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Florida vs. Georgia: The Gators found an identity in a hopeless place

Not only did Florida beat Georgia this weekend, Trevor beat me in fantasy. Both were equally unlikely outcomes.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After searching through Twitter somewhat throughly, I could only find one person who tweeted a confident statement prophesying a Gators victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday

But despite disbelief from the masses, Florida defeated Georgia last Saturday by a double-taking score of 38-20. After falling behind 7-0, thanks to some familiar poor tacking and overall carelessness attitude, the fake field goal touchdown run by Michael McNeely sparked what then became 31 straight points and the second-most rushing yards given up in Georgia history: 418, thanks largely to Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor.

In my preview for this game, I attempted to establish Georgia's defense having quite a few holes despite a great statistical record. The Bulldogs are vulnerable against the pass, but no one really expected the Gators and Treon Harris to find enough soft spots to put up anywhere near 38 points. But I didn't expect Treon to end the game with just 27 passing yards total, either.

So what gives? With Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and the returning Ray Drew, Georgia's front seven should've stood much taller than we saw on Saturday. Andy likes to say momentum doesn't exist, and that's partially true, but he also notes confidence is real (what most people's view of momentum boils down to), and after that fake field goal touchdown, Florida's confidence went through the roof. That game was won because of three factors: A simple blocking scheme, an adjusted run game, and Demarcus Robinson.

Keeping it simple

In Monday morning's press conference, Gators center Max Garcia was asked what it's like being an offensive lineman and being asked to just run block for most of the day. He smiled and said it's a lot of fun, you just get to knock your guy backwards. I wouldn't go so far as to say the beginning of the Florida-Georgia game showed soft offensive line play, but there wasn't that fire, that extra gear that we saw later in the second half.

Max, however, set the tone early.

Watch Garcia in the middle there. His push is the reason that run went for as many yards as it did. Georgia doesn't have much of an interior presence at defensive tackle outside of Drew; they prefer their attack to come from the edges. Garcia establishing push early and often gave Florida some success in the first quarter, but Georgia was ready for that "between the tackles" game plan.

It wasn't until Florida's backs realized bouncing outside gave them their best chance to eat up some serious yardage that the Gators' ground game got into gear.

This is the play that set up McNeely's touchdown, and it's a fine run. But it's the way that Georgia goes about defending it with their front four, more than the result itself, that I think Kurt Roper noticed and took advantage of later.

If you'd been paying close attention earlier in the game, UGA's Jordan Jenkins (No. 59) was usually the player used to spy the read-option. His job as a read-option spy is to move forward two feet forward, stand still, read the hand off and force the quarterback's decision one way or another, by containing his running option and funneling the play to the inside where linebackers can help collapse on a run or stepping up just enough to be in position to make a play on the quarterback, should he keep the ball.

He'd been above average at that job up to this point, but here it appears Floyd becomes the stay-at-home defensive end. That forces Jenkins to get sucked in on the other side. Here's how it set up frame-by-frame.


Normal 4-2-5 setup here. Four down lineman, two linebackers behind them and five defensive backs to guard the pass on a third and long.


As the play begins, all six players in the front get sucked into the HB draw up the middle, but Jones instead moves outside. Now we notice the lack of containment discipline by Jenkins on the edge. Georgia's linebackers are solid at run support up the middle, but pursuit angles are not their strong suit.


By the time Jones makes his move, it's too late for Jenkins. This is something you'll see Florida capitalize on as the game progressed, and I think this is the first time it really caught Roper's eye. Florida had been all about running between its offensive tackles' shoulders up to this point.

And though Taylor's first 44-yard run came up the middle, most of his yards, and Florida's yards in this game, came from the outside.

There's nothing for me to really break down here, it's just beautiful. And this:


Changing it up

I believe the most important adjustment of the game was Florida taking advantage of the push from the offensive line and finding ways to get to the outside.

I'm starting with this run because it's very similar to the Jones run earlier in the game that set up McNeely's fake field goal. This time, Florida sends help from the opposite side, completely overwhelming Georgia's traditional front and giving Jones all the room he needs.


Georgia appears to have this run covered in the pre-snap. It's again the 4-2-5 look with a Cover 3 set. But as the ball is snapped, Florida left guard Trip Thurman pulls to the right side as part of a designed sweep. With TE Tevin Westbrook already matched up against a defensive back, this shows good promise in the design.


Watch left tackle D.J. Humpries in the Vine; play it a few times, if you must. He immediately covers for Thurman's lost gap, then also quickly slides over to intercept the only player who can stop this run: Jenkins, rushing free to the outside. It's the athleticism of Florida's line that allowed them to pull and screen blockers needed for some of these longer runs to the outside.

This is the kind of play Roper loved to run at Duke, sweeping players off the read-option. Simplifying the playbook seems to have given him more of an eye for in-game adjustments, as opposed to frantically trying to Band-Aid practiced material something he seemed to do with Driskel. This particular move to attack the outside was a great adjustment to shift emphasis on Roper and the running backs' parts.

Here, it works to perfection.

But even with plays like Hump's key block there, one of many thrown by Florida's unsung offensive line wasn't the most important blocking going on for the Gators on Saturday.

That award goes to Demarcus Robinson.

D-Rob's blocks were hot

This may seem strange to hear, but I would argue it was by Robinson's determination that two of Florida's touchdowns were made possible Here's the first, and it's a double-whammy.

Florida makes use of the pulling guard yet again here, which opens up a small, but useful hole on the inside for Jones to make headway. (Clay Burton almost ruins this play with a whiffled block, but that's none of my business.) Then, after getting past the line of scrimmage, Jones' first cut is then to the oiutside.

Why? Because Latroy Pittman and Robinson have buried their defenders so far down field that they're in no position to make a play.

Let's put what Robinson does on the play under a microscope.

That's just some sexy stuff right there. Not only did Robinson muscle his man out of the play, clearing a big hole down the sideline, he immediately notices Jones isn't done yet and sprints up the sideline with him to make another block, which paved the way for the touchdown.

Let's see one more for good times' sake.


To bring this recap to a close, Georgia's longest run play given up prior to their meeting with Florida was just 24 yards. In this game alone, Florida had three runs of 40 yards or more.

Demarcus Robinson threw six effective blocks on those three runs.

I believe Georgia was exposed quite a bit, something I figured was bound to happen eventually, but certainly not at the hands of what appeared to be a sinking Florida team. This win is a strong building block for Florida, which found itself last Saturday, seemingly, and can take confidence from this win — a vital shot in the arm in the middle of a season most already proclaimed dead.

And to those who said Florida wouldn't win another game this year: