Any thoughts about the incident at the end of the game are secondary to what happened during the game. Whether it was anger and frustration about dirty blocks or holds not getting called, Grantham (and several other coaches) were boiling well before the end of the game. One of the coaches, I believe Grantham, chased down and had words with an official heading into the locker room at halftime.
The problem is that the players picked up on all of this and let it get to them. The discipline and execution that had led to four straight dominant defensive performances were abandoned. We’ll let the players describe what happened. Ray Drew:
We kind of fell apart (in the second half), let emotions run a little too high, and things started going every which way.
We were out of position on a lot of plays, which is the mental part of the game, and the quarterback took control of the game.
They’re not reaching for excuses – that all happened. You could see the missed tackles, the personal fouls, the loss of containment, and the gaping spaces left by players out of position. No other way could Vandy roll up 200 yards of rushing.
Unfortunately, there was no one on the sideline able to reel the emotions back in. If someone was trying to get heads back in the game, they didn’t make much progress. After the game Grantham was well within his place to take up for his players, and that will be appreciated in the locker room. During the game though Grantham and the other defensive coaches needed to recognize that their players were caught up in the emotion and get everyone settled down and focused on their assignments. They failed in that respect, and that should bother us a lot more than whatever went on afterwards.
We know that there will be plenty of emotion and bad blood in the next game, and there’s already a history between Grantham and Florida. We love the intensity and refusal to back down, but understand how it affects your players. Emotion can be used for good – the dust-up prior to the Mississippi State game certainly fired up the Dawgs with impressive results. We’ve also seen now how it can get out of control.