The miserable 2017 season is over after a 38-22 defeat by Florida State in the Swamp. Here is the report card as we move on to bigger and brighter things:
Rushing Offense: D
When your team relies on the rushing game to set tempo you simply cannot rush for 96 total yards and consider it a good day at the office. Senior running back Mark Thompson did what he could to lead this stale and predictable attack, rushing for 63 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. The rest of the attack was average at best and poor at worst, with Lamical Perine rushing for just 21 yards on 12 carries and Feleipe Franks losing 11 yards on the day when his sacks are taken into account.
This Florida State rushing defense is far from the wall that Florida made them out to be as the team rushed at a rate of just 2.8 yards per carry in another miserable offensive display.
Passing Offense: D-
Looking purely at the positives here you will see that Franks passed for two touchdowns against the Seminoles defense. We also saw a more than solid afternoon out of Brandon Powell, as he caught half of the Gators completions on the day (nine) for 75 yards and two scores. If this was just a grade for Powell the score would be much, much higher.
Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The most disappointing aspect of the passing performance is that many will have expected to see Franks developing by now into a consistent quarterback. The only thing consistent with his play is the wildness of his passing and his knack for missing wide open wide receivers. Franks threw three interceptions and saw one of them returned for a touchdown. He also fumbled on a play where the Seminoles picked up another defensive score. If a quarterback throws the ball 39 times in a game it is almost inconceivable that he will pass for just 184 yards. That was Franks output on Saturday.
Rushing Defense: A+
The Florida State rushing attack was held to just 88 yards and the Gators defense put on a great performance to close out the season. Lead running back Jacques Patrick was held to just 67 yards on 15 carries as the Seminoles attack never ventured away from the ground game despite the ball often being thrown back in their faces.
Middle linebacker David Reese was a big player as part of the front seven stuffing the run. He had 14 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and – just for good measure – he also had a quarterback hurry. It is just a shame that the Florida offense was so charitable, giving up possession and field position and asking the defense to do too much year again in a loss.
Passing Defense: A
The Florida passing defense was also outstanding against quarterback James Blackman and the Florida State passing attack. Blackman had one long pass that went for 39-yards to Ermon Lane, but outside of that, the Florida defensive backs did an excellent job of shutting down the pass. Blackman finished by completing 10-of-21 passes for 128 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. These are numbers that any defensive coordinator would be more than happy with.
The Florida defensive line was a big reason for the success. CeCe Jefferson had nine tackles, three TFLs and half a sack. While the Gators only picked up two sacks and two hurries on the day, those numbers do not tell the whole story as the Seminoles passing attack looked out of sync because of the pressure being applied by the Gators defensive front.
Special Teams: C+
Blocked extra point attempts will always get a team marked down here and that is what happened to Florida on Saturday. Kicker Eddy Pineiro may have suffered from that block, but he did hit a 45-yard field goal try to finish 17-of-18 on the season. Pineiro leads the nation in field goal percentage at 94.4 percent on the year.
Is there any way a coach can mitigate for his only healthy option at quarterback turning the ball over four times?
If the answer that is no, then Randy Shannon has done a far from a terrible job in his 1-3 stint as the Gators interim head coach. It is the play of the defense that best shows what Shannon has been able to pull from this team in such a short time following the weird departure of Jim McElwain. Dealt a pretty crappy hand from the start, Shannon has the defense playing lights out, but it hasn’t been enough for the Gators to win against anyone other than UAB.