I decided to do Alabama-Georgia first and put off reviewing the Florida Gators' stunner over the Ole Miss Rebels an extra day because, frankly as a UF fan, I was still a bit giddy over this win yesterday. It's been a long time since Florida thoroughly dominated a team as good as Ole Miss is, and it sent notice that Jim McElwain might be a bit ahead of the schedule all of us put him on for getting the team back to contention. I did my best to be objective in this, but look: it's impossible to be fully objective about any game, much less a huge win by the team you've been following all your life.
This review is based on the Five Factors of winning. It only goes up to Florida's touchdown to go up 25-0 right before halftime because that's when the game entered garbage time by the Football Outsiders definition.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
Florida's pass defense came through in limiting big plays, and the Rebel defense did too except for the 77-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Brandon Powell. The run defenses were also a little better than what you see here, as each team had a 10+ yard run on third-and-long that failed to pick up a first down.
The main measure here is success rate.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR|
The rushing success rate for Ole Miss is actually about right for the team this season. It's the same percentage as the team had against Alabama and close to what it had against Vandy. The passing success rate is also nearly the same as it was against the Tide, believe it or not. One of the big differences between that game and this one is that Ole Miss hit on a lot more explosive plays against Alabama than it did against Florida.
The Gators' passing game was lethal. It's a higher success rate than Bama had rushing against the Rebels.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR|
The Rebels got off to a bad start, while Florida got off to a hot start. Efficiency-wise, things leveled out in the second quarter, but there's more to football than efficiency.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Kelly completed a higher percentage of passes in this game's first half than in the whole game against Bama for a similar success rate, but again, the big plays were missing. The passing efficiency is about 35 points lower and the yards per attempt is more than two yards lower.
Kelly had no shot on two of his sacks, and the third was a coverage sack where he didn't handle it well. Florida's defensive line harassed him all game, not the least because an injury and Laremy Tunsil's ongoing NCAA issues left the Rebels starting freshman at both right guard and tackle.
This was easily Grier's finest game of his five so far. He's only really looked this good against New Mexico State's poor defense and in the fourth quarter against Tennessee last week. I wasn't sure that he was going to keep it up after that final period a week ago, but it seems like the light bulb has really turned on for him. That said, he still took two sacks, and one included a fumble. He was fortunate that the only player around the ball was one of his own offensive linemen.
When Kelly was able to complete passes, they were largely effective. Having four receivers at over ten yards per target is nice, even if two of them only had one target. A throwaway and three sacks drag down his success rate from where this table might have you believe.
Robinson played like a true go-to receiver in this one, a role he seems to be working himself into over the season after not catching a lot of balls in the first three games.
This is the third Ole Miss game I've reviewed, and Wilkins has been the better back between him and Walton in two of them. Walton had the edge against Vandy, but Wilkins was better against Alabama and Florida.
Taylor split carries with true freshmen Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett early, but after McElwain's infamous yelling session in the ECU game, Taylor has been the primary back by far. Scarlett hasn't been seen since, reportedly due to ball security issues. Cronkrite has just ten carries in the last three games, including zero against the Vols. Taylor has been playing some of the best football of his career since, not only in carrying the ball but in pass protection and on screens.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
|Ole Miss||Own 21||10||26.3%|
Florida got a drive starting on the Ole Miss 24 thanks to a fumble recovery, but the ensuing touchdown was the only cheap score the Gators got in the first half. Their other scoring drives started on their own 39, their own 19, and their own nine.
Ole Miss was at a bit of a field position disadvantage thanks to not ever getting a short field, but they didn't help themselves by only being able to sustain one drive on offense. Defense and special teams do need help in this department sometimes.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive with a first down at the 40 or closer or a scoring play from longer. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
The Rebels missed a field goal on their one scoring opportunity. Hilarity on point-after situations account for the funny scores on the Gators' side, but they did get into the end zone on every scoring opportunity.
In the first half, Florida only had a 1-0 edge in this department. That said, this game was a great example of what people mean when they talk about "fumble luck". Florida had it, while Ole Miss did not.
