Dooley: Gators far from finished product, but 4-0 is nice

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Florida Gators quarterback Kyle Trask (11) looks to throw Saturday against Tennessee at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Trask completed 20 of 28 passes for 293 yards and two scores. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

As he walked in the tunnel area, Florida receiver Freddie Swain held a camera up on an elaborate selfie stick and began taking in the scene. This would be his last Florida-Tennessee game and he wanted to enjoy the moment.

HBO’s cameras started cranking Saturday with the happy locker room of an undefeated SEC team. Despite all of the issues, injuries, mistakes and injuries and making their coach mad and — did I mention injuries? — the Gators took care of business for the fourth time in five Saturdays.

This one came against an old rival that played like a bunch of old men. The Vols aren’t very good and whether it’s coaching or the players (give Jim McElwain and Butch Jones credit for the talent discrepancy, no, never mind!) but Tennessee is not your concern.

You will, instead, enjoy another week basking in the glow of one of the best stories in college football and the feeling that you really like your coach. At least for another week.

Both of these programs are only two years removed from four-win seasons. One hired Dan Mullen. The other wanted to hire Dan Mullen.

One program may not get to four wins this season. The other is already there.

“We did a lot of good things out there today,” Mullen said.

And some bad ones. This is still far from a finished project. 

This time Florida got off to a fast start with a touchdown drive that ended with a 19-yard pass to emerging star Kyle Pitts. It was Kyle on Kyle crime against the Vols. 

Clearly, his first start in seven years wasn’t shaking the new quarterback. 

“Obviously, there was a lot more for me with media and everything,” Trask said. “I think I did a great job of staying focused.”

It got a little squirrelly for much of the rest of the half with turnovers and more reviews than opening night of “Hamilton.” But Florida’s late drive in the second half made it look like a rout could be on.

And while it wasn’t a traditional blowout (Florida seemed obsessed with letting the Vols stick around), UF ended up with an easy win that saw Tennessee run out the clock for the last couple of minutes of the game, content to count the lumps already administered on the plane ride home.

Trask was “solid” according to his coach and you could almost hear the Gator faithful swooning after every completion. He held the ball too long at times (that won’t work in two weeks) and threw two bad interceptions.

But he got his feet drenched. He played in his second SEC game and got his first start.

“Completely different environment, to say the least,” Trask said.

But pretty much the same team.

These are still the Gators who seem to hesitate to put a team away. Mullen got so angry at the start of the second half I thought he was going to go for the old visor toss.

“We were going to get a delay of game,” he said. “We were moseying out there on the field and we were all standing over the ball. We called the play before we left the locker room.

“A bunch of things ticked me off. I’m trying to have a nice afternoon and you bring up all of the things that are going to tick me off.”

Sorry.

But these are still the Gators that throw the ball into coverage. 

“The interceptions are coachable moments,” Mullen said. “The fumbles, though, not good.”

That’s nine turnovers in four games.

And yet, these also are still the Gators who stiffen up when the offense turns it over. Offenses have scored only nine points on those nine UF turnovers.

These are still the Gators who struggle to run the ball, especially in the first half. 

“I’m an old school guy. I like to run the ball,” Mullen said. “We’re throwing a little more. We’ll see what the shape of this team is.”

These are still the Gators who need to get healthy. Linebacker Ventrell Miller was the latest to miss substantial time in a game.

And they are still the Gators who don’t look like a Top-10 college football team.

Except for this.

Florida is 4-0. After four games, you can’t do better than that. I know. I looked it up.

You can look at all of the broken chain links and look nervously at the future. 

Or you can sit back and enjoy a 4-0 start.

