The Gators went run-heavy in the second half to finally take control of last Saturday's game. They did it through their usual shotgun spread formations, but they also mixed in a good amount of the I-formations that USF will see against opponents like Rutgers, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut later in the season. Let's see how the Bulls fared.
Before we get too deep into this study, there are some mitigating circumstances. Of course, the heat was a factor -- the second-half heat index was 103 degrees in the shade, and probably in the 110s on the field, with plenty of humidity and not much wind. USF may never have played in such oppressive conditions before, because even though they are a Florida team, their early-season games are almost always at night. Also, with the offense sputtering and turning the ball over, the defense was on the field a lot, wearing them out even faster. And of course, Florida might have a lot more talent than any future opponent. So this may not be a perfect example of what could happen against the power teams of the Big East.
Early in the second half, Florida made some plays running out of the shotgun. Mostly they picked up yards on draw plays and the occasional read option, but Jeff Demps's ridiculous 62-yard touchdown run came on a play where the left guard, right guard, and right tackle all pulled left to help clear a path for him. All three of the linemen hit their blocks -- a chip on Patrick Hampton, a seal block on Sabbath Joseph, and a clearing block on Quenton Washington -- to spring Demps up the sideline. From there, he put a subtle move on Jon Lejiste (who may not have had the angle anyway), and then no one's catching Demps, maybe the fastest player in college football.
But when the Gators got into the I, they mostly got a good push and moved the ball effectively on the ground with Demps, Emmanuel Moody, and Mike Gillislee taking turns with the ball. Tossing out the meaningless final three plays of the game, Florida ran the ball from an I-formation 14 times for 80 yards in the second half, an average of 5.7 yards per carry. A complete list is after the jump:
- 1-10-UF3 Gillislee up the middle for 11 yards (Barrington)
- 1-10-USF20 Moody up the middle for 7 yards (Barrington)
- 2-3-USF13 Moody off left tackle for 9 yards (Young)
- 1-4-USF4 Gillislee up the middle for 4 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
- 3-1-USF31 Demps off left guard for 25 yards (Lejiste)
- 1-5-USF5 Moody off right guard for -2 yards (Bedford)
- 1-10-USF44 Demps right end for -3 yards (Marshall)
- 2-13-USF47 Demps up the middle for 7 yards (McCaskill)
- 3-4-USF26 Demps off left guard for 1 yard (Hampton)
- 4-3-USF25 Moody up the middle for 6 yards (McCaskill)
- 1-10-USF19 Moody up the middle for 5 yards (Lanaris)
- 2-5-USF14 Demps cutback up the middle for 9 yards (Dixon)
- 1-5-USF5 Moody up the middle for no gain (Grissom)
- 2-5-USF5 Moody up the middle for 3 yards (Joseph)
Eight of the 14 carries gained at least 5 yards, and five went for 7 yards or more. No tricks or pulling guards here, it was just man on man, and the Gators were winning most of the battles. They especially blew the defensive tackles off the ball, pushing them back repeatedly. (Keith McCaskill in particular had a tough time - he made the tackle on that 4th-down run by Moody because Moody ran him over and fell on top of him.)
The Gators also mixed in some draw plays on first downs and in some longer-yardage situations. With the Bulls' defensive line already wearing out, this accelerated the problem as they started pass rushing, and then took the same pounding they were getting in run blocking.
Again, given the conditions, the way the game unfolded, and the talent of the opponent, this may not be a true indication of what might happen later in the season. But stopping a physical running game is a priority of Mark Snyder after what's happened to the defense the last few years on the power side of our Big East speed/power balance. If this was their first test, then they have some more studying to do before the next one.