Highlight: 178 yards rushing on the road versus #3 Miami.
The Gators came out with an excellent plan to run the ball and used the "Ohio St." formula to move the ball on the Canes. Ingle Martin showed great poise and toughness in directing the Gator attack in the first half. I thought the offense did a nice job of answering the early Hurricane emotion by scoring 10 points in the first quarter. The running game got off to a good start by running Ran Carthon on delayed draws and traps which neutralized Miami's speed. Florida only committed one turnover and it was on the last play of the game. The concussion suffered by Ingle Martin may have slowed Florida's chances at being able to run the clock. The mistakes the Gators committed were not in the turnover department but just little ones that stopped drives. A dropped pass, missed block, bad decision or a mishandling of the shot gun snapped were all cases for the mistakes that derailed Florida's hopes. To UF's credit they did drive to the Cane 20 in which Chris Leak did not get enough air on his final ball to Dallas Baker. Clock management is also something the offense will study. Leak could have run out of bounds on a scramble on 2nd down and maybe allowed Ed Zaunbrecher to reset the offense. Also I would have like to see DeShawn Wynn carry the football in the last nine minutes. He had eight carries for 100 yards with a lot of the 4th quarter to play. Gavin Dickey had the offense moving until he fumbled a snap in which the play was a pass and would have worked to a wide open OJ Small.
Highlight: held Miami's offense without a touchdown in the first half.
Charlie Strong had a very solid plan. Run blitz on first down and bring heat in passing situations and give up the underneath short stuff. It worked to perfection in the first half and Florida had control of the game. The problem with this plan is that mid way through the third quarter Miami got down 33-10 Miami turned the game into a track meet. The Canes went to the hurry up offense and did a good job of keeping UF off balance. Combine that with a couple of missed assignments, missed tackles and great throws by Brock Berlin and it was a formula for victory for Miami. It was a dilemma for Strong because the success had come from the blitz and pressure, but up 23 he did not want to give Miami easy scores. Losing Johnny Lamar for a period of time really hurt the Gator defense. Reynaldo Hill and Matt Jackson are clearly not ready to be up against the caliber of receivers that Miami possesses. I was wrong about Lamar, he can play and he was tremendous in the game. Daryl Dixon had a big game in the secondary while Ray McDonald and Channing Crowder were very effective up front, especially in the first half. Florida got winded and Miami got in a rhythm and with that it became a nightmare for Gator fans.
The opening kickoff was much like last week with Matt Jackson, Johnny Lamar and Zephren Augustine getting out of their lanes just slightly and Devin Hester made them pay. The sky kick was a good call the rest of the game with only one big return by Sean Taylor, who broke several tackles. I thought Eric Wilbur was very solid in a hostile environment which bodes well for the future. Matt Leach was good as was the return game with Ratliff and Caldwell. The two point play at 16-10 is a play the Gators practice all the time and Morton has completed it 100% of the time. It may have not been the right time for the call but it was a good call because the receiver was wide open and Morton just bombed on the throw.
What have we learned?
This was not the "Choke at Doak" or the "Florida Flop". It was not the disaster in the dessert or debacle at Auburn. No, this was an underdog team taking the fight to most dominant team in college football that last three years and doing it on their turf. The Canes found a little magic left in the bottle and salvaged a victory while the Gators are left looking for a moral victory. Florida's team has a lot of toughness and fight and just could not hang on against the Canes. The Miami team was able to bottle some Orange Bowl Magic and deliver an epic victory. I believe that for the near future Ingle Martin is Florida's quarterback. Chris Leak is going to be special but Martin just does not make mistakes. I think the quarterback rotation is the way UF needs to go as it enters the conference schedule. Florida has a very good running game and game breakers at receiver. They need to figure a way to get the ball to Jemalle Cornelius. Andre Caldwell, Wynn, Baker, Leak, and Lewis all made plays for the Gators in the Orange Bowl and all are first year players. Defensively, this team may have benefited from a closer game because they could not respond to Miami's two minute offense. The secondary will need Demetrice Webb to come in and work in some spots and the defensive line needs more production from the end position. Crowder, McDonald, Jermaine McCollum all made nice plays and contributions and all these guys are freshman.
Many feel Florida blew a golden opportunity to steal a victory in Miami's backyard. But those same people did not think Florida had much of a chance either. The toughest thing for a young team to do is learn how to put teams away. If Ingle Martin does not get hurt then he plays and the option could buy them enough time to win the game. The team will be down this week and the big challenge will be getting them ready for an out-manned FAMU team. What you don't want is to come out and be sloppy and not execute. This team is too young to not play with emotion and energy. The season has all their goals still in front of them and to reach them Ron Zook must get his guys to play every game with a chip on their shoulder… the same chip they had Saturday night in Miami.