A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
In the season opener against Ole Miss, the Gators held a 41-21 lead at the end of the third quarter and they stretched it to 44-21 just under three minutes into the fourth. Florida won the game 51-35. Against South Carolina, the Gators held a 38-14 lead with 4:44 remaining in the third quarter. Florida won the game 38-24. Last Saturday, the Gators held a 28-17 lead over Texas A&M with 9:38 left in the third quarter. They were outscored 24-10 the rest of the way and lost the game 41-38 on a last second field goal.
In all three games, Kyle Trask has lit up the opponents for the first three quarters. Trask has thrown 12 of his nation-leading 14 touchdown passes in quarters one through three. So why the lack of productivity in the fourth quarter?
Most fingers point to the defense, which is the most likely place to look since the Gators have been in a constant struggle to get stops. Against Texas A&M, the Gators forced only one punt and through three games, UF has only forced opponents to punt the football eight times. On the Aggies final drive to the game-winning field goal, they ate up the last 3:40 on the clock and the Gators seemed almost helpless to stop them.
A lack of hitting and contact in practice are among the culprits as to why the UF defense can’t get off the field. Injuries, suspensions and Covid-19 have kept a few players off the field and their absences have been felt. It has been suggested that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has become far too predictable and that it’s easy pickings for opponents who seem to know ahead of time where every hole and flaw is in Grantham’s schemes.
All those things certainly add up, but is there something more causing the late game collapses? Maybe a lack of leadership, there are no players like Jon Greenard and David Reese II, who were like coaches on the field? Perhaps a lack of conditioning, the result of several months in which Nick Savage wasn’t able to push the team in the weight room? A lack of a killer instinct to put opponents away?
Whatever the reason for the late game collapses, it is a disturbing trend. Some suggest Dan Mullen needs to run the football more to take time off the clock and give his defense rest. The Gators have snapped the ball for 183 offensive plays, throwing 57.9% of the time. Leading rusher Dameon Pierce (130 yards) has only 25 carries. Running the ball more and grinding out first downs would keep the defense off the field, but as logical as that seems why handicap Trask, Kyle Pitts and the rest of that Florida receiving corps? Still, Mullen might be forced to rein in his high-powered passing game in favor of pounding the ball a bit more if he can’t find an answer for the late game collapses.
Something has to give and give soon because one more loss and the Gators can all but kiss their championship hopes good-bye. They aren’t out of the championship race now, but they are hanging by a thread that will snap if they can’t find a cure for the fourth quarter woes.