The Sunday Blog, Week Four: Pierce on loose

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Florida freshman running back Dameon Pierce runs for a touchdown in the fourth quarter Saturday against Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

The Sunday Blog comes at you on an hour’s sleep on drive from the Jax Airport. Don’t worry, Robbie’s driving while I type.

  1. Once again, we saw Dameon Pierce break a long run late in the game Saturday night. Here’s a stat for you — Pierce is sixth in the nation in yards per carry at 10.71. Of course, he only has 21 carries on the year and Gator fans want to see more. But that was easily the best game Jordan Scarlett has had this year and let us not forget that Pierce broke the long run against Colorado State against a tired defense and his 47-yarder Saturday came when Tennessee went to a goal line defense in desperation down 40-21. “What’s the difference between 40 points and 47 points?” asked Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt about the defensive call. Hmm, I’m going to go with seven points. I agree that Pierce needs to get the ball more, but there is more to playing the position than simply running with the pigskin.
  2. College football is so awesome. We missed so much on Saturday night but stayed up to see the highlights to watch Stanford’s stunning rally against Oregon, Old Dominion’s upset of Virginia Tech and Oklahoma’s OT win over Army. Why Virginia Tech is playing AT Old Dominion is baffling. But how does a Bud Foster defense that gave up three points against FSU give up 49 points — 28 in the fourth quarter — to a team that lost to Liberty 52-10? It’s college football, that’s how.
  3. As a Heisman Trophy voter I try not to get too committed to anything this early, but I do notice. And I have to tell you I have Benny Snell on my short list right now. He’s third in the nation in rushing and I’d bet first in the nation in yards after contact. It will be interesting to see where Kentucky goes from here after two physical wins in the SEC in September. It will also be interesting to see where Vanderbilt goes after getting trashed in the second half by South Carolina. I have a pretty good idea.
  4. It’s not the greatest slate of games this Saturday but we say that knowing that something wild will happen. The weekly four-pack:

Syracuse at Clemson, noon, ABC.

Ohio State at Penn State, 7:30 p.m., ABC.

South Carolina at Kentucky, 7:30, SEC Network.

Stanford at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC.

73 COMMENTS

  1. In 1987, all we did was ask Emmitt Smith to run the football. And yet, while there may be more to the position than just running the pigskin, there is also getting the best player in the position on the field so he can make plays. And yet, Jordan Scarlett continues to run with his pads high, indecisively, but on a couple of plays last night he did run with some authority. The year off has affected him severely and I’m not sure he can recover. And yet, there’s Pierce making plays. Maybe give him a shot?

    • If your qb gets destroyed almost every time he goes back to pass because the back cannot pick up the blitz, that will negate what the back does in the running game pretty quickly. If a team decides to compensate by substituting a different back when they plan to pass, this gives the other team a pretty big clue about what to expect. Maybe there’s some wisdom in thinking that coaches may know what they-re doing every once in a while. They aren’t always right, but they’re in a much better position to evaluate things than any of us are.

    • Grumpy. Scarlett is running well. All he needs is more carries. And he is running during the first three quarters and not after the other team is down big and has basically given up. Scarlett would have made the long run at the end of the Vols game as well. Heck, I might have been able to score on that one. Scarlett is an excellent running back and he is also good at picking up blitzes and getting out into pass patterns.

  2. Pierce will get his shot when he learns routes and blocking assignments as CDM has stated. The only reason he has come in the game late was to give this talent some touches. I had it figured he would redshirt after his 4th game. I’m not so sure now because of depth.

    Got a question, what will Gator fans say, sports writers as well, if Kentucky is the only team in the east to give UGA a fight into the 4th quarter? Challenge for the east title? Seriously, UF played UK tough and were in position to win the game with a late drive. That UK team we played was not , as in someone’s words, “just freaking Kentucky”!! Stoops has them playing at a high level and it has shown so far.

    Great game Gators!!!! Defense was looking like days of old for most of the night and the offense struggled as usual with definite signs of improvement. MSU will be a better test than UT was.

