Dogs’ Day: Gators can’t contain Fromm, Georgia

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Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) throws a pass as Florida defensive end Jonathan Greenard (58) tries to block it in the second half Saturday at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]
JACKSONVILLE — Unfortunately for Florida, what the folks in Athens have been anticipating all season, not so patiently by the way, finally showed up Saturday at TIAA Bank Field.
Led by quarterback Jake Fromm, the Georgia Bulldogs finally looked, played and handled themselves like a College Football Playoff team, the kind everyone thought they were going to be heading into the season.
The No. 6 Gators, on the other hand, did not look, play or handle themselves like one. As a result, the No. 8 Bulldogs (7-1 overall and 4-1 in the SEC) pinned a damaging 24-17 loss on Florida before 84,789. UF no longer controls its own destiny in the East race.
The Bulldogs are now in command for the division title.
But there’s still a lot of ball to be played. That’s the message UF coach Dan Mullen delivered to his players in a downcast postgame locker room.
“A lot, right?” Mullen said. “There’s a lot of football still left to be played in the league. Division hasn’t been clinched by anybody, it wasn’t going to be clinched today by anybody. So, you know, whether we won or lost the game, next week’s game is a really big game for us. That’s how it works.”
The loss certainly doesn’t eliminate the Gators in the division race. But now, they have to win out (Vanderbilt and at Missouri) and hope that Georgia (Missouri, at Auburn and Texas A&M) loses two more conference games. Realistically, that’s now the only path to Atlanta for Florida.
“We have to finish the season strong,” said quarterback Kyle Trask, who threw for 257 yards and two touchdowns. “This is going to be a big character moment for us.”
The Gators had hoped to start out strong and fast Saturday against the Bulldogs, but that didn’t happen. They looked out of sorts instead, having to call two timeouts in the game’s opening possession, getting called for a false start on a third-and-one from the UGA 40, then Trask throwing incomplete on four-and-one from the same spot one play later.
UGA then set the tone for the day, putting together a field-goal drive where the Bulldogs converted four of five third-down plays to possess the ball and score points.
It was like that for most of the rest of the game, the ‘Dogs converting third downs and burning clock, and building a 16-3 lead early in the third quarter.
For the game, UGA converted 12 of 18 third downs, which the Gators converted just two for nine. That was the difference in the game. The Bulldogs were gold on the money down, while UF was close to bankrupt.
“We didn’t get off the field on third down,” Mullen said. “We called a lot of different defenses. There’s a lot of different answers for why they were good on third down. There’s not one thing. There’s a lot of different ones.”
The biggest factor of all is the fact the UF defensive front put zero pressure on Fromm, who had a clean pocket for the whole game and plenty of time to go through his progressions and find the open receivers. As a result, he carved up the Gator secondary, completing 20 of 30 passes for 279 yards and two touchdowns.
His biggest completion of the day was a 52-yard TD pass to Lawrence Cager on a busted coverage that gave the Bulldogs a 24-10 lead with 10:01 left in the game.
The sudden strike came only minutes after the Gators had gotten back in the game with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Trask to Van Jefferson that had made it a one-score game, 16-10.
"That was a big one,” Mullen said. “Both their touchdowns were busted coverages. That’s just mental. I mean being disciplined, being exact, being where we’re supposed to be."
As bad as things had gone for much of the game, the Gators stayed in it with a 17-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 2-yard TD pass from Trask to Freddie Swain to make it a 24-17 game with 3:11 left to play.
The problem is the drive took almost eight minutes off the clock.
“When you’re down two (touchdowns), you’ve got to score once first,” Mullen said. “So, let’s make sure we put a solid drive together and get the touchdown first, and we did that and that’s kind of the whole thought that goes into that. Don’t panic, don’t need to panic, run our offense, execute our offense, let’s take it down the field. We executed clean, we punched it in.
“I thought we played OK on offense at times. Just some mistakes kept setting us back at different points in the game, and, obviously, we only ran 52 plays offensively so that’s not very good. Needed to stay on the field better on offense and get off the field better on defense.”
The Bulldogs, appropriately, sealed the win with one final third-down conversion — a 22-yard pass from Fromm to tight end Eli Wolf on third-and-seven from the Georgia 35 that allowed it to run out the rest of the clock.
“We had belief the whole game,” senior linebacker David Reese said. “We just needed one stop (on the 52-yard TD pass that came on third-and-one). We didn’t get that unfortunately. And we needed a stop late and we didn’t get that. It sucks.”

