GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain confirmed earlier this week that he plans to stick with veteran quarterback Austin Appleby in the Gators’ Outback Bowl matchup with Iowa on Jan. 2.
Fans are perhaps still reeling from Appleby’s 3 interceptions against Alabama in a 54-16 SEC Championship Game loss last weekend, but as the analysts at Pro Football Focus reveal, there were actually some real positives within that performance.
PFF only graded Appleby at a 55 (on a 1-100 scale) because of those picks, but in terms of overall accuracy percentage — which is completion percentage adjusted for throwaways, batted passes and drops — the Gators’ quarterback had the best numbers of anybody all season against Alabama.
His accuracy percentage was 74.3 percent as he completed 26-of-35 passes (26-of-39 overall) for 261 yards, 2 touchdowns and those 3 picks. The next best quarterback performance against the Tide in that regard was Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly (66.7) in Week 3.
Looking back on the game, one could partially excuse two of Appleby’s interceptions as he explained the second one — ultimately the most damaging as Minkah Fitzpatrick returned it for a touchdown — was the result of a miscommunication with wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who cut inside when the quarterback was expecting the route to stay out toward the seam.
And the third one was a catchable 50-50 ball that wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood just made a lackluster attempt to corral.
Conversely, the two touchdown passes were the first offensive touchdowns Alabama had allowed since Oct. 22.
But the results were what they were. If Appleby and his receivers were more in sync and those miscues don’t happen, it might have been a different game. The quarterback doesn’t get a total pass, merely some perspective to consider.
Overall, here’s how he handled Alabama’s pressure, according to the PFF data: Pressure Drop-backs Att. Comp. Yards TD INT Sacks No pressure 29 29 22 217 2 2 0 Under pressure 14 10 4 44 0 1 4 No blitz 31 28 19 165 1 3 3 Blitz 12 11 7 96 1 0 1 All plays 43 39 26 261 2 3 4 As for the rest of the offensive grades from that game, tight end DeAndre Goolsby led the way at 86.5 — which was the highest grade nationally for any tight end last weekend. He hauled in 7 of 8 targets for 91 yards and a touchdown.
Not so positive was the performance of the offensive line, which contributed to Florida totaling zero net rushing yards along with the pressure the Tide was able to put on the quarterback.
Kavaris Harkless, who started at left guard, received the only satisfactory grade (68.0), while left tackle David Sharpe (43.8), left guard Martez Ivey (40.3, playing limited through an ankle injury), center T.J. McCoy (44.0), right guard Tyler Jordan (28.2) and right tackle Jawaan Taylor (38.5) all struggled. Of course, most offensive lines struggle against Alabama so nothing out of the ordinary here.
Defensively, the Gators came up short in two areas […]