    Did anyone happen to notice that all the talk from the ESPN crew was about what UT needed to do to rebuild? Nothing about UF rebuilding at all. Typical ESPN , Just saying

    • David good assessment. I agree that they may have thought about retiring Pierce after game 4. Don’t think so now. Or may sit him with the possibility of returning if someone gets hurt.
      As for the lack of press I think Mullen can work that with the players in our favor. But this has been discussed before here. “can’t get no respect”. If we can win against one or two ranked teams they’ll be forced to turn a little attention or way.

        • To true. Going into game against UT. The media was fired to Pruit. Even though we were a small favorite. I like flying under the radar. Could be Mullen does too. But also goes with my favorite song. Satisfaction. When we start to gel these guys are going to good and a honest threat to anyone. Add some quality 4-5* recruits and we’ll be in top 10. I could see a very young team next year playing a lot of underclassmen winning 8+ with a 2020 season kicking ass. If some of the juniors don’t jump ship could be next year.

  3. Here’s another thing I noticed about Pierce – on special teams, he is always the first one down the field (even on kick-offs after one of his long runs), and he goes full speed all the way into the end zone even when the returner fair catches, takes a knee, or the ball goes through the end zone. He gives relentless effort, no matter what the situation. He is exactly the kind of guy that championship teams are built upon. He needs more touches. So does Toney. I am 100% behind CDM, but for these two not to get at least 10 touches each is a waste of young and eager talent. Give Scarlett and Perrine their due, but let them pass block and put the ball in the hands of play makers, early and often!

    • Trooper. Scarlett is a playmaker and he made a big play in the game vs. Tennessee. And several big runs as well. I think Scarlett is the one who should be getting more carries and Perine and Pierce less. Scarlett runs better and better with more and more carries. He is a horse of a running back and needs more carries than he is getting.

      • I respect your opinion, but I think if given an equal number of carries under similar down and distance scenarios, Pierce would prove to be the more talented running back. He is reminiscent of Emmit Smith and Eric Rhett, neither of which were “horses”, but both were rare talents who ran “downhill” and to “daylight” and made it look easy. Maybe the answer is more reps for all with a more up-tempo offense?

      • Perine has determination and he gives more second effort and is quicker blasting off with the ball than Scarlett, but Scarlett has power to spare when he uses it. Scarlett needs to find the hole faster (when there is one). Scarlett looked better against UT than he has so far. Pierce has superstar potential and he needs to get more touches, even if he has a big learning curve. You can’t go wrong with any of the three.

    • All three should be used interchangeably but the OL still isn’t moving defenses to have a ground it out offense. They’re getting better but seem to miss blocks that would open holes. But the sack count is down. Franks getting a little more time and making better decisions. Last year defenses where in the backfield before the hand off sometime. Mullen is getting us there. We want to be there now. At least we hadn’t slipped to the level of UT before hiring Mullen. Scarlett is getting up to speed. He did miss some holes. I’m if the whole package blocking, running, passing could happen in one game it would be nice. Last thought the penalties pissed me off. It didn’t end up hurting us but that lack of discipline could still bite us.

  4. Its hard to get everyone touches when you run 44 offensive plays in the entire game! I like bringing in a stud back in the 4th quarter–like having an ace in the hole. DL playing better, special teams, intensity and effort definitely improving.

    Not ready to compete for titles, BUT on the right track for sure.

    Lets hear from all those that wanted 0-3 Frost or 0-3 Kelly. Worst starts for those 2 teams in like 100 combined years! Great decision Strick!

  5. As for ESPN’s crying for Tennessee the whole game, yea, it was quite annoying. Almost as annoying as the Ref who had more camera time than the winning Head Coach.
    Scarlett and Perine pounding the opposing ‘D’, with Pierce finishing ’em when they are tired is so Alabama ‘ish, and I freakn’ love it. Gators are getting better each week. Can’t ask for more from a new Head Coach. Go Gators! P.S., Pat the whole damn world knows you are a “Heisman Voter.” Hamming it up is so unbecoming.

    • Fresh legs. I have seen Bama break mNy close games open by bringing in that rested running back and letting him righ through a field of tired defenders. Go easy on Pat. After his terrible prediction re:UT he is just trying to regain credibility.