Up next
Who: Vanderbilt vs. Florida
When: 12 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
TV: ESPN
Radio: 103.7-FM

24 COMMENTS

  1. Depth and the talent level really showed in this game. We still have work to do at many positions. Our lack of pressure with Greenard, Zuniga and Moon injured was critical and the big contributor to the defenses poor 3rd down performance. Clearly we need to recruit like crazy on the o-line – not being able to run at all will not get it done in the SEC. Good effort, nice game by Trask but we are still a notch below talent-wise.

  2. The outcome of this game came down to the two offensive lines. The Dawgs have the best OL in the SEC and they showed us why by keeping the Gator pass rush from touching Fromm as he calmly carved the Gator secondary up all day. The Gators have the eleventh best OL in the SEC and they showed us why as well.

    If we subtract the yards lost on QB sacks, the Gator got 43 YDS rushing. There were no explosive plays and UGA did it with just their front seven, sometimes just front six. That allowed their backfield to limit the damage Gator receivers could do by keeping most plays in front of them. Without some semblance of a running game, the Gators won’t be playoff material any time soon.

    Things won’t improve until the McElwain OL recruits cycle out and are replaced by bigger, meaner and more athletic CDM recruits.

  3. Ga winning this game was about 1 thing and 1 thing only. The return of Cager for Ga. In the ND win they only scored 23, in the SC loss they only scored 17 and in the UK win they only scored 21 all without Cager. They had NO passing game without Cager. Without Cager, UF wins this game going away as I had predicted. Cager was a gametime announcement. When it happened I told my son that he was a game changer and I was worried, it proved true. Go back and watch those 3 games ga had, Fromm couldnt give away a pass. His receivers were covered and most passes were off the mark as he tried in vain to fit them in tight windows or WR’s just didnt connect. Ga is only a Championship team when they have Cager. As we showed today their Running game can be shut down just like SC did as well but with SC they had NO passing game. Cager will play on Sundays. Fromm is a good QB when he has the talent to throw to and that talent opened up routes for other receivers although Cager still had about half the action. It also didnt help that Grantham played soft coverage for most of the game just as in the loss to LSU! Even so, without cager and with our soft coverage we still would have won. It truly is amazing how 1 player can have such an impact. I believe that is because they have the QB and the O-line and defense to compete but if all you have is a running game you cant win. UF on the other hand has a passing game and defense that you can win with, against all but the best opponents. Clearly an awesome passing game beats JUST a running game every time. Too bad Mullen didnt go to a 70/30 passing game sooner. when he did we drove down and scored back to back possessions, too little too late. Ive been saying he needs to pass to set up the run since we have no O-line for a run game but have an awesome passing QB, yet Mullen talks proudly of how we have maintained balance. His balance proved today and against LSU as a fool’s errand. He proved today, how we MUST play, to guarantee our best scoring. Had he done that all game, we still would have won despite cager and Ga suddenly having a passing game. I really though he was going there, the way the game started with passing, I thought he had seen the light. Most of Trasks passes were for 1st downs,. He doesnt dink and dunk which really spreads the defenses and increases his passing success!

    • Daz, Cager is a beast and the Gators should have thrown more. However, that UGA defense is best in the SEC, better than the Gator D, better than Auburn’s. UGA can beat Alabama with their weak running game and less than imposing D. LSU may be a different story because they have a running game and Stingley to put on Cager one-on-one and manage his damage.

