The pitifulness (if that is a word) of the Florida offense cannot be overstated. It's true that we absolutely dominated them at the line of scrimmage. But that's only the difference between 150 yards and 300 yards, which is sad in its own right. The worst thing an offense can do is get predictable. A good defense smells blood in the water, and instead of slowing down you go backwards. Florida only threw three passes the entire game beyond seven yards, all incomplete. Think about that. Two of those three were desperate heaves with the quarterback getting chased by a defensive end.
Florida didn't even try to throw downfield. As Chase Daniel would have said, "that's high school stuff." They stood no chance without a dominant running game.
The funny thing is, I was worried this is what would happen with Maty Mauk. We saw it at times last year: An inexperienced QB is too conservative and the defense starts attacking instead of reacting. Yeah, that was put to rest 22 seconds into the game by Maty "Go Long" Mauk.
Now, I was going to spend most of this post picking apart Mauk's performance. But then Fullback U did quite a nice job. So I started critiquing the line play ... again. The offensive line was fairly interesting, but not remarkably insightful. Florida has playmakers and sometimes made plays. Most of the time we blocked them. Insight! The defensive line looked like those intro videos where the team breaks through the banner to charge onto the field. Here's a typical play by the Mizzou defensive front vs. the Florida offensive line:
So, what the heck. It's a long week, and you're desperate for Mizzou news. How great is it that your freshman QB plays so well in his first start against possibly the nation's best pass defense that you have to look for what he should do better?
Rather than do it chronologically like Fullback, I'll break it into categories:
- Execution throws
- Playmaker throws
- Poor decisions
- Bad throws
As you're watching these, keep in mind the mistakes that you usually see from young QBs.
- Jittery in the pocket
- Stares down receivers
- Doesn't recognize coverage or confused by defensive alignment
- Doesn't see defenders over the middle
- Afraid to go downfield
You'll notice I called some of these good throws even though they were incomplete. If Mauk makes the read he should make and puts the throw where it should be, but the defense just makes a great play, I still call that a good play by Mauk. By the same token, a completed pass into tight triple coverage is still a bad decision. For example, let's pull out just this one throw individually. Most people thought the near interception in the back of the end zone was a bad decision. But look at the read again. This is just an awesome play by the defender and a poor job of using the body to box by the receiver. Mauk was supposed to make this throw and put it right where it should have been. This video shows that while the replay looks like a bad throw, the regular camera angle shows something else. At the point Mauk makes his decision, the WR has position and his defender beat, and the DB just shows amazing acceleration to bat this away.
I've broken down all of Mauk's passes into four types, execution throws, playmaker plays, bad decisions and bad throws. My DVR wasn't set correctly, so I didn't get the entire 4th quarter, but you get the idea.
Execution throws means there's either no read to make or a fairly simple read and throw. Pretty accurate on these throws, though sometimes he adds a little heat that maybe isn't necessary. He sometimes seems to think twice before throws and other times just slings it without hesitation, but overall pretty good.
Playmaker throws are where Mauk makes a good decision and a difficult but accurate throw. Mauk is nothing if not a playmaker. If he can find consistency and limit mistakes he could be an all-time great. Not all of these are completions, because Florida has one hell of a secondary. These guys have amazing recovery time and serious athleticism.
Seven bad decisions: three under pressure, two into tight windows and two bad reads.
Lots of room to improve but also pretty easy lessons here. One thing that's interesting is he tends to go backwards when pressured. That might work against big DT's, but you'll lose 20 yards against an LB or fast DE.
Eight bad or inaccurate throws: two under pressure, two were just inaccurate, one bad route (either by receiver or by him), three were fade passes that didn't give the receiver optimal opportunity to catch the ball cleanly (though the coverage on these was excellent, so hard to hold that against him too much).
So how'd he grade out?