It will all get sorted out soon enough.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

 

40 COMMENTS

  1. I’ll concede that ALL interceptions are bad, but the situation and circumstances figure into determining how bad an interception actually is. The first interception was a late throw and a little short on 3rd down. It was picked on the sideline with the defender going out of bounds, so no threat of a return. The Vols got the ball at their own 15 yard line, so it didn’t put the defense in a bad situation. And oh, by the way, the score was 24-3 Gators, and Trask had already thrown 2 TD passes. This wasn’t lobbing the ball up for grabs on your first possession of a conference road game. Holding the ball too long and taking the sack on the previous play, when he had a wide open field to the left, was just as bad as the pick. The second pick was thrown into double coverage, but Grimes was able to get a hand on the ball, and it was the tip that allowed the interception. Again, the pick was in the end zone, so no return, and the Vols got the ball at their own 20. Yes, the picks prevented the Gators from scoring on those drives, but they didn’t give UT any advantage on field position and yielded no points.

    The fumble is a different story. Trask certainly saw the sack coming, yet he didn’t tuck the ball to get ready for the hit. He has to secure the ball in that situation. Fortunately, the defense stepped up and didn’t allow a score, but those points would’ve been on Trask.

    Maybe it’s just me, but I think a 71.4 % completion rate on passes thrown DOWNFIELD for 293 yards, 2 TD’s, and a 10.5 yards/attempt average is pretty good. Especially when he threw a beautiful pass that should’ve been caught for a 64 yard TD that would’ve been his 3rd of the game. I’ll take that every Saturday. Congrats Kyle Trask, and Go Gators!

  2. The Gator O is a work-in-progress, especially the OL. Kyle Trask must learn to protect the ball when he’s about to be sacked, BUT did you see all those intermediate yardage completions to open receivers between the hash marks? Where were those over the first two and three quarter games?

    The D has absorbed a lot of injuries, BUT still shut down the Vols’ O. And the injured players should be back healthy for the Auburn game in 2 weeks. Is the Vols’ O that inept, or is the depleted Gator D that good?

    As I write this, I’m watching Ian Book carve up the Doggies and no longer concede the Gators (with by then a more experienced OL and Kyle Trask at QB) will lose the Cocktail Party. The questions in my mind now are: 1) will the OL and Trask be ready for that excellent Auburn DL in two weeks and 2) will the Gator D be ready for that new LSU juggernaut O in three weeks?

    One yes answer from the Gators may set up a truly special Cocktail Party game. Two yeses may set up a situation where even if the Gators lose to UGA (which I’m no longer conceding) they may STILL make the playoff field in December with only one loss.

    • StL, I think you hit the nail on the head with the intermediate passes over the middle. I appreciate Feleipe’s effort and his great attitude since the injury, but those completions were definitely missing from his stat line. If Copeland hangs on to the one that Trask laid in his hands, we’re celebrating a 350 yard performance with 3 TD’s.

      I give Feleipe a lot of respect for how he’s handling the situation, and I think he’s happy for Trask. I know the rest of Gator Nation certainly is. Trask can clean up his ball security issues and keep finding Kyle Pitts downfield, this could be a truly special season.

      Btw, were you able to log in from your phone?

    • Those INTs were both aggressively thrown passes that hit the receivers’ hands before being picked off. CDM was wise not to criticize Trask’s aggressiveness after the game. Better to focus his criticism on the fumble when Trask was sacked. He really needs to learn to protect the ball when his pocket breaks down.

      • Yep! I like the aggressiveness. Sometimes we have to take some risks, calculated risks of course. Don’t want to bet the farm, with nothing to fall back on if it fails. As the saying goes, “No guts, no glory.” About the fumble, I think that was the payback to even out from the week before when he successfully dumped the ball to Perine(?) for a touchdown as he was getting tackled near the goal line. He was lucky that it didn’t resulted in a fumble but no one is going to be critical of the play that produced a much needed TD. Luckily, or better put, skillfully calculated so far, his risks have helped more than hurt the team.

