The big comeback win the Florida Gators engineered over the Tennessee Volunteers is still something I'm chewing on to understand fully. As is my wont this year, I've used the Five Factors of winning to help out with that.
Sacks count as pass plays, and I've not included Florida's sole run play on a "drive" that ran out the first half clock.
If you watched this game, you'd expect to see Tennessee to have a big advantage here. Your expectations are right on.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
While the Vols were able to get yards in big chunks, whether on trick plays like Jauan Jennings's throwback to Joshua Dobbs or standard plays like when Dobbs or Jalen Hurd broke off big runs. Florida may have won the game thanks to a 63-yard touchdown pass, but that was an exception, not the rule.
The main measure here is success rate.
One of the numbers here is going to surprise those of you who watched the whole of this game.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
Tennessee's passing success rate was a nice 50% despite Dobbs having a low yards per attempt rate (4.9) and an apparent reluctance from Mike DeBord to call pass plays in the second half. Two of the successes came from guys other than Dobbs, of course—Jennings's throwback and Alvin Kamara's jump pass to Ethan Wolf—but Dobbs was generally efficient with what DeBord asked him to do. Only one of his completions wasn't a success play.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
It might surprise you to see that Tennessee had a better success rate in the fourth quarter than Florida did. If so, I'll remind you that you don't have to convert multiple fourth downs unless you're failing to get a first down prior to fourth down. UT's touchdown drive spanning the third and fourth quarters was highly efficient, and all four of the Vols' plays on their final drive leading to the field goal miss were success plays. That's where the discrepancy between the fourth quarter success rates comes from.
Efficiency by Player
This wasn't exactly a passing masterclass from either side.
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
Dobbs's non-success rate stats are middling when it comes to throwing the ball. Some of that is from design, some is from completing under 60% of throws, and some is from his pass catchers not breaking loose for yards after the catch.
Up until the final two drives, Grier showed why he was unable to distance himself from Treon Harris even after the season began. He had a horrible case of happy feet in the pocket, scrambled too early at times, and was scattershot with his throws. And again: he wouldn't have needed to make big fourth down throws on those last two scoring drives if his throws on first through third down were better. His success rates on first through fourth downs were 36.8% (19 plays), 58.3% (12 plays), 11.1% (nine plays), and 100% (five plays), respectively. That's a nice fourth down success rate, but it's probably not something to rely on going forward.
There's not a lot to see on the Tennessee pass catchers since the Vols' passing game was limited. A lot of different guys got targets too, which dilutes the value of looking at individual players. I will mention that Dobbs targeted his backs and tight ends ten times compared to seven targets for wide receivers. I realize that Florida's pass defense is one of the best, but wide receiver was supposed to be a position of strength for the Vols. Even granting that Marquez North wasn't 100%, it was a disappointing game for them.
If the true freshman Callaway's game impressed you, just imagine how much better he'll be once he can put some distance between him and defenders reliably and Grier's accuracy improves. Many of the missed targets for both him and Robinson were breakups, and they were good plays by the UT defense. More elusive route running and better tosses from Grier will get those success rates up.
Florida's defense did a fairly good job with Hurd. He is going to get some 10-20 yard runs on everyone, but when he wasn't getting those, the Gators were stopping him with regularity. Dobbs proved to be a much bigger challenge, as he seemed to be impossible to tackle for long stretches of the game. As in the Oklahoma game, Kamara was a non-factor with a small workload on the ground.
This was a good game from Taylor, even though his YPC falls to 3.1 without his 47-yard carry from the first quarter. His success rate was over 40% with or without it, which is great for running behind the line he's stuck with this year, and he was only stuffed for no gain or a loss twice. Grier's spotty decision making in regards to taking off shows up in his goose egg for rushing success rate. He's still learning about when to step up in the pocket and when to take off.
This didn't feel like a big deal in the game, and the stats agree.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
The only real break either team had here was when Dobbs lost a fumble to give the Gators the ball 29 yards from the end zone in the third quarter. The more I look at this game, the more I realize that fumble was the biggest play of the first three quarters. UF's offense was awful in the third quarter (see the success rates by quarter table above), but the near-freebie touchdown resulting from that fumble—which yes, required one of those fourth down conversions—kept UF close enough to allow them to make the big comeback at the end.
If it's 20-7 instead of 20-14 heading into the fourth quarter, Florida almost certainly doesn't win this game.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive with either a first down at the 40 or closer or a long touchdown from beyond the 40. A trip inside the red zone is a drive with a first down at the 20 or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
Both teams got points on every scoring opportunity, but one kicked two field goals while the other only got touchdowns.
The field goal that UT got on its first drive of the second half felt like a real missed opportunity at the time. The Vols had all the momentum from before the half leading into that drive, and they drove down the field with relative ease. Only coming away with three instead of seven is another one of those fateful exchanges. Combine that with the lost fumble on the subsequent UT drive, and the first two Tennessee drives swung 11 points toward Florida in a game that was decided by a single point.
Everyone will remember the two touchdown drives UF had in the fourth quarter to win the game, but the stage was set for those drives to be decisive early in the third quarter.
This is technically even at one apiece, but that doesn't really cover it. Grier's second quarter pick set up Tennessee on its own 11 with little time to go in the second quarter, and it led to a three-and-out. Dobbs's fumble turned into seven points for the enemy.
Tennessee easily won the explosiveness factor. Florida had the edge in finishing drives. Efficiency was about even. Field position and turnovers seem even on the surface, but they really had a Florida lean under the hood. Those leans were enough in a game with a one-point margin.
Aside from Butch Jones's game management, what concerns me most about Tennessee is its passing game. I had higher expectations from Dobbs and his receivers, and I wasn't alone with Dobbs being the media's preseason third team All-SEC quarterback. In both this game and the Oklahoma contest, Dobbs had under five yards per attempt. The only explosive pass plays in this one came from guys other than Dobbs throwing the ball, and Dobbs had only one explosive pass play against the Sooners.
Maybe it's just that OU and UF have really good pass defenses. Maybe it's something to do with having DeBord instead of Mike Bajakian running the offense. Maybe Dobbs is in a funk, or the receiving corps isn't what it can be without a healthy North. Or maybe the expectations were always above what reality was going to give us. I'd love to know what's up here.
Florida has had a great September in going 4-0, but things are about to get a lot tougher. The Gators haven't faced a top flight defensive front yet. Tennessee's line isn't all that great outside of Derek Barnett, and Barnett missed a good chunk of this game after getting dinged up. Curt Maggitt was on the sidelines as well. Fearsome D-linemen and linebackers at Ole Miss, Missouri, LSU, and Georgia make October more formidable, and as a result, don't be surprised to see Treon Harris replace Grier for stretches given Harris's superior ability to handle pressure. Nothing I've seen yet suggests Florida's offensive line can handle what's coming. If not for Mizzou's dreadful offense, I'd say a reversal to an 0-4 October is more likely than not. Pencil in a tentative 1-3.
This game was an instant classic, extending Florida's win streak over Tennessee by the slimmest of margins. I wouldn't mind getting a few more games like this one out of the 2015 season.