Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Will another trip to Jacksonville heal Florida’s offense again?

Friday October 29, 2010

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:  Florida is coming into the Georgia game with problems and questions on offense. We know all about the struggles they’re having in 2010, but the Georgia game proved to be a panacea for a Florida offense facing many of the same issues a year ago.

In 2009 Florida had just come off a stretch during which they scored under 30 points in 4 of 5 games. Relatively narrow escapes against LSU, Arkansas, and Mississippi State had Florida fans grumbling and asking questions not only of their coaching staff but also of the senior Heisman-winning quarterback. They had scored only 7 touchdowns in 25 red zone trips. What led to a 41-point outburst in their second-straight blowout of Georgia? Three things:

  • Put the ball in the hands of Tim Tebow.
  • Mixing run and pass, came out firing against a tentative Georgia defense.
  • Took advantage of Georgia turnovers and penalties.

Tebow. The Florida star threw or carried on 64% of Florida’s snaps. That figure is actually skewed low: eight meaningless handoffs on their last clock-killing drive padded the numbers. Removing that final drive, Tebow accounted for 74% of Florida’s plays. It was one of the better games of his senior campaign.

The start. It hasn’t taken long to figure out how a Georgia-Florida game is going to go lately.  When Georgia opened the scoring in 2004 and 2007, the Bulldogs came away with wins.  In the other games since 2005, Florida has jumped out to lead by double-digits at halftime.  Florida came out swinging again in 2009:  en route to a 14-0 first quarter lead, Florida faced a third down just once. They ended the first half with 24 points; they had scored 26 combined first half points in their previous three games.

Georgia mistakes. It started even before the game with Vince Vance’s midweek arrest. Once the game began, it didn’t take long for Georgia to start hurting themselves with some big penalties.  There was a Georgia personal foul on each team’s first drive.  The 15-yarder when Georgia had the ball killed any chance of answering Florida’s opening score by turning a 3rd-and-1 at midfield into a 3rd-and-16.  Georgia got back in the game though and had the ball down just 17-10. A holding penalty killed that drive. The Bulldogs ended up with nine penalties.

As if the penalties weren’t enough, the second half featured four Georgia interceptions.  The Gators scored two second half touchdowns to put the game away – both came as a result of one of those interceptions.

So what?

Last year only serves to fuel the pessimism that Georgia fans usually pack next to the golf clubs for this trip.  Florida will find its offense again, all of their injured players will rise and walk (for 120 yards each), and Lucy will pull the football away again.

The biggest difference from a year ago is that Florida’s struggles on offense are leading to losses.  There’s also no Tebow to rally the troops with his own elevated play.  We mock his leadership, but there was no question that it was his team and his offense.

What does it mean for Georgia?  We know how important the start has been in this series over the past several years.  We also know how much the first few series have meant for the Bulldogs this year.  The Dawgs have come out firing on both sides of the ball during this winning streak.  It would be a big blow to the team’s fragile confidence to get into the same pattern of early Florida scores. On the other hand, a few early stops by the Georgia defense could test the patience of those on the east half of the stadium.

With a series that has been this lopsided, the mental side of the game plays a heightened role.  Urgency can lead to intensity and focus, but it can also lead to pressing…and turnovers.  It’s one thing to come out confident and aggressive; it’s another for that aggression to lead to early dumb personal fouls. 

While Georgia’s defense had its problems with Kentucky last week, the offense did a very good job of keeping its head and maintaining the team’s control of the lead. If the Florida offense continues to have its problems, Georgia’s offense can have a big impact just by not helping the Gators with a short field, or worse, a defensive score. Whether or not the Dawgs can score against a tough Gator defense, at least make the Florida offense work for what they get. Another turnover-free game would be a very good sign for Georgia’s chances.

I know this post has pretty much all been about the Florida offense, but I come back to the same thing I usually do for the WLOCP.  For all of the talk about problems on offense, they still have a formidable defense.  It’s important to make sure that Florida’s offense doesn’t have another breakout game because this isn’t Kentucky or even 2007.  Georgia’s going to have its hands full getting its own points, and Georgia’s ability (or inability) to put points on the board in this series continues to be as big of a story as any.

One Response to 'Will another trip to Jacksonville heal Florida’s offense again?'

Subscribe to comments with RSS