    • Hey, Sly, this may be a top secret question, so if you feel you’d have to kill me if you told me, then, never mind. Otherwise, have you paid for a subscription or are you finding a way around the pay wall? I just can’t believe we’re getting so few comments after this kind of performance by Trask, when so many were so unhappy with Franks’ performance. I really enjoy the format of this site, and there were so many knowledgeable, thoughtful, likable, humorous, and witty guys who comment here that I couldn’t wait to get through the articles to read the comments. I’m afraid it’s dying on the vine, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

      • Joe – I am shocked you picked me to ask that question. You must think I’m Sly …..oh wait, I am…um, never mind. You should probably ask someone else who has claimed to have done it. I think I saw a couple of posts to that effect earlier. I guarantee you, it doesn’t matter if it’s a wall, a fence, a barrier, or whatever, resourceful people will find ways around it. (Sorry couldn’t help myself making fun of a celebrity.)
        Try Googling it.

        • Good point. I guess they’re right about a lock only stopping an honest person. Btw, I think it’s fine to poke fun at celebrities, and each other, for that matter, as long as it’s in good fun and not personal. My question was really a thinly veiled “Why aren’t you posting more?”.

          • Joe – OK, thanks for clarifying because I misinterpreted your question. I don’t think I’m posting less, am I? I’ve been a sporadic, not a steady poster. I tend to comment on things I disagree with (which may not be a good personality trait to have but that’s a personal problem) so be careful with what you wish for. I suppose when I post less, it may mean I agree with the predominant sentiment. Maybe I need to stir the pot more often….chuckling.

          • I think we all tend to post more often when we disagree. That’s probably why there are fewer comments when the Gators win and things seem to be going right.

            Pot stirring is good! Keeps the debate going and the posts coming in. Stir On!!!

  3. My thoughts: Tn was no pushover yet the Gators beat them with a drum. Bodes well. Ga is definitely beatable, UF is better than ND! We will shut down alot of Ga running but their QB(no nfl arm) is an excellent passer, acurate like Trask, Kirby Smart makes some dumb decisions(good for us)… BTW , not a criticism but, Trask is a great college QB but does not have an NFL arm(he cant laser a pass). Not so important at this level- just an observation. Franks does, but thats all he has!…I watched a number of other top teams,comparitively we have a great defense. With our QB and defense we will compete and may win against GA and Auburn. We will compete against LSU but I dont think we will win. Play like we did today or better and everyone else on the schedule, beside the mentioned ones, are toast! I expect we will get better as the season progresses. I think Trask will resist throwing into double coverage(I like the confidence though and his pass was right on the money, just good defense, the Int. was what happens with double coverage, otherwise it would have been just an incomplete pass).

    • After watching the complete UGA-ND game last night and keeping in mind BOTH teams will evolve over the next 5 weeks, I have a couple of observations about its potential parallels with the Cocktail Party later this season.

      On the plus side for the Gators, this UGA secondary can be beaten with intermediate and long passes, especially over the middle, especially to the TE. With Trask as our QB and Pitts our TE, the Gators can NOW do that! On the minus side, ND’s running game looked just as anemic vs. UGA as the Gator running game has looked to date in 2019. That weakness bogged down the Irish in the red-zone in the first half and allowed UGA to stay in the game until their massive OL wore out the ND defense in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters.

      The Gator OL has been beaten to death on this message board about getting their act together, but fact is that without a respectable running game, the Gators are highly unlikely to win in October. How they address their run blocking deficiencies and fumbles over the next two weeks will define the 2019 Gators.

      • Great point about the UGA OL. They’re probably the best in the conference, given that Bama is also having some issues running the ball, now. They are big, and they rarely fail to push, pull, or drag the pile to get extra yards for their RB’s. The Dawgs’ OL are who our OL should aspire to be when they grow up.

      • I had a different take after watching the Ga/ND game. What I saw was an ND team that is NOT as good as UF. Our defense is way better and Our QB is way better. Those 2 things will enable us to compete against Ga which even ND did for a while, so we will be even better. I also believe Ga will not be able to run against our D-line nearly as well as they did against ND. That will make them one dimensional just like UF. Then its a QB duel and who makes the most mistakes, plus our defense is better than Ga. Problem is their QB is very sismilar to ours in ability to throw the ball accurately. I believe the game will be VERY close.