  6. Go read what the UT writers are saying about that blowout. Then go read about Chip Kelly at UCLA and Frost at Nebraska (didn’t Nebraska used to always be in the Top 10?) They looked absolutely like a Div II school on the road at Alabama or Clemson. For now, Gator fans should take the positive and hope this team can finish 8-4 with a decent bowl bid. Winnable games: Idaho, Vanderbilt, FSU and South Carolina. Possible winnable games: Miss. St. and Mizzou. Not possible: Georgia, LSU. This is NOT a great Gator team like the old SOS days or the early Urban Meyer years. It is average. But can always improve. I would love to be wrong about the possible and unwinnable games.

    • cattrick. Georgia is likely the only non winnable game remaining on the Florida schedule at this time. But most of the remaining games could just as easily be losses for the Gators as well. So the rest of the year should be very exciting for us in Gator Nation. And who knows, Florida could also force Georgia into six turnovers, and the Gators would need every one of those to have a shot at upsetting Georgia. And if anyone watched Bama, forget any team in the SEC beating Saban’s team this year, including Georgia. In fact, not even Ohio State or Clemson could beat Bama right now. Best Bama team ever under Saban.

      • Agreed on Bama. They really look unbeatable right now. When a BAMA QB throws for almost 400 yards..in addition to their usual pounding running game and brick wall defense….oh my.

        I think UGA will certainly be a tough nut to crack but I also think LSU and Mizzou will be stiff challenges. LSU has a strong defense and just enough offense to be a contender. Mizzou will give us trouble because of Drew Lock and our young secondary. That said, all of our remaining games are winnable..or losable. It really depends on whether we keep seeing steady improvement or not.

    • Regarding Nebraska, they havent been near the top ten in decades. yes they used to be a perennial power but that was a long time ago when i was growing up. Frost took a bad program and it will take along time to fix it because they just dont have the talent. I believe he is a great coach. If there ever was a dumpster fire it is Nebraska. They are like Bama was before Saban. they lived off their glory years when Bear bryant was there and had been at best average or worse since then until Saban. That is what Nebraska is today.

    • Joe. Five of those TD passes came against Charleston Southern. But I will get all behind Franks when I start seeing him consistently checking down and hitting open secondary receivers instead of taking off out of the pocket as soon as he sees that the primary receiver is covered up. The OL game him good protection Saturday night and he still was running out of the pocket and not seeing open secondary receivers (Jefferson a bunch of times). But the throw Franks made to Swain for the long TD was as good as it can get. Franks has so much physical talent it is scary. But he also is lacking that “it” that makes a QB great. I want to see more “it” and a completion percentage of between 60 and 70 percent instead of 50 percent. And he needs to lead more consistent and time consuming drives that result in TDs before I can really get behind Franks as well. And I know it was just one pass and late in the game, but Trask’s quick and accurate slant pattern pass to Grimes was also as good as it gets. I am not sure Franks could make that pass consistently. I think Trask could. But, then again, Franks can do things that Trask cannot do. But Franks has clearly earned the start again vs. MSU. Here is to him making another big step and leading consistent and long drives next Saturday night.

        • Gator Bob. But I think Tua, Fromm, and others could put up top passing stats against top tier competition, and have already. Franks was 50 percent vs. Tennessee. But Franks is much better than last year and is showing some improvement each week. But he is simply a game manager right now and not a QB you depend upon to go win a game for you like Tua, Fromm, and others. But he can go win the game vs. Charleston Southern. But he did not go win the game vs. Tennessee, and Tennessee is a horrible football team.

      • There’s obviously a reason Mullen is keeping Trask on the bench, so I’m inclined to go along with his opinion of his abilities. Franks played some pretty terrible teams last season too and never came close to throwing 5 TDs in a game, so clearly he’s progressing, albeit at a much slower pace than the majority of the fans are expecting him to.

  7. Mullen is doing all he can to build Frank’s up, I applaud that.

    Scarlett is the number one back, he is getting it back. We give Frank’s benefit of the doubt.
    Let’s be honest the game should have been a lot closer than it was.
    I think the team is getting better each week, still not sold on Frank’s being who Mullen thinks he is

    • jonzee. Why should the game have been closer? The Florida defense demoralized the Tennessee offense and set up Florida for easy TDs. It would have been closer if the Florida defense had not played so well. But they did. And the final score could have been a lot worse if the Florida offense had been more consistent under Franks and not had so many three and outs. Tennessee was lucky that the final score was not 73 to whatever.

