to protecting the football against Missouri. They did turn it over one time when Mike Gillislee coughed it up on a big run and Driskel put in on the ground one time on a hit going out of bounds, but overall they did a much better job of holding on to the ball in this one.
There were also a couple of Driskel passes that could have been intercepted but were not. Mostly though, Driskel did a better job of getting rid of the ball quickly when plays were not there or when the pass rush was on him.
Missouri players were repeatedly trying to force fumbles throughout the game on tackles but the Gators ball handlers did a really good job of securing the ball when going to the ground.
OFFENSIVE LINE PLAY
Last week the Gator’s offensive line played perhaps their worst game of the season. They were unable to open holes for the running game against eight man fronts and they couldn’t protect Driskel very well when he dropped back to pass.
This week was a different story. While Missouri provided a strong pass rush the entire game, the Gators gave up no sacks and no turnovers from the quarterback position. In the run game, blocking and execution was excellent and efficient as the Gators finished with 170 yards rushing. The passing stats were not great but was affected by several drops or poor throws, not so much from protection issues.
The Gators may not have looked like juggernauts offensively in this one but they didn’t need to be and overall the offensive line did a great job.
All season media and fans alike have criticized the Gator offense as being too predictable, and the clamor went through the roof after last week’s game. It was important for the Gators to show they can change it up to take some pressure off the blocking schemes and help with their execution.
They did change it up effectively in this one. Coming out on the first series of the game they opened with three straight passes, successfully I might add, and some no-huddle, which set the tone for them in this one.
While they didn’t change their style of offense by any means, they’re still the plodding running team they have been, they did do some different things but mostly just did things differently. They passed on first down, they ran some screens and slants, they tried some third down draws, and they took a couple of downfield shots.
By changing it up they were able to put the Tigers off balance a little bit and were able to find some things that worked getting a long td run off a jet sweep to Omarius Hines and the game winning 45 yard td on a screen pass to Mike Gillislee.
Overall, Missouri still crowded the line on “running” downs and had little respect for the pass, but at least Muschamp and Pease showed a willingness to do things a little differently, make the defense think, and take advantage of some matchups created by the switchup.
THE RUNNING GAME
After being shut down on all phases last week particularly in the running game, it was important the Gators come out against Missouri and establish the ability to run the football. Running the ball effectively is the basis of this offense and without that they are not competitive.
They definitely got this aspect of the offense back on track this week. While their passing game struggled to find consistency, the Gators were able to run the ball effectively in this one particularly in the second half, as they have most of the season.
Mike Gillislee only had 68 yards rushing for the game but he had a number of big runs on cutbacks that helped keep the chains moving and the potent Missouri offense off the field. He also scored on a screen pass which is merely an extension of the running game.
While it wasn’t necessarily a pretty win, overall they hit the marks that they needed to in order to bounce back against Missouri. It was a great team win for them with solid play, if unspectacular at times, in all three phases of the game.