Normally animated and fully charged, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was visibly deflated after Saturday’s crushing 28-27 loss to the Florida Gators.
Gran’s conservative play calling on offense was called under scrutiny following the Cats’ defeat. As our own Nick Roush wrote after the game, the offense collapsed when it took the ball from Stephen Johnson. Between the final six minutes of the third quarter and the final drive of the fourth quarter, Johnson dropped back to pass the ball just three times. All three passes were far from successful — two were incomplete and the third resulted in a sack.
Still, Gran stood by his decision to resort to the run game.
“When we rush the ball, and if you’re the team that rushes the ball more, you usually win in this league,” Gran said after the game. “We’re going to run the football when we feel like we need to run the football.”
The problem, according to Gran, were the third-down conversions. Or rather, lack thereof. Against the Gators, the Cats went 1-10 on third downs. Florida finished 5-14 on third downs and 3-4 on fourth downs.
“On first and second downs, I thought we were pretty good. We got to third down and we weren’t so good,” Gran said. “And then we went a couple three-and-outs and, you know, you’ve got to convert. If we had converted, I don’t know, three more, who knows? Maybe it could have changed the game.”
But perhaps the most gut-wrenching quote from Gran came when he spoke on the final drive of the game, when Benny Snell ran the ball to the 25-yard line and set up Austin McGinnis for a game-winning field goal. Obviously, that’s not what happened.
“I just thought, when he broke the run, I thought we’d won the game,” Gran said. “Stephen Johnson did an unbelievable job. Thought our kids protected unbelievably on that series. 40 seconds left and they went right down just like we do on our two-minutes in practices. They executed to perfection. It’s unfortunate.”
Unfortunate is one way to put it.
Still, the offensive coordinator takes full responsibility for the mistakes made in the fourth quarter.
“We had a bad snap, we had a penalty, and those things are excusable. That’s on me,” Gran said. “We’re not on a team like this. We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t do it.”