Saturday night inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium was supposed to be a night of catharsis for the Gators. USF came into The Swamp with one of the worst run defenses in the country and a pedestrian offense to go with it. Florida football was favored by 24 points.
What happened instead was a near disaster of inexcusable proportions. The Gators beat the USF Bulls 31-28 and moved to 2-1 on the season, but there are some very real questions that will have to be answered heading into Tennessee.
Florida football: Not up to standard
There is an argument to made that Florida football do not have the talent level to compete at the level Gators fans expect. Against a team like Georgia, that may very well be true. Against USF? Not so much.
Florida is ranked 12th in talent composite while USF is 65th. A program like Florida should be able to survive an injury or two and still beat a USF squad that struggled to pull away from FCS Howard University last week.
USF moved the ball with its first drive but WR Xavier Weaver fumbled and the Gators took over. And while Florida stalled out to take a 3-0 lead, everything still felt okay. Make some adjustments and get the party started.
Except the adjustments never came.
USF had 3rd-and-18 on its next drive and ran up the middle for 21 yards. Jaren Mangham also had a 23 yard run on the same drive and Brian Battie ran for 10 more to put USF up 7-3.
Montrell Johnson had a 62-yard TD run on Florida’s next drive, but when Battie took a Gerry Bohanon pitch on USF’s next drive for 51-yards on a 4th-and-one, some truths had emerged:
- Antwaun Powell doesn’t know how to hold the edge
- Scooby Williams, who was slotted into the injured Ventrell Miller’s spot, still has a long way to go despite being a former top-100 recruit
- Florida’s defense as a whole seems lost without Miller. Amari Burney and Shemar James didn’t exactly step up either. James still has time, Burney is who he is at this point.
- Don’t sleep on Jalen Kimber’s performance
Kimber had a massive pass breakup against Weaver to hold USF to a field goal. Florida’s next offensive drive raised the following offensive questions:
- Why was Trevor Etienne subbed out despite Nay’quan Wright and Johnson getting a full series and despite Etienne being better than Wright?
- Why are we still forcing screens to Xzavier Henderson?
- How money did Billy Napier pay off to the refs?
Florida football was bailed out a super soft personal foul penalty against USF to extend their third drive and Wright ran it in to make it 17-10.
Again, don’t sleep on the job Kimber did as his pick six put Florida up 24-10. But how did the rest of the defense respond? More inept run defense to allow a USF field goal.
It was 24-13 at half and the following was true:
- Florida offense was doing alright. Some questionable play calls but Richardson seemed to be hitting throws he was missing last week and the Gators could run the ball at will.
- USF was gashing Florida by using tight ends, a now common theme. The tight ends weren’t catching this time, but their presence blocking cause massive issues. And USF isn’t a team that normally utilizes their tight ends.
Was anything fixed for the second half? No. And the demons from the Kentucky game returned to haunt Richardson. His first interception was a flat footed throw right into the arms of a USF defender.
USF made it 24-21 off three straight runs.
Richardson sailed more passes and USF took back over only for Florida to finally force a punt.
More sailed passes and by the time Tom Petty belted out “There ain’t no easy way out,” it fair to ask but for whom?
Florida didn’t win the 4th quarter, it survived it. More runs with gaps the Gators didn’t know how to fill and with 11:15 left USF had a lead in The Swamp over Florida football.
Here is another truth for the Gators, stop throwing fades to Shorter.
Gators had a do-over when Bohanon threw it right it Tre’Vez Johnson and amazingly they have it to Etienne four straight times and were able to retake the lead.
Did the defense step up? Of course not. USF should have kicked a game tying field goal but their center and long-snapper had back-to-back errant snaps and Florida football survived.
There are a ton of questions the Gators need to have answers for heading into Knoxville Saturday because if they don’t, it’s going to be a long afternoon at Tennessee.
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