Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Actual Level-Headed Analysis of the UT-Florida Game

Tennessee / Florida Thoughts and Analysis (Link Fixed)

Last year's game was a disaster for UT; a year of cooling off has only confirmed that feeling. This year's game, however, shows very significant improvements:

* Play Balance Even considering the late hole, UT didn't end up as a pass-only team.
* Plays/Drive Largely due to the balanced playcalling, UT managed 2 plays per drive more. Florida also managed an extra play per drive, but a large part of that was not allowing the 1-play TD type drives. In both regards, UT actually did better.
* Yards/Drive UT improved their average drive distance by a full ten yards. Much of that was from the two drives with turnovers within 10 yards of the end zone. Florida's distance was actually decreased. Much of that decrease was due to some short-field plays and a rather bad UT punting game. But the defense performed much, much better.


Despite our initial read, UT played a much better football game than appearances would indicate. Florida deserved the win because they (a) have vastly superior special teams play (b) didn't have fatal miscommunications in their playcalling, and (c) effectively used the new clock rules to eliminate any possibility of a comeback. UT does deserve a lot of credit, though, for playing a hard-fought game and not giving up. Everything broke against them, but they did not "quit".
I would also add that in the first half (when we were not so far behind yet) we had an 11-play drive and and a 14-play drive. Yes, they both ended badly but it's a far cry from the 3-and-outs we seem to typically pile up in droves against Florida.

Also our defense held Tebow to 96 yards passing (a CAREER low) and 26 yards rushing (a 2nd place CAREER low). While overall not perfect, it's still an improvement over recent UF expectations.

Just like against UCLA (if the punt had not been blocked, or if they'd called a safety as they should've) there were several instances in this game that might've swung the game around - unlike last year when the rout was on early and often, and there was nothing UT could do about it.

It means that there are major problems, yes, but there don't seem to be whole-scale fundamental problems. The offense can move the ball through the air and on the ground, the defense can stop the pass and the run - it just doesn't follow through to their conclusions.

One big glaring thing, though - to essentially blame the loss on the punter is inexcusable. Chad Cunningham, 2nd string sophomore punter, pressed into duty because the starter is sitting out for DUI, had a 37-yard net punting average against Florida. While he admits he didn't place his kicks very well, keep in mind one of those kicks was returned 78 yards for a score, and another for 14 yards. The other two I believe were fair-caught. The point is that poor, poor coverage and tackling are what created that low average and not the punting of Chad Cunningham. To talk about replacing a kid who probably isn't supposed to be on the field punting for Div. 1 in the first place, and incidentally doing probably about as well as he could be asked to, is ridiculous. It also seems I remember 56 yards in 2 kickoff returns that weren't handled too well. Lay off the punter and concentrate on learning to tackle.

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