Florida fans were sort of #madonline in the lead up to Saturday’s game about Georgia fans making fun of Todd Grantham’s prowess as a defensive coordinator. Even the folks in the UF sports information office appeared a little touchy about the subject.
Florida with an interesting approach in its game notes this week: pic.twitter.com/97ETIptkAR— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) October 22, 2018
And frankly they had something of a point. The Gators came into Jacksonville giving up about 13.7 points per game, in the top five in the SEC in year one of installing a new defense.
And it’s not like Toddy G didn’t upgrade the Bulldog defense substantially in comparison to the leaking sieve it was under Willie Martinez. Even Saturday, Grantham’s unit produced some decent pressure on Jake Fromm (who weathered it very well) and produced a seven play second half goal line stand that would have been the turning point in many other games.
But if you’re a Florida fan who still believes “3rd & Grantham” isn’t a real phenomenon, consider this: Georgia converted 57% of its 3rd downs on the day (8 of 14) versus their prior season average of 46%. And all four Bulldog touchdowns came on 3rd down, and all four were plays of 10 yards plus. As Kirby Smart joked after the game, maybe Georgia just needs to plan to score from further out. Small sample size, etc., etc. But scientific method dictates that we start somewhere, and this looks a lot like evidence for the hypothesis that Todd Grantham defenses are vulnerable in those situations in which fans think the odds are actually in their favor.
Georgia should take knees on first and second down to force 3rd and Grantham. https://t.co/8qTd2lR42P— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) October 27, 2018
In all seriousness, if you go back and watch those scoring plays you’ll see Georgia receivers making plays in one-on-one coverage, and D’Andre Swift getting past an oncoming run blitz to find daylight behind it. That’s the live by the sword, die by the sword nature of Grantham’s attacking style. It’s not bad. When it works, it puts offenses back on their heels and can take over a game. But when the offense is able to execute against it and find the holes, big plays are going to be the result.
Mel Tucker’s ever-bending Bulldog defense can be maddening to watch as it surrenders first downs by the bucketful. But when manned with fundamentally sound football players carrying out their assignments, and with 75 yards to play with behind them, it’s just as tough to score on. Feleipe Franks found that out the hard way yesterday.
All of which is to say yes, Virginia, there is a Grantham Claus. He exists to bring excitement to football-watching boys and girls in orange and blue and red and black. And after Saturday he continues to make glad the hearts of Bulldog fans. Until later...