The Florida Gators have rocketed up the rankings after a convincing victory over Mississippi. Mark Schofield explains that getting on the board first was key, as Florida opened the scoring and never let up.
Twenty-fifth ranked Florida welcomed #3 Mississippi to the Swamp Saturday night in only the second meeting between these schools with both ranked in the Top-25 ‒ the last time being the 1958 Gator Bowl. After trading three-and-outs to start the game, the hosts put together a quick and efficient scoring drive that put Ole Miss on notice their high ranking was in jeopardy.
Following a Mississippi punt, the Gators take over on their own 39-yard line. Quarterback Will Grier (#7) ‒ who was doubtful all week because of the flu ‒ lines up under center as Florida puts a 12 offensive personnel package on the field, with pro formation left and a tight slot to the right:
Ole Miss has their 4-3 base defense in the game, showing Cover 1 in the secondary.
The Gators run play action, showing the defense an outside zone run to the left edge before rolling the quarterback to the right, with two receiving options to choose from along the sideline:
After blocking down on the defensive end, tight end DeAndre Goolsby (#30) releases on a short route to the flat. Demarcus Robinson (#11), the wide receiver on the right, runs a deep out route. The offensive line and running back Kelvin Taylor (#21) do a tremendous job selling the run fake here, with the line firing out in unison to give the defense a look at the outside zone:
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The defensive front flows to their right in response to the run fake, allowing Grier to wheel back and attack the edge without any pressure. He has Goolsby open in the flat and Robinson wide open on his out route. The QB chooses the deeper throw, and the junior hauls in the pass for an easy first-down conversion.
Now the Gators face a first down on the Mississippi 47-yard line. Florida change their player package on this play, using 20 offensive personnel. Grier stands in the shotgun flanked by Taylor on his left and WR Brandon Powell (#4) to his right. The Gators have two receivers set in slot formation on the left, with a single receiver split right. Ole Miss changes their personnel as well, opting for a 3-3-5 nickel defense, showing Cover 2 in the secondary:
Florida runs Taylor on the inside zone here, aiming him at the B Gap between the left guard and left tackle at the mesh point. But with the two LBs blitzing right through this hole, he needs to make a quick read and react in the backfield or this play is going nowhere:
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As Denzel Nkemdiche (#4) and C.J. Johnson (#10) burst through the hole, Taylor takes the handoff from the QB and immediately cuts right. The RB steps away from the diving attempt of Nkemdiche, and is into the second level with a gain of six. As we saw with Ohio State using pre-snap motion, the movement before the play here influences the linebackers just enough to create a seam for the running back.
After Taylor is held to a short gain on second down, the Gators face a 3rd and 3 on the Ole Miss 40-yard line. Using an 11 personnel package, Florida lines up with dual slot formations, using a tight slot with the TE on the left. The defense stays with their 3-3-5 personnel, showing Cover 1 in the secondary and a potential three-linebacker blitz on the inside:
Powell is the inside receiver, and he blocks to the outside on Tony Bridges (#1), the cornerback lined up across Robinson. But A.J. Moore (#30), who begins this play across from Powell, is unblocked. Robinson needs to make the safety miss a tackle for this play to have a chance:
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Moore diagnoses the play well and breaks on the WR, but Robinson secures the throw, jukes the defender and slips his grasp. From there, he has to race Bridges, who has disengaged from Powell, to the first-down marker.
Armed with a fresh set of downs, the Gators decided to take a shot on the next play.
The offense runs a variant of the dagger concept on this play. TE Jake McGee (#83) runs a shallow drag route while Powell follows behind him on a deeper dig route. From the right, Robinson releases vertically but rather than run a streak, he bends his route toward the middle of the field on a post route:
This sets up a potential high-low on the single-high safety. As Ole Miss drops into Cover 3 on this play, safety Mike Hilton (#38) faces the choice between breaking on the two crossing routes in front of him, or staying deep on the post route heading his way.
Hilton takes just a few steps down toward the dig route and that’s enough for the QB:
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Grier makes this throw under duress, with talented defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (#5) bearing down on him. But Robinson is there waiting at the goalline, and hauls in the touchdown pass.
From this angle, you can see the play develop, and the flow of the secondary as Grier makes his decision:
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The free safety is in good position relative to the post route. But his movement to the sideline, in response to the crossing routes, takes him away from Robinson. Hilton overruns the WR, and Robinson has enough separation to bring in the football for the score.
With an early lead, and a rocking Swamp, the Gators were now in good shape. Grier would throw three more touchdown passes in the first half, and Florida enjoyed a 25-0 lead at the break. They would go on to win 38-10, but it was this drive, sparked by the big conversion by Robinson, that set the tone for the night.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy ESPN.