      To be successful against that UGA D, an offense must have BOTH a good passing AND running game. The Gators’ running game is an embarrassment and that is ALL on our miserable OL! Third and fourth and inches and all the Gators could do was throw two incomplete passes??? That game was lost right then! UGA confirmed they didn’t have to worry about the Gator running game on that early series and that allowed Fromm and the O to patiently carve up and wear down the Gator D.

        • 2 things: That 1st drive they didnt see success because they were so disjointed that Ga had the time to set up their defense. You give them timeouts before a play! A series has to be continuous so the defense has to play with who is on the field and no time to prepare for a 3rd and short. As evidenced late in the game when we had 2 back to back drives of mainly passing but a continuous flow we drove right down and scored twice. Someone else foolishly claims that we shouldnt have had long drives in the 4th qtr and that we ran the ball then. How the heck do you make 80 yards a short drive? and we hardly ran the ball except on the 2nd drive when they went to 3 linemen, clearly their defense sold out on the pass and thats when you run sucessfully, not pass! and we did! Those 2 drives were the blueprint for what we should have been doing all game.
          So NO, we didnt need a passing and running game to be successful against that defense. We had 2 perfect drives with touchdowns that prove that, we just waited too late in the game to give up on the run and just to throw the ball. When we did, our phenominal QB and Wr’s made touchdowns. We have been proving all year we dont need a running game to win as long as we have this QB and these WR’s.
          That disjointed 1st drive wasnt going anywhere. Too bad is was so disjointed because Mullen came out throwing the ball and made a couple 1st downs then the wheels fell off with penalties. Had that not happened we would have scored on that drive.
          The real reason we lost that game was the return of Cager and the soft coverage that Grantham was pulling all game in the secondary, just like he did with LSU. Cager makes that team complete. They have a great defense, o-line, running game, QB and with Cager, a passing game. They are a better team , a more complete team than the Gators. If mullen had have used a 70/30 or so pass/run all game and if the Db’s had have played tight coverage I still think we could have won that game.

    • Daz…I’m with you 100% that UGA’s not the same on offense without Cager. That was apparent when he had to sit out most of their game against USC and all of the Kentucky game. I was disappointed that Grantham didn’t have special plans to make sure somebody was always sticking with him. Instead we saw blown coverage. The two substitution errors by the coaches didn’t impress either. It’s hard to believe, but the Gators got out coached this time. No pun intended, but the Dawgies played Smarter.

  4. Agree with most of the other comments, but would add that Trey Dean, despite his athleticism still doesn’t have the discipline to play his position properly; Trask, while I think he is really great still needs to know when to get rid of the ball; and finally, next year when Zuniga and Greenard are gone will there be anyone to step up and give the Gators the pass rush and run defense that they will need to become elite?

  5. All things considered, if it does come down to one thing and one thing only — and I say that with all due respect to Daz even though I think the loss was multi-determined — it would have to be the OL.

    But I disagree with the title of this article, so much as pertains to “can’t contain Fromm”. It is my opinion that we could have but didn’t. We certainly know how to, and not only knew how to, but had both the skill and talent to…….but failed to execute what we most certainly could have done.

    • 6 ..I agree that it wasnt that we couldnt contain Fromm it was that we played soft coverage in the secondary that cost us. Their WR’s had a yard or 3 to catch the ball, it was embarassing and Grantham did the same thing against LSU. Usually Henderson and wilson stick like glue to their Guys but it just wasnt happening and then that crossing route that fooled Brad Stewart who should have picked him up as he passed but he just stood there on the play covering no one and left cager wide open , well that was a well defined play.
      But No, as I pointed out. Our 2 drives in the 4th qtr where we went pass heavy and drove right down the field and scored twice back to back PROVE it wasnt our O-line that caused the loss. It PROVED we dont need a running game to score and win as long as we have this QB and WR’s. e just need a coach that will commit to being a pass heavy play caller and use the talent that we have which is the best group of WR’s in the nation and a QB that is a phenominal passer.