Kelly and Walton messed up a handoff, and the ball popped directly up into the air. Most failed handoffs don't do that. Furthermore, it floated directly into the hands of UF's Bryan Cox, Jr. That was fortunate for the Gators, and something similar happened in the second half when a ball popped up out of Kelly's hand on a sack and went right into the paws of Cece Jefferson. It's not often that fumbles just hang in the air for defensive linemen to snare. Meanwhile, I mentioned above that Grier also got stripped on a sack. His lineman David Sharpe was the only guy in the area, and he fell on it to retain possession.
This wasn't the only way that things went Florida's way and not Ole Miss's. Both teams had a snap go high and wide in the first half. Kelly didn't stick his hand up, and it sailed past him. He had to fall on it for a 19-yard loss, and the Rebels punted two plays later. Grier was able to corral his—which happened in shotgun with the ball on his own six, by the way—and managed to hand it off. Had he not, it would've gone through the end zone for a safety on a drive that would eventually end up a Florida touchdown. You can argue how much of those plays involved luck or not, but a lot of plays that could've gone one way or the other went the Gators' way.
I keep finding myself comparing this game for Ole Miss to its game against Alabama, not the least because the Rebels' success rates in each were about the same. The Rebels got the big plays to compensate for their below-average efficiency against Bama. They didn't against Florida, and in fact they had a number of big plays go against them.
The biggest contributing factor seemed to be the Gators' superior pass defense both in coverage and rushing the quarterback. Kelly took a sack on the first drive, and a perhaps rattled Kelly muffed the handoff for a lost fumble on the second. The big loss on the bad snap came on the third drive. Neither Kelly nor the offensive line were able to get settled in until the fourth drive, but by then they were already down a couple of scores and that drive ended with a missed field goal. On Ole Miss's fifth drive, Kelly took two more sacks.
In short, this is the performance I was expecting to see from Ole Miss in its first road game at Tuscaloosa. I picked Alabama to win that game in the offseason because I thought Kelly would struggle in the hostile environment and the big Tide defensive front would disrupt things for the Rebel offense. Instead, this was the game where all of that happened.
I can't say enough about Florida offensive line coach Mike Summers, who should be in the running for the Broyles Award for the best assistant coach in the country. His group is largely young and inexperienced, and it had basically not ever played together before this year. It includes graduate transfer from Fordham Mason Halter at right tackle and several freshmen in the mix. The Gators also rotated linemen throughout this game due to guys being affected from having a flu bug during the week. They did surrender two sacks, but Taylor still rushed for a good average and the line kept Grier clean enough to pick apart the Rebel secondary. I thought Ole Miss would win this game due to its defensive front dominating that line, but boy, was I ever wrong.
I am impressed with the way McElwain and Doug Nussmaier are exploiting the talent on hand in ways that we haven't seen in Gainesville since the Dan Mullen days. They kept the Ole Miss defense on their heels all game. The best example of that I can think of was Grier's second touchdown pass, when they sent in defensive lineman Joey Ivey as a blocker to run a play action pass to McGee. The presence of a defensive lineman in the backfield made the Rebels think run all the way, and McGee was wide open.
But it's more than just play calling. Grier has improved by leaps and bounds in just five games. He looks like a completely different player now than he did just four weeks ago against East Carolina. As I said before, Taylor is easily playing the best ball of his career. Robinson has continued progressing as a No. 1 receiver, Powell is succeeding after having switched from running back to receiver, and Callaway is the first impact true freshman receiver the Gators have had since Percy Harvin in 2006. And, as I just said, Summers is working wonders with the line. Player development on offense is finally back in Gainesville.
Looking ahead, it's important not to overreact to avalanche games like this one. This could be the best Florida looks in a game all year. This could be the worst Ole Miss looks in a game all year. The Gator defense should be more than enough against Missouri's anemic offense this weekend, but LSU lurks after. And in the same theme, Saturday might have been the worst Georgia looks in a game all year. UF is a player in the East race, but they're certainly not a lock. Ole Miss also can rebound and win the West, and the biggest single problem in this game will improve greatly if and when Tunsil actually sees the field.
After all, we're not even halfway through with the 2015 season. Just as this game surprised us, future contests might as well.