The last victory meal the team ate came on September 26, the day after beating Kentucky at home. Victory meals seemed like a thing from the team’s past. Meyer doesn’t remember much from Sunday night, but it didn’t matter. The relief and excitement around the team was better than any entrée they could have been served.
“No idea what it was (for dinner), but it was unbelievable,” Urban Meyer said.
The Florida coaches challenged their players throughout the losing streak to remain focused on improving. After every loss, players spoke in the locker room about giving it their all on the practice field to fix the issues.
However, nothing changed. The bye week provided the players an opportunity to regroup and come together as a unit.
“It’s easy to be a good leader when you’re hoisting a crystal ball,” Meyer said. “When you’re getting hit square in the mouth, can you come back and work harder? The champions this week, you can hit those guys square in the mouth and they’re going to come back for more and get a little better.”
CHAMPIONS: The players that graded out champions on offense are Marcus Gilbert, Jon Halapio, Steve Wilks, Mike Pouncey, Deonte Thompson, Jordan Reed, Carl Johnson and John Brantley. There were three offensive players of the game in Chris Rainey, Frankie Hammond and Trey Burton.
The players that graded out champions on defense are Janoris Jenkins, Jelani Jenkins, Duke Lemmens, Justin Trattou and Ahmad Black. Will Hill was the defensive player of the game, playing his “best football game as a Gator.”
INJURY REPORT: The injury report is now thin. Andre Debose and Jaye Howard are both “looking decent.” Matt Patchan will not play at Vanderbilt.
ALTERNATING QUARTERBACKS: One tweak to the Florida offense came at quarterback. There were formations where Trey Burton would start at quarterback, only to shift out and move John Brantley back to quarterback. It also happened where Brantley started in the shotgun, only to move out to wide receiver and let Burton line up at quarterback.
The thought process is to catch defenses off guard. They put in a call on defense to prepare for the quarterback that is lined up, but when he moves outside, the defense has to rush to change the call or play against the quarterback without the ideal defense.
“If you want to clean up the coverage for John, how do you do that?” Meyer said. “Line up Trey Burton at quarterback. It’s real clean, then get out of it. If you want to keep them out of stopping the run, how do you do that? Put John Brantley at quarterback, then how fast can we get you out of that (and Burton in at quarterback)?”
The Florida offense was struggling to be two-dimensional. When Burton was in, teams would load up to stop the running quarterback. When Brantley was at quarterback, teams expected a pass. Switching quarterbacks rapidly before the snap allows the Gators to use their same offensive plays, but it unloads the box when Burton is likely to run.
“To run the football in college, you need to do something…creative to run the ball,” Meyer said. “It’s Oregon, Missouri, Auburn. You have to be creative to run the football because defenses are too good. It’d look like an NFL game that’s low scoring, you rush for 110 yards and call it a day. You need to create explosive plays in the run game. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s darn close.”
UPTEMPO OFFENSE: The offense also added a no-huddle element. Meyer said the coaches have toyed with it since the team defeated Oklahoma in the 2008 BCS National Championship. It allows the offense to tire out the opposing defense with little time between snaps.
“I see the evolution of the game right now,” Meyer said. “If you sit there Saturday night and watch highlights, it’s memorizing to watch Oregon play a football game right now. Florida has as good of athletes as anyone in America. When you add that wrinkle of cleaning up the defense with tempo and then conditioning the way we’ve conditioned over the last two weeks, it could be lethal.”
STRUGGLING DEFENSE:Georgia torched them for 439 yards of offense.
“We’re not playing great defense,” Meyer said. “That’s just the way it is. We’re not.”
HILL IMPROVEMENT: There was plenty of talk for Will Hill to be benched earlier in the season because of his poor play. Saturday, he was named the defensive player of the game. It took time for him to come on, but the two-interception performance could help the entire Florida defense.
“You can’t play good defense without a free safety,” Meyer said. “We’ve been blessed with maybe the best in college football history the last few years with Reggie (Nelson) and Major (Wright). Now you throw (Hill) in there. Those are talented guys.”
EARLY KICKOFF: Kickoff at Vanderbilt Saturday will take place at 11:21 a.m. local time. It’s a worry for the coaching staff, but they realize there is nothing that can be done about it now.
The last time Meyer remembers being in a situation like this was at Ole Miss in 2007. Alarm clocks went off at 6 a.m., a situation Meyer refers to as “bizarre.”
“It is a concern because you know the team you’re playing is one that’s looking to get you,” Meyer said. “They’ve got the talent to get you. It’s uncomfortable.”
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