In Alabama loss, Florida football knows moral victories aren't enough

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ESPN 20 September, 2021 - 07:43am 36 views

What did Dan Mullen say after loss to Alabama?

Here's what Gators coach Dan Mullen had to say after the game: "First off, awesome environment today. ... The margin of error in this game was so small and Gator Nation definitely showed up today. Bama MavenWhat Dan Mullen Said After No. 11 Florida Lost to No. 1 Alabama

Around the SEC: Florida brash in defeat, Gators’ safety predicts rematch with Alabama

DawgNation 20 September, 2021 - 10:09am

The Alabama-Florida game took center stage in college football on Saturday in a game that lived up to its billing.

The Gators’ comeback fell agonizingly short at 31-29 when their 2-point conversion attempt — a dive-option run up the gut — was stopped by the Tide in the final minutes.

Florida’s home field advantage at “The Swamp” in Gainesville was undeniable, but the other takeaways from the game weren’t as cut and dry.

Were the Gators that good?

Or is this a more beatable brand of Alabama football on the heels of six first-round NFL picks drafted last spring?

Florida lost a pair of first-round NFL picks, too, with pass catchers Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney sleeted in the 2020 draft.

But the Gators didn’t lose their swag, as senior safety Trey Dean made clear when he predicted Florida will win the SEC East Division, per an SI.com article.

Around the SEC: Florida brash in defeat, Gators’ safety predicts rematch with Alabama

CalBearsMaven 20 September, 2021 - 10:09am

The Alabama-Florida game took center stage in college football on Saturday in a game that lived up to its billing.

The Gators’ comeback fell agonizingly short at 31-29 when their 2-point conversion attempt — a dive-option run up the gut — was stopped by the Tide in the final minutes.

Florida’s home field advantage at “The Swamp” in Gainesville was undeniable, but the other takeaways from the game weren’t as cut and dry.

Were the Gators that good?

Or is this a more beatable brand of Alabama football on the heels of six first-round NFL picks drafted last spring?

Florida lost a pair of first-round NFL picks, too, with pass catchers Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney sleeted in the 2020 draft.

But the Gators didn’t lose their swag, as senior safety Trey Dean made clear when he predicted Florida will win the SEC East Division, per an SI.com article.

A year later and Florida’s running game is no joke

247Sports 18 September, 2021 - 08:39pm

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The running game passed, pardon the pun

Florida had 439 yards of offense against the No. 1 team in the country and despite the loss in a close game they outrushed the Crimson Tide 268 yards to 91. Normally that is a recipe for winning games, but not this time.

Talking about the rushing exploits isn’t about moral victories. Florida shot themselves in the foot through the first quarter and Alabama looked like the No. 1 team in the country and a playground bully by building a 21-3 lead in The Swamp before the clock struck zero in the first.

This is about questions getting answered and one of the big ones was whether the Gators were going to be able to run the ball this year, because it is absolutely imperative that they have to be able to. One thing Florida can take away from the game on Saturday is that they shouldn’t go into any game feeling they will be outmatched with anyone left on the schedule.

What has happened in three games now is the Gators have rushed the ball for 1,009 yards. That number is more than any three-game start to a Florida season at least since 1981.

The Gators led the country in average rushing yards per game at 381.5 yards coming into the weekend, Florida now averages 336.3 yards. Florida has rushed more than 336 yards in a single game only twice in the last 13 years and both of those were in 2009, Tim Tebow’s last season at Florida.

Compare this to last year where Florida had just two games that they crossed the 200-yard barrier on the ground. Florida ran for 54 yards in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama back in early December. The comparisons to now in terms of the Gators being able to run the ball are rich.

"I do think we played much better up front today,” head coach Dan Mullen said about comparing the two matchups with the Crimson Tide shortly after the Gators fell 31-29  t their SEC foe. “But, that's a little focus on this year's team, you know, of where we're at. We're a little bit more veteran in our front sevens on both sides of the ball than we were last year. Last year, you know, you kinda - all the superstars were out on the perimeter, and taking the snap and throwing the ball down the field. In the interior part, we're a little bit more veteran, a little bit more experienced this year.”

The guys up front have really been underappreciated to this point. I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t very sure about their ability to run block. But they have gotten it done in a big way to this point.

“I definitely feel confident in those guys,” Quarterback Emory Jones who ran for 8o yards in the contest said after the game. “They played their tail off today. I told them there’s nothing to hang their heads about. They did a hell of a job today. And they gave me the time that I needed back there to deliver when I needed to. I’m very proud of those guys.”

Running back Nay'Quan Wright had a career high 58 yards and a career high 30-yard run in the contest, not to mention a huge play near the Gators own goal line where he caught an 18-yard slant pass to start a 99-yard touchdown drive just before the fourth quarter.

“I mean, the O-line played huge,” Wright said after the game. “Everything… we can’t do nothing without the O-line, so I mean they played pretty huge. They showed up big for us, and we took advantage and we ran behind those big guys.”

Mullen wouldn’t go without crediting the ball carriers as much as the offensive line.

“Our backs run the ball really hard… our quarterbacks are athletic and can beat you with the run game a little bit,” he said. “So, we're gonna be a little bit of a different team.”

Mullen is also giving credit to the others on offense with regard to the running game.

“Our wideouts on the outside, I thought did a heck of a job today,” he said. “Look at Jacob Copeland, one catch for 10 years, you know ... and two pass interference penalties for 30 yards that they had to tackle him or he would have been an explosive play type of deal. So, the guys on the outside, maybe not on the stat sheet getting the credit, but now they're loading the box to stop the run, we're getting one-on-one shots on the outside, and those guys are winning. We wanna make those plays become more explosive and actual catches, but I think those guys did a pretty good job down the field."

This was part of the plan this year. With athletic quarterbacks behind center and the loss of a second round quarterback and two first-round NFL Draft pass catchers, things were going to change and an emphasis was going to have to be made to run the ball. That plan started shortly after last season was over.

“Since we started in January with this team, we knew the run game was going to be a big part of our offensive scheme,” Jones said. “We just try to keep working at that and I try to do my part. So we just keep getting better and keep trying to improve.” 

And while gaining 763 yards on the ground through the first two games still had some questioning the ability to run including myself, it appears a lot of questions were answered Saturday, even in defeat.

“We did it the first two weeks, we just got to continue to do it,” Wright said. “Whether it's Bama, Tennessee, LSU, whoever it is, we gonna continue to run the ball. It doesn’t matter who’s out there, we’re just gonna put the ball down and run the ball. We did it the first two weeks, we (were) really efficient, so we're just gonna keep it going.”

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