  6. The Florida DBs were often labeled in the press, ”some of the best DBs in the country.” But when the Gator ‘D’ plays UGA, the Bulldogs seem to be coming off recent bad performances, and something happens in between. The Dawgs ‘D’ head to J’ville and proceed to SMOKE FLORIDA’S DBs like ‘”Toast.” A. Lott, shout out!
    Go Gators! Just win 10, again, baby!

  7. You give Fromm and Cager (both NFL caliber) 6 to 8 seconds, 3rd down after 3rd down, to calmly set up loooong developing crossing and multi move patterns and they will make any secondary look bad. Hats off to that UGA OL. There are several big uglies on that line that will be playing on Sundays.

    The two OLs in this game showed better than any other units the value of top 5 recruiting classes year after year. Players that big, strong and athletic are rare. UGA has accumulated a bunch of them. The Gators under the Chump and McElwhiner, not so much… and yesterday the difference showed.

    CDM and staff are working on solving this problem, but results of good OL recruiting usually take 3 seasons to show up on the field when you start out with a bare covert. CDM and staff are only in year 2.

    • To be fair, I don’t think Mullen, while a better coach than his predecessors, is setting the recruiting trail on fire either. He even had the advantage over McElwain in having a head start of recruiting the southeast for years before taking the job and didn’t have to compete against Jimbo Fisher and Mark Reich, who are pretty good recruiters. I suppose one could argue he’s competing with Taggart who is a pretty good recruiter. Also, last year’s OL was pretty good which I don’t think Mullen’s class contributed much. Until Mullen can improve his recruiting, he’s going to have to be better at developing them. He’s had 2 years of developing the current group so the jury is still out. Maybe the third year will bear fruit.

      • It’s a numbers game right now Sly and CDM needs at least 2 full years of S&C training to develop SEC ready OL recruits.

        CDM’s first class in 2018 came on the heels of the McElwaine implosion in 2017 and yielded (1) 4* OL (Gouraige) and (3) 3* OL. CDM had to replace 4 departing OLs and only Gouraige is marginally ready to play now. The other 4 starters are McElwayne recruits and they are small and slow relative to UGA and LSU.

        CDM’s 2nd class in 2019 yielded (2) 4* OL and (5) 3* OLs. That’s better numbers, but most of those guys won’t be any more SEC ready next season than Gouraige was this season.

        CDM’s 3rd class coming up in 2020 includes (1) 4* OL and (3) 3* OL commits and they’re working hard on Marcus Dummerville, a 4* out of Ft. Lauderdale to turn him away from LSU and sign with the Gators. None of these guys will likely start before 2022 season.

        So, you can see, it’s a long, hard slog when you start with a nearly bare covert, which is what we have now. But, based on numbers, the future looks bright.

  8. The Gators were unfocused and out of sync for a good portion of the game. “DBU” looked like DB junior college and the D never got to Fromm. The so called reception that the refs totally blew on the replay was very costly to the Gators as it allowed Ga. the opportunity to get 6. I’ve never seen such a badly blown call in any game. That ref should be fired. And why Mullen decided to run a long drive in the 4th Q when he neede two short TD drives is beyond me. Running the ball and not using the hurry up offense ate up a lot of valuable time. That’s the kind of drive you want in the first Q. And, worst of all, giving up all those third and longs killed the Gators. Oh, and what the hell happened to Toney?! He gets one touch and disappears for the rest of the game. We NEEDED him in this game and he gets sent into witness protection. Really disappointing performance overall. Georgia made plays when they needed to and the Gators didn’t.

  9. Time to move on. GA has great O-line, Cager is a game-changer, Fromm had 5-8 seconds to spot open receivers and bad calls are part of the game. We’ve seen the Zebras go both ways during games. Season ain’t over, but the GA game is over. Learn from it and move forward.