Monday, December 07, 2009

What Happened

Its time for the postmortem my friends, and what the body reveals may not be pretty. But we need to hear it.

I’ve looked at several statistical angles on Saturday’s demolition by the Crimson Tide. Mostly I can sum up what I found in one statement (paraphrasing Dennis Green)-

“We aren’t who we thought we were”.

Let’s take the issues one at a time.

The Gator Defense

First there is the matter of what appeared to be the nation’s number one scoring defense prior to Saturday. The Gators were giving up only a stellar 9.8 points per game. Prior to the 32 point gusher by Alabama, the worst an opponent had scored on the Gators was 20 by Arkansas at Florida.

In retrospect, there were warning signs if one cared to look.

Prior to playing Alabama, the best scoring offense the Gators had faced (on a national basis) was none other than Arkansas, who averaged 37.3 points per game. In fact Arkansas and Alabama, were the only 2 offenses in the top 30 nationally the Gators faced all season. The national ranking of the scoring offenses faced by Florida this season were (BCS teams, by national ranking) –

8. Arkansas
26. Alabama
32. Tennessee
39. FSU
59. Georgia
63. Kentucky
72. Mississippi State
74. LSU
96. South Carolina
114. Vanderbilt

The average BCS conference offense the Gators faced this season – 58.3rd ranked. Or, look at it this way –

Points surrendered to Arkansas and Alabama = 52 (26 ppg)
Points surrendered to the other 8 teams above = 86 (10.8 ppg)

Now it is impossible to speculate what the loss of Carlos Dunlap did to the Gators defensively, other than to say it couldn’t have helped. But more on Dunlap later.

Run Defense

Mark Ingram was the best running back Florida faced this year by far. Ingram ranks 5th in the nation in total yards at 1542, with 6.2 yards per carry. The Gators were actually fairly successful against Ingram on a yards per carry basis, holding him to “only” 4 yards per carry for 113 total yards. But we weren’t successful against the other two backs ‘Bama used. Freshman Trent Richardson rushed for 80 yards at 7.3 per carry, and senior Roy Upchurch added 57 yards at 8.1 per carry.

The best rushing offense Florida faced all year was Mississippi State (9th ranked nationally), and the Gators gave up 92 yards at Starkville. The second best was Alabama (12th ranked), and Florida was gnashed for 251 yards.

Once again, the loss of Dunlap couldn’t have helped here, but I don’t think we were as good as we thought we were.

Quarterback

The best quarterback on the field Saturday wasn’t the 2007 Heisman winner. While Tebow threw for more yards than McElroy (247-234) he wasn’t nearly as effective. Tebow was 20 of 35 for a completion percentage of 57.1%, while McElroy had a 66.7% completion percentage (12-18). By quarterback rating Tebow was 120.14, while McElroy was a sterling 196.54.

Tebow simply didn’t play a very good game. He wasn’t particularly pressured (Alabama didn’t sack him once), but many of his throws were ill advised or seriously off target. He failed to find wide open receivers all day, and his sole interception was a game killer.

It might be heresy, but I’m going to say it - the quarterback of the last 2 seasons wasn’t here this year.

Tebow had a QB rating of 172.5 in 2007 when he won the Heisman, and a rating of 172.4 last year. This season, against far easier opponents than either ’07 or ’08, it was a 155.6. I can see only two reasons –

1. The talent he had around him in ’07 and ’08 made him look better than he was.

2. “Something” happened to account for the loss in effectiveness.

He remains an effective runner, but was much less efficient passing this year than the last two.

In the end, Tebow didn’t lose this game singlehandedly (I believe it was much more on the defense), but he couldn’t bail us out.

Soft Schedule

As I noted before, Alabama had a harder schedule than Florida going into this game (19th ranked versus 30th ranked). The Tide were by far-and-away the best team the Gators faced this season, and it showed. We got punched in the mouth early, and had no answer.

Much of the scheduling this year wasn’t Florida’s fault, but some of it was. The SEC East, in particular, was weak this year, and Florida State was atrocious. But there remains no excuse for scheduling the likes of Charleston Southern and FIU. We’ve debated before how scheduling more difficult teams isn’t rewarded by the pollsters and BCS. Well, scheduling patsies isn’t rewarded on the field when it counts. And sooner or later, if you are going to play for a national title through the SEC, you are going to play someone who is tested.