        • Daz, I’d like to agree with you on your QB comparison between Book and Trask. My concern is Trask’s short starting experience as a starter, particularly vs. good defenses. There’s also the fact that TODAY the Irish defense is MUCH better at tackling than the Gator defense, which is correctable, but we need to see improvement quickly… like before Auburn arrives at the Swamp.

          I do agree with you that the Cocktail Party will likely be a close game. My point is that if it’s close going into the 4th quarter, THAT’ll favor UGA’s running game because their massive and talented OL will wear out the Gators’ front seven by then. Better for the Gators OL to establish a respectable running game between now and then, so they can exploit the Dawgs’ weaker secondary early and punch it in for TDs, which ND didn’t do. We want the Gators ahead by a couple of TDs going into the 4th quarter so UGA is forced to pass to catch up. That will play into the Gators’ pass rushing advantage.

          • There’s NO way we will develop a running game in 2 weeks, by Auburn or 5 weeks by Ga. Develop , means our O-line learns to run block effectively. That may take a season. some O-lines never do. I suggested elsewhere that since running from 2 positions had success(with Emory) why not put in Jones with a 2 back set so the defense has to cover 3 directions, plus a jet sweep with a WR and the 2 backs. we could manufacture a run game that way. Then pass to run (occasionally). Also I dont think our D-line will wear down with the way we rotate, unlike most other teams. Mullen keeps them fresh and i believe we are better conditioned!

        • Well Daz, your theories will be put to the test in less than two weeks vs. Auburn. Ready or not, the Gator OL will face a severe challenge from that DL. And, while Auburn’s OL is not quite as massive as UGA’s, they will be the best OL the Gator D will have faced this season.

          My concern is that, regardless of how well the Gator passing game does between the 20’s, without a running game the O will bog down in the red zone and have to settle for field goals, at best. That will put the Gator D under severe pressure in the second half.

          Past Gator defenses this decade under the Chump and McElwhiner have failed that test. Here’s to hoping this one succeeds.

  4. Trask has plenty of confidence and dare I say a little bit of swagger. You need that in a quarterback to feed your offense. His success will only continue to help the rest of the offense and maybe his presence gives the line and the entire offense enough umph to make a serious run. We have been lacking that confidence and fight the last 10 years on offense and if you consider the quarterbacks, there is no doubt why.

    Defensively the young guys need to continue to grow and continue to learn how to wrap up and cover guys down field. Florida will be as successful as the players want it to be. Stay the course, learn from every game, and develop that hunger to have more than just a good season. It has been too long since they won a championship and that lack of knowing what it is like may be part of the problem. Do something that hasn’t been done in a while like go undefeated in the SEC, get into the playoffs, win the east and hammer the west’s representative, etc. and it becomes infectious. That is what is happening to GA and AL right now. Knock them off and see how good it is at the top. Go Gators!

    • Ocala, I’m not sure I’d call it swagger so much as unflappability. Trask’s cool demeanor doesn’t seem to change from play to play, or drive to drive, whether he just threw a TD pass or an interception. THAT is a big difference from his predecessor. To show you the effect of that difference on everyone else, check out my post below on what Jesse Palmer had to say after Saturday’s game vs. UT.

  5. Speaking of Trask (and the guy he replaced this week,) did anyone else see the beginning of the UF-UT segment on College Football Final this morning?

    It went by quick and without comment, but while Barrie was prattling on about the history of this rivalry with pictures of Manning and Wuerffel on the screen, the video feed suddenly shifted to a pre-game scene with Franks sitting on his scooter talking to Trask. That’s when Jesse Palmer chimed in unseen with this comment, “A legend in his own mind!” Ouch!!! That’s some serious trolling from a former Gator QB!

    Think Franks’ warrantless hot dogging hasn’t annoyed a few people???