This week’s focus will be on whether Cam Rising will suit up and take the field against Florida football. And while it is a major factor as to who will emerge victorious, half the game will be played without Rising on the field, even if he does suit up.
And for the Florida Gators to be able to move the ball against Utah’s defense, generating yards after the catch will be crucial to their success.
Florida Football: YAC-ity-YAC
We have chronicled all offseason what we feel is Florida’s pathway to move the ball with any consistency this season. The Gators need to establish their run game with Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne, then utilize Graham Mertz in play action to make some nice and easy throws to playmakers like Ricky Pearsall and Eugene Wilson.
The latter part of that equation might be the key to success against Utah this Thursday.
Last season, Utah was great at getting to the quarterback. The Utes were 13th in the country in total sacks per game, averaging three, and were 10th in sack percentage, generating a sack on 9.09% of passing plays.
But if the opposing quarterback did get the ball off, there were problems for Utah last season. The Utes were 100th in the country in opponents receiving yards per completion, giving up an average of 12.7 yards per completion, and 102nd in opponents receiving yards per attempt.
The reason for this is Utah tends to blitz a lot, and when they don’t get home, there are acres of space behind them.
Last year, Utah was very vulnerable to simple passes in the flat that turned into big gains. USC (the one with academic standards) tore Utah up last season not by pumping the ball 20 yards downfield, but by letting the blitz come and dumping the ball off.
Oregon State, UCLA, and Washington State, among others, found success at times moving the ball by doing this.
Utah was 29th overall last season in scoring defense, giving up just 22.5 points per game, but was 54th in points per play, giving up seven points every 20 plays they were on the field.
Even worse, Utah’s defense was 90th in yards per play, giving up an average of 5.7 yards.
The translation of all of it is that the Utes run a boom-or-bust defense. If they generate a sack, they can get off the field. If they don’t, opposing teams have a pathway to score quickly.
If Mertz can find Pearsall and Wilson in space and let them use their athleticism to generate yards after the catch, Florida football has a pathway to score points on Thursday night.