For the second week in a row, Florida’s defense stepped up in the second half on the road in a tough environment. By no coincidence, the Gators are 2-0 in those games. The latest was a 37-20 win tonight over SEC East rival Tennessee.
Against Texas A&M in Week 2, No. 18 Florida held the Aggies to just under 50 yards of offense and no points in a come-from-behind win. Tonight against the No. 23 Vols, the Gators D allowed a mere 118 second-half yards and one touchdown — and that came on a long first drive in the third quarter. After that, Tennessee never sustained an offensive possession of more than five plays.
While defense allowed the Gators to stay in the game, and later pull away, it was Florida’s offense that was the biggest surprise of the night. Quarterback Jeff Driskel played surprisingly efficient. It helps when your team grinds out 336 yards rushing and your receivers rack up yards-after-catch, but this was without a doubt the best Driskel has played in this young season.
You could view this game as a total second-half meltdown on both sides of the ball by Tennessee and coach Derek Dooley, who we should note has yet to beat a ranked opponent as a head coach, and yes, there’s some truth to that. But give credit where it’s due: this Florida defense has played phenomenal the past two weeks when it matters most.
As for Dooley? It’s not that he can’t win the big games; it’s that he can’t win a big game at all. And, now, Florida has won eight straight over Tennessee dating back to 2005. Tennessee looks like an improved program from the past couple of years, but there is no signature win on Dooley’s resume since coming to Knoxville to verify it. That simply cannot be ignored.
Florida, on the other hand, is 2-0 in the SEC nearing a tough October stretch with games against LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. How UF fares in that span will be interesting, but this is a team that’ s been getting better each week against continuously better competition.
The question is will it continue?
Hugh Freeze‘s 2017 coaching staff at Ole Miss will have a decidedly different look than his 2016 version.
In late November, the football program announced that defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has decided to retire from coaching at the end of year after nearly four decades in the profession. Nearly two weeks later, the rebels announced that co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner will not return as well.
Werner also served as quarterbacks coach.
“I am grateful to Dan for his contributions to our program,” Freeze said in a statement. “His leadership and experience were invaluable in the development of our quarterbacks. These are always very difficult decisions, but at this time, I believe it is best for our program to have a fresh approach. We wish Dan and his family the very best.”
In 2016, the Rebels were 13th nationally in passing offense and tied for 45th in scoring. They were in the Top 10 in 2015 in both of those categories.
Matt Luke remains on staff as the other co-offensive coordinator while also holding the title of assistant head coach. He’s also the Rebels’ line coach.
Werner has been in Oxford for all five year’s of Freeze’s tenure. He was also the Rebels’ coordinator in 2006 and 2007 under Ed Orgeron, who is now the head coach at LSU.
In addition to the move on Werner, it was also announced that Barney Farrar, the assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations, would not have his contract renewed. Farrar had been on administrative leave prior to his dismissal.
Farrar was connected to the draft-day imbroglio involving former Ole Miss All-American offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil. It was reported in October that an NCAA investigation into the football program is ongoing.
Even in the midst of a coaching search that will determine your football program’s fortunes for the foreseeable future, you gotta have a little fun.
Late Wednesday, it appeared that Houston was zeroing in on a replacement for Tom Herman, who left to become the head coach at Texas late last month. Thursday morning, it was reported that Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin had been hired by UH.
In response to the reports of a final decision being made, Cougars athletic director Hunter Yurachek offered a little papal levity, replete with non-white smoke indicating no football pope has been hired.
The Houston Chronicle, citing a source with knowledge of the situation, subsequently reported that “the University of Houston has not made a decision on its next football coach.”
That said, it’s expected that Kiffin is Yurachek’s man, with an announcement coming as early as tonight. University officials will meet later on today to finalize the search and come to a consensus.
In addition to Kiffin, ex-LSU head coach Les Miles and interim Houston coach Todd Orlando and offensive coordinator Major Applewhite have been under consideration. ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy writes that “[w]hoever the next coach is, Houston is trying to require an excessive buyout so he can’t leave after a couple of seasons without paying a substantial penalty.”
As a reference point in that aspect of the situation, Herman’s buyout was $2.5 million. Herman spent two seasons with the Cougars before leaving for the Longhorns.
Yet another FBS opening is reportedly on the verge of being closed.
According to a report from FootballScoop.com, Jay Norvell “will be the next head coach at Nevada.” The Reno Gazette-Journal writes that “Norvell, the third and final candidate to interview for the Wolf Pack football head-coaching vacancy, was so impressive he didn’t even leave Reno before being offered the job, which he quickly accepted.” Norvell was offered the job late Wednesday night.
The other two interviewed were Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin and Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. The former interviewed Monday, the latter Tuesday.
If/when hired, Norvell would replace Brian Polian, who “mutually parted ways” with the football program last month after four seasons. This would be Norvell’s first head-coaching job at any level.
Norvell just completed his first regular season as an assistant on Todd Graham‘s Arizona State coaching staff. With the Sun Devils, Norvell served as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator.
Norvell has spent most of his nearly three decades in coaching at Power Five programs, with stops that included Texas (2015), Oklahoma (2008-14), UCLA (2007), Nebraska (2004-06), Iowa State (1995-97), Wisconsin (1989-94) and Iowa (1986-87). He also spent six seasons as an assistant in the NFL — 1998-2001 as the wide receivers coach of the Indianapolis Colts, 2002-03 as tight ends coach of the Oakland Raiders.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher got together for a joint press conference in Miami today as the two coaches prepare to face one another in the Orange Bowl on December 30. Harbaugh said he is looking forward to the matchup but seemed to be much more interested in getting a chance to witness one of the pregame traditions of Florida State; Chief Osceola riding on Renegade and planting a spear in the turf.
“I’ve never been to a game at Florida State,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve always wanted to go there and see what that atmosphere was like in person. This will be as close as I’ve ever been to that. I’m excited for that. I know I’m going to get some chills when that Appaloosa comes riding out there.”
Of course, this isn’t exactly a home game for the Seminoles, so sometimes pregame traditions are put on ice for the bowl season. Knowing this, Harbaugh made his case and made sure everyone listening knows just how cool he thinks it is.
“I want to see that. That’s one of the cool things,” Harbaugh said. “We have cool things and other teams have cool things, but that is right up there as one of the coolest things.”
Fortunately for Harbaugh, he will indeed get a chance to witness this pregame routine in person. Florida State Associate Athletics Director Jason Dennard said on Twitter Chief Osceola and Renegade will make the trip to Miami from Tallahassee.