    • I’m not sure why the game “should have been closer”. UT obviously is not a good team. But they didn’t just hand the Gators the game. The Gators earned it. We were hard hitting and relentless. The Gators pounded Guarantano all night, eventually driving him out of the game. CJ Henderson’s hustle not only saved a touchdown but got the ball back for the Gators. Credit this win to an opportunistic team who has obviously been listening to what Coach Mullen has been preaching.

  8. I think Mullen knows exactly who and what Franks is. The problem is that many of us think that there is something better waiting in the wings. Whether you think Trask or Jones would run on the field and play better than Frank’s, you are basing an arguement on an unknown against a known entity. For this we have no facts.

    However, I do trust that CDM has more facts, and has made his decision on that basis. I’m sure if things head south, he will make future decisions based on those facts as well, but until then, I am going to trust his judgment.

    I am disappointed that Traskndidnt come out to play sooner in this blowout win. I think he should have been in at least one series earlier, and that they could have given Jones a cameo appearance or two for designers QB run options.

    Still rather have this problem than be here today discussing the Gator”s loss.

    • “For this we have no facts” actually we do. 1st the coach said that trask was a better manager(can move the offense along on drives) and he said that trask was more accurate. He also said that he chose Franks because of his impressive talent( ability to make deep passes)(so far we have lived off that as he cant sustain a drive, oh yea, he had a 75 yard drive yesterday… in 4 plays). PLUS we had Trask in the spring game last year who when given 1 series with the same offense and defense franks had(who, franks, couldnt move the offense all game) trask drove right down and scored. trask doesnt have the big play ability of franks but he can keep a drive alive, eat up clock, keep the defense off the field, thus fresh, and can score. this isnt the 1st coach who just cant pass up on the talent with glaring deficiencies in other areas. blaine gabbert of the jaguars comes to mind, who is now with TN and he still cant drive an offense but boy he can make some throws! Jags couldnt pass up on that in the top of the 1st round of the draft either. Mullen basically admitted he couldnt either. Most coaches always think they can coach em up, but they rarely succeed; seeing the field just seems to be a talent that cant be taught. Here’s hoping!

      • Even though I know it’s not great coaching, sometimes I wish Mullen would just throw Trask in in the first qtr and let him play under normal pressure packed situations so this unfounded argument about his greatness could be settled once and for all. It’s really getting quite annoying constantly hearing how great he is and that he should be the starter after every game with no actual evidence to back it up other than playing in a spring game. I’d love to see the article you’re referring to where Mullen says Trask is a better manager and more accurate, cause I’m pretty sure that was never said. He usually gave the standard answer of they’re both progressing fine and both have their problems, but never said one was better at anything than the other. There was a whole lot of coach talk going on to keep both motivated and in the competition mentally. Still boggles my mind that anyone actually believes a great QB coach would keep the better player on the bench simply because one has a better arm. Really makes absolutely no sense at all, yet somehow so many people believe it. Sad thing is all him going out and proving everyone wrong would do is, we’d then constantly hear how great Jones is and he should be the starter. It’s a never ending process with this fan base. The backup is always the next Tom Brady. Funny thing is, that was even said about Franks at one point in ’16 when everyone wanted his redshirt burned. You’d think this fan base would finally realize maybe the coach does know more than me.

  9. BoomTown. Franks managed the game well, but the Florida offense had way to many three and outs and did not sustain many long drives. As Mullen said, a lot of big plays and not a lot of consistent offense be lead by Franks. That is the concern. And Franks is still not seeing the entire field and quickly working through his progressions in the pocket. If the primary receiver is not open, he either stays focused on that unopen receiver or takes off running out of the pocket immediately without checking through his progressions. If he did the later, Franks would have many more completions, his completion percentage would be a lot higher, and Florida would have more time of possession on offense than they do and would have run a ton more plays than they have. The offense is still frustrating to watch. But the OL and Franks are getting better. I would like to see them take the next step and BE a lot better, consistently. And that is fairly much what Mullen said after the game.

