Breaking Down Tyler Murphy's Three Picks
Florida lost again.
That in itself is nothing special. However, Florida’s opponent makes this a sign of the end times. Whenever the Gators lose to the Vanderbilt Commodores, it is time for quiet reflection, with thoughts turning to the choices Florida made that brought it to this hellish scenario. So here we are. Florida has an L on the schedule next to the name Vanderbilt. The end is near.
The Gators’ loss was caused by many things; in general, poor offensive production mixed with inconsistent run defense. Florida was not quick on breaking up screen passes. Vanderbilt brought large numbers into the box, stuffed running lanes, and pressured Tyler Murphy from the inside out. Murphy was surprisingly ineffective on zone read plays and had one of his worst passing games since becoming the starter.
While all of these factors contributed to the final score, the pendulum on which the game swung was turnovers. Florida lost a fumble and threw three interceptions, which led to three Vandy touchdowns. At the same time, the Gators outgained the Commodores and held the ball longer than Vandy. So, if you eliminate the turnovers, Florida might have won this game.
Nevertheless, I cannot say bad luck caused these turnovers. These interceptions came because of poor execution, and since they swung the game, these three plays deserve a closer look.
On Murphy’s first interception, the Gators lined up in the shotgun with four wide receivers. Before the snap, Vanderbilt showed man coverage, with two safeties playing a deep zone for protection down the field.
When the ball is snapped, Murphy looked to his first read, Ahmad Fullwood, and saw that he was facing man coverage by Andre Hal. Murphy assumes that Hal will follow Fullwood on his fly pattern downfield. The quarterback thought Fullwood’s route would clear some space for Quinton Dunbar, who was running a simple out route underneath.
Dunbar then beat his man on the cut to the sideline. Even with separation, an out route requires an accurate throw to ensure a completion. Once Murphy read man coverage, he immediately fired toward the open spot on the field. However, Hal was only showing man coverage, but actually was playing Cover 2 zone.
Hal let Fullwood run by, trusting the safety to pick him up. Now, Hal sat in the exact spot Murphy threw the ball.
Not only did Murphy make a bad read, throwing right into a defender’s zone, he also made a bad throw. If Hal had not been there, the pass still would have fallen incomplete. Murphy threw well over Dunbar’s head, and the ball would have gone out of bounds. In Murphy’s defense, this is a pro throw and a hard one to make for most college quarterbacks. An incomplete pass on a difficult throw is excusable for a backup quarterback, but a bad read leading to an interception is not.
Murphy’s second interception came in the second quarter. Florida was looking for a big play on first down, deep in its own territory. The important thing to remember on this play is that this is not a desperate situation. It's only first down.
Anyways, on this play, Florida lined up in a strong I formation with two running backs and a tight end. They were showing run. Vanderbilt countered this look by bringing up the strong safety, putting eight men in the box and leaving the deep right side of the field exposed. The call is a play-action pass, and it looked like the right decision before the snap.
The Gators faked the run, but only bought themselves a split second. Vandy’s linebackers took one step toward the run, but recognized the play action quickly and dropped into coverage. Vandy only rushed five men, leaving six in coverage. The defense ran a Cover 3 zone, while leaving one cornerback in man-to-man coverage.
Solomon Patton, lined up on the right, ran a deep in route about 15 yards downfield, crossing to the left. His man shadowed him over the top before dropping into his deep zone and passing him off to the linebackers. When Patton cut inside, he was covered underneath by two linebackers in a shallow zone.
On the left side of the field, Dunbar ran a deep post. His man stuck with him on the route, but Dunbar outran him on the break. Even though he gets beat, the corner wasn’t concerned because he had safety help over the top. While Dunbar was double covered, he lost the corner on the break and simply outran the safety to get open. That was impressive.
From the pre-snap read, Murphy had to know that Dunbar would be double covered, so one would think he would have looked to Patton as his primary option. However, Murphy must have been pressing, looking to make a big play, and kept Dunbar as his first read. This would have worked out for Murphy since Dunbar was able to break through the double coverage and get open, but as Murphy threw the ball, a defensive tackle hit him in the thigh. This hit changed the trajectory of the pass and took some power off of the throw. The result was an underthrown pass to Dunbar that made for an easy catch for one of the two men he shook to get open.
The third pick came early in the third quarter. Florida was down by two touchdowns and had received the kickoff to start the second half. It drove down to its own 42-yard line and faced a third-and-3. They lined up in the shotgun, with one running back, three receivers and a tight end. Vandy lined up in a nickel package and blitzed both linebackers, rushing a total of six men. Murphy didn’t have much time to throw, but luckily Trey Burton got open quickly on a drag route.
When Burton cut across the field, the cornerback covering him, Andrew Williamson, got slowed down by his own teammate, a blitzing linebacker who got in his way. Burton had separation and Murphy had just enough time to throw the ball before contact, but he threw it behind Burton. You always want to lead the receiver on a drag route, especially when his man is trailing far behind.
Burton had to slow down and stretch for the catch. He still got his hands on the ball, but bobbled what would've been a difficult catch. This gave Williamson enough time to swoop in and snatch the ball off of the bobble and return it all the way to Florida’s 4-yard line.
Putting INTs In Context
Murphy has had good days playing quarterback for the Gators, but this was not one of them. He was either fully or partially responsible for each of Florida's turnovers and really cost the Gators the game.
It was a poor performance, but not egregiously bad. Responsibility is just part of playing quarterback. Usually, quarterbacks are the main reason a team wins or loses, and this was the case for Murphy against Vanderbilt.