CFN Bowl Analysis ...
Florida 37 ... Penn State 24
Florida got the win over a mediocre Penn State team, and Urban Meyer got to go out a winner, but this game showed why some changes might be needed, as crazy as that might sound.
There’s obviously no question that Meyer is one of the greatest head coaches of the last 25 years, and when he comes back into the business, not if, he’ll almost certainly pick up where he left off. But as has been intimated, he needs to recharge his batteries, and so does his offense.
The problem all season long was that Meyer is Mr. Spread. His dream world revolves around Alex Smith or Tim Tebow running the ball and getting the offense moving on the ground first to set up an efficient passing game, and while he was able to win a national title with a combination of Chris Leak throwing the ball and Tebow running it, but with a pro-style passer in John Brantley as the main man this year, the mish-mosh of styles didn’t work.
The Gators put 37 points on the board, but seven came from the pick six from Ahmad Black and most of the rest were generated by the defense that took the ball away five times. The offense only put up 279 yards of offense, struggled with the ground game for long stretches, and didn’t get Brantley going as he only completed 6-of-13 passes for 41 yards with a pick.
The three-headed monster of quarterbacks, with Trey Burton and Jordan Reed each getting time under center in a rotation with Brantley, wasn’t creative or inventive as much as it was done to find something, anything that worked. Instead of going with one style and sticking with it, Meyer went Ponderosa and tried to do a little of everything, and not being anything more than mediocre at anything.
But it was a win over a Big Ten team on a New Year’s Day bowl game. Meyer goes out a winner, and Florida was able to cap off an ugly season with something positive.
Let the Muschamp-Weis era begin.
- Matt McGloin is a great guy and a cute story, but he can’t be Penn State’s starting quarterback. There’s a hard ceiling on what he can do, and that became obvious in his inability to read the disguised coverages and the five picks that came with them. Going 17-of-41 opens up the debate this offseason.
- Brantley didn’t get much help. The first thing that Muschamp and Weis, if it’s Weis, must do is make sure the receivers run sharper, crisper routes and Brantley gets more options to work with. A steady running game would be nice, too.
- It should say something that Florida forced five takeaways and still struggled to put the game away until the final minute. When the Gators were truly humming under Meyer, a defensive performance like this meant a 30-point obliteration.
- Again, 279 yards of total Florida offense. This point can’t be stressed enough.
Urban Meyer’s biggest new challenge as he enters retirement? Handling the occasional nuisances of being the hottest free agent in the coaching ranks.
Meyer will be back on the sidelines someday, at least that’s my hunch. It’s in his blood and he’s just too young and too good at it to never return. Over the next year, he’ll be left alone, allowed to recharge and reconnect with those who matter most to him. Maybe he’ll do some broadcasting, which will be good for him and not so enjoyable for the viewer. If you’ve watched Meyer on TV or met him in person, he’s not exactly Madden-esque. After a year or so, however, things will get interesting as high-profile openings pop up in college and the NFL. It’s something he’ll inevitably have to navigate as the most qualified and attractive unemployed head coach.
- Meyer is burnt out and leaving the profession at 46. Joe Paterno is still going strong at 84. It’s apples and oranges on some levels, but no less remarkable that JoePa remains in this business as an octogenarian.
- Florida S Ahmad Black has always reminded me of Gainesville’s version of Bob Sanders. While not all that big, he’s a playmaker and physical run defender, who brings it on every play. It was fitting that he ended his Gator career in the spotlight, making the game-saving pick-six in the waning moments of a 37-24 win.
- Penn State needs to do better than Matt McGloin between now and next year’s opener. The former walk-on is a great story, but an eminently average quarterback, as today’s five picks and shaky effort will attest.
By Matt Zemek
How laughably ironic it is: The Florida Gators, through 12 regular-season games, never found the right quarterback for their offense. In the 2011 Outback Bowl, they finally found their man... well, for at least one game. On Saturday, 1/1/11, the No. 1 reason Urban Meyer finished his Florida career with a victory was the player who wore No. 11 for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Matt McGloin gave Florida the quarterbacking the Gators’ offense so desperately needed.
Full credit is due to Ahmad Black, the stud in the secondary who registered the game-winning pick six in the final minute and swiped another interception to aid Florida’s cause in the first half of play. Black and the rest of a ballhawking Gator defense knew they had to make plays to compensate for a lack of offensive firepower. Knowing you need to produce takeaways is one thing; actually delivering them is quite another. Florida’s defense figured to contain Penn State on the scoreboard, but it also needed to score points or set up the offense with great drive starts in order to win. The Gators’ gang of 11 definitely did what it set out to do, and that has to be noted in an account of this game.
With all of that having been said, McGloin was beyond awful. Not only did he throw five picks; the man who – at one point in the regular season – actually gave LIFE to Penn State’s offense (hard as that is to believe now) regressed profoundly in November, and this January event didn’t witness a return to his October excellence. McGloin eschewed easy first-down runs to throw some of his picks; he also threw interceptions on short passes where it was hard (if not impossible) to avoid seeing nearby Florida defenders. Joe Paterno made a good move when he replaced Robert Bolden with McGloin midway through the 12-game regular season, but now, JoePa has to find a true stud at quarterback. That is the first, second and third priority for the Nittany Lions heading into Labor Day weekend of 2011.
It wasn’t the prettiest game of all time, but Urban Meyer closed out his Florida coaching career with a win in the Gators’ home state. Good for him. He deserves it.
The start of 2011 wasn’t much different than 2010 for the Gators. The offense still lacked identity and cohesiveness; but Florida overcame the shortcomings of offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and showed that it had heart. Heart is what beat Penn State Saturday afternoon, and that was a trait that was severely lacking from this year’s Gator squad.
When Ahmad Black crossed the goal line after intercepting Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, it sealed the win for the Gators and cemented the legacy of Meyer. While his six-year stint as the head ball coach of the Gators was relatively short-lived, his time in the SEC changed the landscape of the conference forever. When Meyer entered the conference, nobody thought the spread would work in the SEC. Boy were we wrong. Whatever the future holds for Meyer, whether it be on another sideline, the television booth or at volleyball games, he proved that spread offenses could work in the SEC. For that, we should thank him.
So what’s going to happen to the Gators? New head coach Will Muschamp will scrap the old spread system in favor a pro-style. That will take some time for the Gators to adjust to, but there’s no shortage of athletic talent in Gainesville. If bowl season has taught us anything about the SEC East, it’s that it will be wide open in 2011. Can Florida make it to Atlanta? I don’t see why not.