    • Tampa you do realize after only 16 total offensive plays, they were already up 23-3 right? At that point Mullen kind’ve went into control the clock mode and implemented a running offense. It’s kind’ve hard for any offense to get into a rhythm when you get out to such a big lead early and switch up your offensive mentality, so it’s kind’ve understandable that they had a lot of 3 and outs. Take a look at the tweet below and it might shock you. Hard to believe he was the 3rd highest rated Qb under pressure this past week and actually performed better than Tua. I’m seeing a lot of these little factual stats being put out there that don’t really back up all the Franks bashing and certainly proves he’s progressing just fine.

      https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1044016822712971264

      • Seriously, Joe, you really think any stats prove that Franks performs better than Tua at Bama? And Franks has played against one Power 5 team. Tua, three Power 5 teams, and two were SEC teams. And Bama demolished Louisville, Mississippi, and totally dismantled the team that nearly upset Clemson, Texas A&M. Simply watch Tua play and how he sees the entire field, and also how he works the pocket with his eyes down the field at all time. And he only runs the ball when there is no one open. Then watch Franks and how he stares down his primary receiver still, is not comfortable still moving around and staying in the pocket when he has good protection, and often takes off out of the pocket immediately after his primary receiver is not open without first checking down in his progressions. It is night and day, Joe, between Franks and most of the top QBs in the country. Night and day right now. Or simply go watch the true freshman QB at Clemson play, Lawrence. He is already much better than Franks and he is a true freshman and is about the same size and with the same kind of arm and physical talent. It is like Franks plays with horse blinders on his eyes and Tua and Lawrence are playing with magnifying glasses on. It really is like that. But Franks was playing last year like he was knee deep in mud. He is now way out of the mud at least. But he is nowhere near a top tier QB right now. He is developing into a good game manager. But Florida needs much more than a good game manager to win championships again.

    • Tampa…Most of what you say is true, especially about him being too quick to abandon the pocket. His completion percentage would be go up if he would look for receivers underneath the coverage more often and thread the ball to them like Trask did on that slant. If he would read what the defense gives him, he could get the offense in shorter yardage on third down and get it moving in a rythym. With his ability to hit the long ball, he has potential to be great if he could just see better and think a little faster. If he could depend on the O-line to pick up blitzes maybe he could settle in and see more of the field. I do think he and the line will get a lot better under the new coaches, but it won’t happen as quickly as we’d like. I’d like to see if Trask could sustain a drive, but Coach Mullen knows what he’s doing and seems to be a very patient developer of talent.

  10. Think for a minute how we felt after the close loss to Kentucky and imagine MSU’s deflated squad after being ranked in the top 20 (14th) and getting mauled in the trenches by “lowly” Kentucky Saturday. We will find out what kind of coach Moorehead is very quickly as that is the type of loss that can turn into two with a hungry Gator team coming to town ready to take care of business. If he can get them refocused this week, we will have a dogfight on our hands that we could be a loss. On the other hand, if they wallow in self pity and look in the rearview mirror all week, I predict that we could roll them and be 4-1 taking on LSU in the swamp. It will be interesting to see which team shows up for both schools come this weekend. PS that was FUN again for a change. I kept waiting for the letdown and Tenn to get back in it but CDM kept them giving “relentless effort” until the end. I love it !

      • Hey Daz — I agree, but wouldn’t use the word, “easily”. I think their rating had more to do with the fact that the new coach was from Penn State, actually — tell me that there’s no bias in the polls! All kidding aside tho, there is a statistical phenomenon that always applies (except for when it doesn’t) called “regression to the mean” or “regression artifacts” — I think that’s what we’re seeing start with MSU. Another reason why rankings don’t really mean much for the first 3 or 4 weeks.

  11. Kentucky USC will be interesting. i still don’t believe in UK, but they overpower USC last year and seem even better now. Mush has, much to my surprise, finally opened up the offense and they seem much more productive, but iit seems like it will come down to whether their D can stop the UK running game. The other wild card is– can UK handle prosperity? They should be ranked this week and will be getting more attention. Some teams have to learn how to handle that the hard way.