- Jittery in the pocket: B (with a tendency to drop back farther under pressure)
- Stares down receivers: B+ (definitely does not look like a freshman in this regard, even if there's room for improvement)
- Doesn't recognize coverage or confused by defensive alignment: B+ (he didn't seem to have trouble seeing things at the line of scrimmage, though he did appear to miss zone coverage a couple of times)
- Doesn't see defenders over the middle: C+ (not too many instances, but mistakes here are very costly)
- Afraid to go downfield: A+ - Why don't we just call this box checked
It's hard to imagine Mauk having a whole lot more success than he did in these circumstances. And I sure hope we see more great play. But the other defining characteristic of freshmen is inconsistency. Both because they'll make mistakes and regress, and because the Ol' Ball Coach has some tape to break down and try to get Mauk out of his comfort zone.
I think I mentioned this before, but I've had the ruptured patellar tendon thing much like Henry. I'm absolutely horrified to watch the play in which he was somewhat hurt last Saturday. It's over a year later and I can't even fathom kneeling on that knee. Not even on a soft cushy pillowy mattress with memory foam. It's tender just thinking about it. His knee was slammed into the the turf with about a thousand pounds of force, and on top of it, it's bent back behind him the same way it was during the original injury. I'm amazed he walked away much less came back and ripped off a 50 yard run.
You know, there's a fine line between playing physical, punishing football and playing dirty. Ndamukong Suh has absolutely no idea where that line is. The Florida Gators on the other hand, seem to know right where it is and flirt with it on a regular basis. A lot of people will disagree with me here and just say that's good, old-fashioned, hard-nosed football. But there's clearly a line where you go from playing physical to trying to hurt your opponent. I'd much rather see a targeting penalty on a few of these hits (particularly the one that knocked Marcus Murphy out of the game) than the one that actually got Cody Riggs tossed. Of course, had L'Damian Washington been hurt on that play, I doubt I'd have any sympathy for Riggs. You can't call it only when someone gets hurt. (Although I still think the penalty is too harsh, but I digress.)
Florida consistently gave just that little extra bit of punishment. I thought Georgia did a bit of that too, and Franklin is in street clothes as a result. But Georgia did not do it as consistently as Florida. Florida particularly liked to spear after a runner had taken that initial hit and was going down. Watch in this video how often the Florida Gator comes in with arms completely down and trying to spear with the top of the helmet (aka targeting). I think the team has got to be feeling the effects of the last two games going into Saturday.
There have been a lot of comparisons with the 2007, which happens every time we have a promising year, but understandably this year. In an earlier article, I pointed out that the magical 2007 season wasn't just one of good luck, but of playmakers stepping up. Yes, there has been some luck of the draw. Georgia is a shell of its full potential. Florida's D-line was significantly weakened. And we'll get South Carolina without Connor Shaw (and it will still be our toughest test of the season).
And yet, it is not luck that got us here. In 2007 it was Zo Williams and Ziggy Hood stepping up to dominate. This year it's Harold Brantley. Even Lucas Vincent and Marvin Foster are playing at a level they haven't touched in their careers here. In 2007 Pig Brown was the star, and when he went down, a new star was born in William Moore. This year when Gaines went down, a new star was born in Aarion Penton.
Across the board, players are stepping up and playing at a whole new level that goes beyond another year of experience. I don't even know what to say about Michael Sam. He's gone from nice pass rushing specialist to All-American level. Last week I talked about Washington, and this week we talked about Mauk. And the list could go on to nearly every player on the roster. It is nothing short of remarkable.
With all that in mind, I'm still having trouble pegging exactly where this team stands. It would appear that we have consistent talent at every single position, and playmakers at every level of the offense and defense. People ask if we're really a top-5 team, a national championship contender. I don't know. When I see teams like Florida State absolutely destroy Clemson, I wonder if we could handle that onslaught. I wonder if we can match the offensive and defensive excellence of Alabama. And I even wonder if a hobbled South Carolina will push us to the edge.
But I do know this: If Mizzou somehow falls off its perch, it will not be because it is not a really good team. The whole point of the SEC is that every team can beat you. Every week is a tough game. Even if we beat South Carolina, Tennessee and Ole Miss certainly don't look like sure things. If we lose those games, it is because we were a really good team in a really great league. But if we were to somehow win them all or even lose a game or two, it will mean we belong in this rarified air, and we would have no reason to expect anything other than victory when we take the field in December and January.