The Florida Gators' defense began the season as a highly praised and highly ranked unit not just within the SEC but throughout the entire country. After it gave up over 400 yards to an FCS school on Saturday, I'm pretty sure that perception has changed.
As the team has battled injuries and inconsistent play, the defense has struggled to maintain its position at the top of the football world. The Gators endured one of their worst losses in program history on Saturday, and there is nowhere to go but up now.
Note: For the purposes of following the triple option, all players receiving the ball are highlighted by a yellow circle.
Play No. 1: Jerick McKinnon runs for 25 yards
McKinnon is going to get the ball and run to the right. But that's after the pre-snap movement of a wide receiver and a play action up the middle. The two defenders on the left side of the defense are going to bite on the inside fake, and the result is a lot of open field for McKinnon.
As you can see here, the handoff up the middle isn't going to happen, because the Gators have that option read correctly. They do not have the outside read covered properly, and Georgia Southern makes them pay.
One final block (yellow square), and the edge is sealed for McKinnon. This play is the result of having to cover three options and what happens when you only cover two of them. Lots of pre-snap movement and a fake handoff is what Georgia Southern does best.
Play No. 2: Kevin Ellison runs 45 yards for a touchdown
This time the quarterback is going to keep the ball after a fake handoff up the middle. You can see again that the Gators have crashed the middle, which they did all game successfully for what it's worth. The Georgia Southern run game was stifled all game up the middle, but they were more than happy to give that up for the outside rushes.
After the play action up the middle and the run gets to the outside, this sets up more as a traditional option. Georgia Southern has the proper blocking set up and the runner is free as well. Everyone else on the Gators' defense has crashed the middle and both safeties aren't sure where the ball is going to go.
Much like the first play, one block on the outside is all it takes. As the option spreads out the defense under the guise of not knowing who is getting the ball, it creates enough space for the offense to work. Ellison would take this and run untouched into the endzone for a touchdown.
Play No. 3: McKinnon gets loose for 66 yards
Lots of action here. McKinnon is the player who will get the ball, and he was moving pre-snap as well. The Gators do get a good push, and they stay in their lanes for as long as possible on this play as well. Ronald Powell and Jarrad Davis are the two Gators highlighted here.
Ellison gives up the ball to McKinnon because of Powell, who has broken through and didn't bite on the inside fake. Down the field and further towards the sideline you can see that McKinnon has blocks that either already set up or are about to be.
Once McKinnon gets to edge, he gets that screen of the block and he's gone down the field. He'll eventually be caught by Vernon Hargreaves III but not after he runs out of gas after about yard fifty.
While there are many more plays in which the Gators' defense was shredded by the Georgia Southern offense, in the end they're all the same. Different look after different look by a team that was playing with nothing to lose and everything to gain made the difference is this battle of offense versus defense.