  12. Again I just think the newspaper just isn’t on top of things…we’re all worried about qb and possibly struggling against lightweights like south Carolina we need to realize our defense is strong enough again to get us back in t o national prominence without a ton of offense. The last ten years every defensive coordinator we have has done well here and left t o move up the food chain except special case rAndy Shannon. One guy took over the ravens defense and won them a super bowl. Charlie strong got as high as Texas head coach. Teryl austin has coordinated 2 nfl defenses. Dan Quinn gave away a super bowl as head coach but still may win one in time. D j durkin rebuilt Maryland as head coach although I’m not sure where h e stands at the moment. Collins is hc at temple. It’s hard to imagine Grantham not doing at least as well as any of these guys but it’s easy to see him gone by 2020. So what if Franks didn’t risk a turnover on some maybe plays…He knows his defense can win and his job is just to not lose.
    I’m sure there are things to work on but let’s be real…We are a top t I Erik sec east program. We may not win it but we are going to bruise up whoever does.

      • We only scored what we did yesterday because of defense and special teams that gave us short yardage situations anda VERY weak opponent. Who we are is how we played against UK, the only decent opponent we have played and they arent all that either, just average.

        • Not sure I’d classify the team that showed up against UK as “who we are”. It’s pretty safe to say that was a team reading too much into the streak and thought that would win it for them and got smacked in the face. I doubt we’ll ever see that defense, more specifically that atrocious tackling again the rest of the season.

    • MVeal….. while I like where this team is heading…after 9 years of brutal football…. I do not think we yet have the players, offense or defense, to get back to national prominence. This is NOT a dig at this team. But we just aren’t there yet. I am VERY encouraged by the changes we’ve seen in the past 10 months but it takes time to get to a Bama or Clemson or OSU level. You need players. You need facilities. You need a better culture and mentality. It all takes time. The defense that you reference is getting better but the secondary needs much more experience. And we need more SEC linebackers to play Grantham’s defense. We’re headed there, but we’ll take our lumps along the way.

  13. Please give Pierce more touches. I’m pretty sure he can pass block because he is very physical. I like Scarlett, but even though Scarlett is a good back, I was never sold on him as a NFL back like most gator fans said about him before the season started, they pretty much crown him our best running back. Pierce will be our next 1000 yard rusher once he gets a chance. Actually it’s harder to score in garbage time because the defense knows that you’re trying to run the clock out but yet he seem to find the end zone. Go Gators!

  14. And the game ball goes to….David Reece. He was a human eraser wiping out wholes and plugging up gaps.
    His INT was pivotal in getting us off the field and putting us in great field position.
    The DLine came to life last night and it was because of Reece. He is one of those special players that elevates everyone elses game that’s around him. I can only wonder what might have been had he been there against Kentucky to plug up Benny Snell’s runs. Welcome back David Reece!!!

  15. Kirby Smart had zero coaching experience Before he landed the job at Georgia as far as I know. Correct me if I am wrong. All of the sudden in his third year they are loaded with five star players top to bottom. That seems very unusual to me and I don’t want to sound like sour grapes but hopefully the families are spending the cash quite well. But to be fair when Urban Meyer was here all of the kids wanted to play at Florida. It still makes me wonder what goes on behind the scenes in the recruiting world of college football. I feel like Nick Saban built the Alabama program back to supremacy on his name and history alone. But I am not so sure about Kirby Smart especially when his first year was an absolute joke. His reputation under the Nick Saban tree was no better than the other coaches that came from the same tree. Maybe this guy is legitimately that good of a recruiter. I think that Mark Richt does not get enough credit for what he left behind for that program.

  16. I think Coach is handling the running backs well, and I do think Pierce will get more carries. He is obviously talented and he needs more reps. That doesn’t take anything away from Scarlett or Perine. Scarlett ran hard the other night. His biggest issue is vision. If he cut back every once in a while , he would get bigger runs. He just isn’t as agile as some of the others. He is a downhill guy and a good one. We have depth there, so why not use it? Coach is suing his depth. Pierce is getting fewer than the rest because of his age. I have heard nothing about bad route running or blocking. He is a frosh. The others have experience. But, he is playing like he is experienced. He is not dejected after two yard carries. And, he hasn’t fumbled the ball that I remember. He is also one of the strongest guys on the team. Maybe not this year, but he will be the next great back at Florida.