Arrogance

For a stat “geek” like me, this is a hard one to quantify. But I’ve been feeling its pervasive poison for some time among our fans, and one has to wonder if it wasn’t the same with our players.

Countless friends approached me at my FSU tailgate to ask me “Where are you staying in Pasadena?”, or “What are you doing with your national championship tickets?” I was astonished each time I was asked. (I even took to responding “Why would you go to California to see Alabama play Texas?” It wasn’t meant to be prescient, but I couldn’t believe people were taking Alabama for granted.)

It is the job of the coaches, and the duty of the players, to avoid such conceit and stay focused. I have no way of knowing whether such arrogance crept into the thinking of the players, but there are many signs it did. For one there is Carlos Dunlap. Who in the hell thinks they can go out partying past 3 AM on championship week? Where was the focus? And if he was doing it, was he alone?

One can almost see how it would have played out too. Florida has back-to-back games against vastly overmatched opponents, with one of them being your chief in-state rival. You start to believe you are as good as the press and polls are telling you. Then a truly hungry, focused team shows you what you really are. The Gators were concerned with picking out novel uniforms this week. Alabama was focused on revenge.

Finally, if there was a metaphor for the game, it was manifested in those awful uniforms. I saw a team I didn’t recognize – whether visually, emotionally or by skill set – playing a team proudly wearing one of the great traditional uniforms in all of college history. Alabama played like Alabama.

Florida, not so much.

8 comments:

Andy said...

Pat Dooley says it wasn't just Dunlap. Anecdotes I've heard (thirdhand) confirm that.

esmjr said...

Mergz,

What are your thoughts on the offensive play-calling, which I thought was hesitant and suspect all year long. Saturday night's decision to completely abandon our offensive identity and run the ball a total of FOUR TIMES with guys not named Tebow was the icing on the cake.

If Addazio is still OC next season, I'll be furious.

Andrew said...

There was one thing that happened all game. Alabama made plays, and we didn't. That was the difference. They made the diving catches and tight-roped down the sidelines, while we dropped passes, missed tackles, and made dumb penalties when our defense had finally gotten a stop (2 or 3 times!). Demps dropped the swing pass. Hernandez dropped a TD (and then Deonte fumbled the deflection). Deonte and Riley both had balls go through their hands. We've seen this all season. We are who we are. It's just when other games have been close, we've been able to force a mistake by the other team (i.e. the Trattou INT against USCe).

Floridan said...

Analyse the stats all you want, but for the Gators, a team that led the SEC in rushing, to essentially forfeit the running game was suicidal.

Moody didn't get one carry? Demps (who averaged nearly 8 yards per carry during the season) just one and Rainey two?

As talented as Tebow is, he cannot winthe game by himself, and yet that is what the coaches expected him to do.

As for the uniforms, they should have been packed away following the FSU game -- Florida's glory days are happening now (even with the loss on Saturday), not back in the 1960s.

Amos said...

To me it looked like our defense couldn't tackle at all (and we were out-schemed).

As far as our offense, on the second drive of the game (down 9-0) it already looked like we were playing scared. Our play calling was as if it were the 4th quarter and we were behind by two scores, not the 1st quarter and behind by two scores.

We lost this game because our defense didn't play as well as they should've, defense wins championships, and our offense hasn't shown me all year that it could win a game for us to make up for defensive struggles.

Floridan said...

Amos: " . . . and our offense hasn't shown me all year that it could win a game for us to make up for defensive struggles."

OK, but this raises the question of whether the problem is one of talent or coaching.

Clearly, in the SEC Championship game, the latter was the case.

Mergz said...

Just a note - those were NOT throwback helmets we were wearing. They are a new "F" design made by Nike (the F is leaning forward and very modern - the old helmets had what you might call a "college" F).

This was the second time the Gators had ever worn those helmet, the first being against UF.

Hobnail_Boot said...

Your last point hits home for this Georgia fan.

Going into the WLOCP this year I knew it'd take our A+ game to hang with Florida. When I saw what we were wearing, I knew we were about to get blown off the field.

Fake juice rarely works.