Florida vs. Georgia, The Difference: Three takeaways from the Gators' loss

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Murphy's spotty play was one of the reasons Florida lost to Georgia, and penalties didn't help. But Brent Pease's playcalling wasn't all that bad.

The Difference is borrowed from feature of the same name at The Two-Man Game, originated by Rob Mahoney, which makes a number of points equivalent to the margin of victory about the game just played. Because this was a three-point game, I made each of the points a little bigger.

  1. On one hand, bless Tyler Murphy for existing. On another, bless his heart.

    I have no doubt, six games into Tyler Murphy's time as Florida's starting quarterback, that he was very much Florida's second-best quarterback in camp. But that means I also think he was very much not as good as Jeff Driskel — and after an early spate of success against bad teams and some incredible help from Florida's defense, Murphy's settling around his median: Average quarterback play, with limitations that trump his assets.

    What Murphy does well consistently actually fits this Florida offense quite well: He's got a great sense of when pressure is about to reach him in the pocket, and is slippery enough to extend plays, something that is essential with an occasionally leaky line in front of him; he also runs well, which plays into his ability to execute zone reads and to scramble for yardage when he decides to scramble.

    But those legs get him in trouble, too.

    I wrote in a post yesterday that, when breaking the pocket, Murphy rarely makes the right decision when he doesn't make a decision immediately. And that was true when I watched the offensive playcut for the third time: At least three times, Murphy tried to extend plays to throw the ball and ended up with an incompletion when he could've thrown it away or run for a little yardage. Murphy was more good than I thought when facing pressure, though: I charted pressure on 18 of Florida's 38 pass plays, and credited Murphy with a good decisions on just nine of those 18 snaps. (I did not include Florida's two-point conversion in this analysis, but Murphy faced pressure and made a good decision and a good throw.) Unfortunately, two of his three best decisions, which including scrambling and finding Solomon Patton in the first half and hanging in and delivering a strike to Trey Burton in the second half, were negated by penalties. The third was Murphy's scramble for 25 yards, which was his finest play of the day that counted.

    But I probably gave Murphy too much credit for being good when making a decision to it and sticking with it. He made good decisions against pressure on just seven of 16 snaps that counted, in my book. And I gave credit for good decisions even on bad throws: He had just two completions on those 16 snaps. I put two of the four sacks allowed on Murphy (one was an interminable scramble that led to Murphy stepping out of bounds for a loss, which was really a "sack"; on another, Murphy had an open man but held the ball), and had him with zero completions against pressure in the second half. And Murphy's bad decision on Florida's final offensive snap doesn't capture how bad it was: Not only does he not check into something else when he sees the same Georgia player who had timed up the Gators' snap count on the previous play creeping up to blitz, he runs backward, trying to make a play happen, instead of taking a hit, and saving the 10 yards. With those 10 yards, Florida could perhaps have pinned Georgia deep, which worked previously, or made the Dawgs go further than they did on their clock-killing game-winning drive.

    That inability to make completions happen against pressure speaks to another of Murphy's limitations: He's just not great at throwing the ball. I also graded his throw quality against Georgia on a five-choice scale, rating throws as awful, bad, okay, good, or great. An awful throw was one on which Murphy missed very badly, or a bad throw on a big play; a bad throw was just a bad miss that was not awful in context; an okay throw was neither good nor bad; a good throw was an on-target pass; a great throw was an on-target pass that was very difficult.

    I think this grading scale's a little harsh, but I tried to be fair with it. The results were not pretty for Murphy.

    Of his 31 throws (including the two negated by penalty), I assessed four as awful, seven as bad, nine as okay, seven as good, and one as great. Converting that to a score on a GPA-like scale (awful = F, or 0.0, bad = D, or 1.0, etc.), Murphy grades out at a 1.61. And if you remove his throws from the two negated plays (the great throw and a good throw), that grade drops to a 1.48.

    Simply put, he failed to make more than a handful of good throws on the day, and made more bad throws than good. Murphy missed multiple deep throws out of bounds, including ones in more crucial situations in the second half, and I graded as awful throws like the off-target one that stranded Quinton Dunbar in the middle of the field on fourth and 10 instead of leading him and giving him a chance to make a play — there were a few of those.

    Florida's best chance of winning with Murphy, I think, is keeping pressure off of him and running him effectively from the zone read. (And not the speed option, which we'll discuss later this week.) It did both of those things relatively well against Georgia. But Murphy's inability to do much more than that, despite some heroic scrambling, leaves this Florida offense in a tough spot.

  2. Speaking of Florida's offense: I really do think it has more issues with players than play-calling, especially after rewatching the tape from this game.

    Yes, Brent Pease made a few questionable calls. A crossing route on fourth and 10, instead of something allowing a player to be targeted near the marker? A short-side speed option on third and three? A fade to Solomon Patton? That Burton speed option late? But the problem you see on tape is Murphy's inconsistency, and you see a lot more open wide receivers and well-blocked runs. (And you don't see, in the playcut, the beautiful play design that resulted

    I think Pease should probably strip out any play in which Burton gets the snap, unless he gives Burton a chance to wing it; those plays have been very ineffective all year, and the minimal benefit of giving Murphy a snap off here or there isn't outweighed by the yards Florida is often losing to get that benefit. Pease should probably also scrap or retool the speed option, and should certainly make the zone read Florida's primary run option look. And I think Florida should actually look to take fewer shots down the field, because Murphy's accuracy on deep passes just isn't at a level that makes them a good decision, even if Florida can protect him long enough for those plays to develop.

    But I think Pease should do that and can, because I think he knows what's working and not working. Pease stripped out a lot of the more intricate shifts he uses, ran Patton once on Saturday (on a play that Patton turned from dogshit to diamonds with some incredible elusiveness, which still wouldn't have gotten a first down without a penalty), put together sensible protections, and generally gave his players chances to make plays. And Murphy, the guy with the most chances, failed to make the plays necessary to win.

    As I've written before, it's more satisfying and sensible to call for Pease's head than to blame players: Pease makes money, and can be fired; players get room and board, and those aren't contingent on performance. I think most any careful, fair, and thorough review of Florida's offense against Georgia will find that Pease acquitted himself nicely.

  3. Watching this game in whole really makes it clear how much penalties did to kill Florida. But it wasn't just wasn't the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that are easier to complain about.

    Trenton Brown's holding call wiped out a good throw that would've given Florida a very short third and one on a drive when down 17-0; keep the play, and convert the down, and maybe Florida gets it to 17-3, far more manageable than 20-0, or gets it to 17-7, or at least keeps it at 17-0. The illegal formation call on Brown, which looked like the right call to me on replay, prevented a red zone possession, though it did inadvertently lead to a safety. And Darious Cummings putting his paw on a Georgia lineman's facemask ended the game, extinguishing the faint, faint hope that Murphy could lead a touchdown drive with under a minute to go.

    Patton's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty probably cost Florida a field goal, though Frankie Velez pushed his shot from the left hash so far right that it hardly seems right to think he would've made a shorter one. Neiron Ball's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost Florida 15 yards, but Florida's offense still started its final drive at the Georgia 41 and finished at the Florida 44; it's not like Ball was the reason that happened.

    Florida's been playing with miniscule margins for error this year after occasionally playing with very small ones last year and often playing with them in 2011, and that's disappointing in any coach's third year, no matter how much injuries have been responsible for that. But penalties have really only been one of the reasons for a loss in this game, and with much of Florida's fan base turning on Will Muschamp, and much of the blame for penalties falling on him, this was certainly the most painful flurry of flags in the Muschamp era.

Star-divide

Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.

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