The Gators had a record performance by running for 309 yards led by freshman Deshawn Wynn. This game plan was to be physical and set the tone for the showdown with Tennessee. History shows that the team who runs the ball best wins in this eastern showdown. Coach Ron Zook wanted to make sure that his offensive line and running backs were "greased-up" for the talented Tennessee defense. The line combination of Max Starks, Shannon Snell, Mike Degory, Lance Butler and Randy Hand worked well together for the second consecutive week. Max Starks has become a complete player and really blocked well in space at left tackle.
Florida also added some run "wrinkles " for Tennessee to work on as well. Last week it was the quarterback draw, this week it was the "I" formation with Joe Cohen at fullback, as well as some option out of the "I". Florida's "heavy" set was especially impressive in the redzone area and I think Florida offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher should take a long look at this formation in the open field on third and short. Switching Lance Butler over to the left tight end and going with Sylvester McGrew as the blocking "H" back is unstoppable in short yardage situations, especially with Wynn carrying the ball. Wynn is the "natural" because he has so many great qualities including things you cannot teach. He has the speed and power but he has also showed great vision and tremendous pad level. I have yet to see this young back go backwards when hit. Ciatrick Fason and Ran Carthon were solid and UF should be able to run the ball on any team it plays in short yardage situations. The passing game was extremely vanilla and certainly will be tough to prepare for if your John Chavis. Not only did Kelvin Kight and Ben Troupe show you something but you know Martin can scramble and Chris Leak can throw it, so it will make it tough for the Vol Defense. The Gators must be able to establish the run and it will open up the passing game next week. This was the third consecutive 150 yard plus rushing game for the Gators this season, a first under second year coach Ron Zook.
The seven rushing touchdowns were one shy of a school record.
If you have heard me say this before, I apologize but this defense cannot to play flat against anyone. They must play with emotion and energy to be successful. After a slow start in which there were missed tackles and sloppy performances, especially in soft coverage, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong's unit got after it. They forced Ben Dougherty to leave the game and continued to create turnovers with Keiwan Ratliff's interception. The secondary of Ratliff, Daryl Dixon, Guss Scott and Johnny Lamar continue to lead the team and solidify things while the front seven works itself out. Darrell Lee recorded his first sack of the season on a very athletic play. He must continue to get after the quarterback as does the other defensive ends. Jarvis Moss played in his first game and made 3 tackles and had a sack. He has great "get off" and once he finds his comfort zone he can be an asset to the defense. When he's in the game, I imagine Tennessee would try and run right at him.
Unofficially, Florida recorded eight sacks with Channing Crowder getting one for the linebacking corp. Crowder on the blitz is still the best way for UF to get pressure and be solid against the pass. Demetrice Webb saw his first action and Howard Lingard, Earl Everett and Jermaine McCollum saw extensive action as well. The defense is still "work in progress" with Strong and his staff having to put together a good plan each and every week. The Gator linebackers will be helped by the return of Todd McCollough next week and are still looking for Brian Crum to have that "breakout" game.
Matt Leach continues to be impressive and Eric Wilbur is showing a "sweet" stroke from the punting aspect. Wilbur's stroke is effortless and powerful while Leach seems very confident and in a good rhythm. The kickoff coverage was improved and once again. Jermaine McCollum is making himself heard on the special teams. I thought Florida would block four kicks this season and it appears they may get twice that. The one thing that impresses me the most about the young McCollum is his football "IQ" when it comes to not roughing the kicker and just staying under control. Ratliff's block of the field goal is another element to the special teams that could become important in a late game down the road.
The Rattlers were the perfect tonic for the Gators as they tried to get off the deck and get ready for the Vols. As expected, a slow start was overcome by the Gator offense and UF rolled to victory. What I liked about this game plan was the fact that it set the tone for the Tennessee game. UT/UF has always been the most physical game on Florida's schedule and after getting in a track meet in Miami, Ron Zook wanted to make sure all the "parts" were worked on for the big game. UF got what it needed out of this game, an easy win with low penalties, good execution, numerous players who were able to get playing time and most importantly no major injuries.
It's Tennessee week now and the first three games are in the books. From here on out they all count double, with a berth in Atlanta on the line each and every week.