For the third time in as many years the Gators scored an "underwhelming" multi–touchdown victory. In 2008, the Gators mauled Miami (FL) 26–3 in a game that was only 9–3 going into the fourth quarter. Miami had about 100 yards of total offense at that point and a 5–3 lead would have felt insurmountable. Still, the TV people were disappointed and called the game "closer than the score".
Move forward to 2009, and the Gators beat Vanderbilt 27–3. Again, the game was never close and there was never a moment when anyone actually thought "Man, the Gators are in trouble here." And yet again the game was labeled a "bad" game instead of a blowout.
That brings us to yesterday. The Gators managed a 22 point victory that felt like a stomach punch. I have defended the other two games; the notion that those weren't big wins is absurd. However, Saturday's game against the Redhawks was as disastrous as a three touchdown victory can be.
It's time to dial back expectations for the season and the John Brantley era. Any hope that the Gators would channel the ghost of Steve Spurrier's Fun 'n Gun offense and somehow surpass the Tebow spread just rolled past Brantley like another Mike Pouncey snap.
Nobody should expect Saturday's mistakes to continue throughout the season. Either Pouncey will get it together or Sam Robey will start at center. There were other problems that will probably continue throughout the season.
First, the offensive play calling was terrible. I've seen the Jeff Demps I-Form dive more times than I ever want to see it. The Gators don't need to run I-Form. They don't have to play the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Baltimore Ravens, and there's no reason to continue using the formation. BIG TEN HATERS, SKIP TO THE BOTTOM TO TELL ME I'M WRONG.
With Tebow, terrible play calling led to 300+ yards in every game last season. Remember that Alabama blowout in December? The Gators put up 335 yards. In fact, with the exception of the 2007 game against Tennessee (a game where the Gators put up most of their yards on special teams and didn't need to move the ball), the Gators gained more than 300 yards in every game that Tebow started.
Game one, post–Tebow and the Gators manage 212 yards against a team that gave up over 370 yards per game last year. Brantley threw one deep pass that was not–caught by Deonte Thompson and finished the day with 113 yards (I hesitate to call it a drop because he was hit on the arm as the ball was coming in, but I do think he had a good shot to catch it any way).
After that one shot, he basically turned into Tebow in the pocket without the upside of running the zone read with any authority. On the list of "things that aren't good and will not lead to national championships" a pocket passing Tebow who doesn't run the ball has to be up near the top.
I'm not sure where the blame rests here. You could make an argument for nearly everyone involved.
Pouncey certainly had a slippery hand in disrupting the offense. Addazio's ridiculous play calling was a factor. The injured/suspended patchwork offensive line didn't open holes for the running game. Brantley is to be blamed as well for shutting down the pass for three quarters of the game. And Chris Hetland, err... Caleb Sturgis, I'm blaming you for everything.
It wasn't all bad though. It was a lot of bad, but there was a pinch of good thrown in for flavor. Omarius Hines shined in his debut at TE/WR. He is Brantley's most reliable pass catcher right now and is more versatile than Aaron Hernandez was.
The Tebowbacker, Trey Burton, lined up everywhere on the field and showed flashes of 06 Tebow in his goal line rushing touchdown. He's not as athletic as Randall Cobb, but Florida can use him in a similar manner.
The defense was another story. Last week, I wrote that Janoris Jenkins needed to step his game up to be a true number one corner. He did that and then some. Jenkins broke up three passes and intercepted another that he took back for a touchdown.
He blitzed well and tackled better than he did last year as well. If anyone on the team deserves an "A-plus" it's Jenkins. The rest of the secondary played at a consistent high level and generally made the Redhawks work for every yard.
The front seven did an okay job putting pressure on the quarterback too. The team only managed two sacks, but most of Miami's passes were of the 5-10 yard variety thanks to the pressure. Jaye Howard was credited for both sacks and looked like a legitimate pass rushing threat from the interior.
Overall, the game was a disaster, but it was a season opener with an entirely new offense. The shadow of Tebow is improbably growing, as is the shadow of Dan Mullen. This team does not look like a top 5 team right now, but then again, they look better than the 2007 team that finished 13th in the nation.
Should you, the Gator fan worry? Yes, if you were expecting a 12–14 win season, you should.
Should you write off John Brantley, Mike Pouncey, or the Gators entirely after one sloppy game? Absolutely not. Everyone who has a role in fixing the offense is aware of what needs to be fixed before next week's actual season opener (except maybe Addazio. I don't think he even knows who is playing quarterback).