FOOTBALL: Grading the Gators vs. Kentucky

It's Monday morning and the Armchair Quarterback grades the Gators on their performance vs. the University of Kentucky where they won 20-3 despite being sluggish in the red-zone.

The Florida Gators defeated the University of Kentucky for the 18th consecutive time this past Saturday at the Swamp in Gainesville. The final score of 20 - 3 does no justice to how much the Gators thoroughly throttled the Wildcats. Yet, despite a dominant performance by Ciatrick Fason, the offense sputtered in the red-zone and quarterback Chris Leak looked very much like so many sophomore quarterbacks who have come before him. The defense looked improved over last week, but then again Kentucky's offense wasn't very impressive. Florida won, and they should have, how they won, particularly the lack of scoring in the red-zone, doesn't make anyone feel confident with Arkansas and LSU coming up the next two weeks.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE:

Ciatrick Fason, Mike Degory, Ciatrick Fason, offensive line, did I mention Ciatrick Fason

SOLID:

Billy Lasko, defensive line, receivers, linebackers, secondary

NEED WORK:

Chris Leak, Matt Leach, Eric Wilbur

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: Last week against Tennessee Florida allowed 80 yards on the Vols first scoring drive, all the yards coming on the ground. This week against Kentucky Florida allowed only 73 yards for the entire game. Led by defensive end Jeremy Mincey (6 tackles) and defensive tackled Ray McDonald (2 tackles for losses) Florida controlled the line of scrimmage and kept very mobile Kentucky quarterback Shane Boyd bottled all afternoon. Florida was able to get decent penetration across the line of scrimmage to help disrupt the running game. Kentucky's passing game generally consisted of short quick patterns limiting the defensive pressure. GRADE A-

LINEBACKERS: Channing Crowder, Earl Everett, Brandon Silar, and Travis Harris all played well. Crowder led all tacklers as usual. Everett was much more consistent in tackling this week as his eight tackles tied him with Crowder. Florida looses very little when freshman Brandon Silar is in the game. Travis Harris made a textbook hit on Boyd separating him from the ball, which the Gators recovered. GRADE A

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Safety Corey Bailey and cornerback Dee Webb led a defensive secondary that limited Kentucky to just 134 yards passing. Bailey record 6 tackles and a pass defended and Webb had a fine game, recording 5 tackles and a pass defended. After giving a little too much cushion on Kentucky's first drive, the secondary clamped down allowing Kentucky just 7.9 yards per completion. Terrence Holmes had his second interception of the season. Safety Jarvis Herring was solid in run support. The secondary in general tackled well all day. GRADE A

OFFENSIVE LINE: Except for several false start penalties on the offensive line, these guys played extremely well. The Gators used various combinations to totally outman the Wildcats defensive front. Mike Degory, Mo Mitchell, Lance Butler, Steve Rissler, Randy Hand, Jonathan Colon, and Anthony Guerrero all saw significant playing time as Florida churned out 262 yards on the ground while not allowing a sack. Now, whatever Kentucky was doing to cause the false start penalties has got to be straightened out, but other than that there is not too much to complain about. GRADE A-

RECEIVERS: Andre Caldwell led the receiving corps this week, catching 8 passes for 84 yards. Most of Caldwell's reception came off the infamous bubble screen thus the relatively small 10.5 yards per catch average. O.J. Small finally dropped a pass, but caught 4 for 29 yards, while Dallas Baker chipped in 4 receptions for 22 yards. Deep threat Chad Jackson caught 2 passes including one that accounted for 65 of his 67 receiving yards. No other receiver had a reception, but those that didn't have a reception contributed in other way as Florida receivers blocked well all day. GRADE B+

RUNNING BACKS: Skyler Thornton had 6 carries for 31 yards in relief. Billy Lasko had 2 receptions for 16 yards and was exceptional as a lead blocker. Everything else belonged to Ciatrick Fason. C-4 turned in one of the most amazing performances at running back since some guy named Emmitt Smith played. C-4 rushed for 210 yards on 31 carries, caught 5 passes for 43 yards, had a touchdown reception and his tackle breaking 46-yard touchdown run was highlight material! His 253 yards accounted for almost 50 percent of Florida's total for the game. His 12 points accounted for 60% of the scoring by the Gators. Without Fason the Gators do not win. What else can we ask? GRADE A, Fason A++++++

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak proved he was human. Leak suffered through a long day, by his own standards, completing just 25 of 43 in the passing department for just 261 yards 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions. Whether it was the change in start time or just the lack of mental sharpness after such a tough loss the week before, the normally rock steady Leak seemed out of sync with his receivers. Leak seemed confused, hesitant, while throwing several times in to multiple coverages. Kentucky's 3-4 defensive alignment may have contributed to Leak's performance. Leak demonstrated that he is truly can do it all, when he threw an excellent block to spring Fason on a busted play in the fourth quarter. GRADE C-

KICKING/SPECIALTY: The special teams, especially the kicking department has seen better days. Matt Leach missed a 47-yard field and had another 47 yarder blocked. Eric Wilbur had 2 punts, one for 39 yards and another 21-yard boomer. The Gators did not have a kickoff return (both were touchbacks). Punt returner Vernell Brown did have a nifty 43-yard return to setup a score. GRADE C-

COACHING: Offensively, Florida moved the ball at will between the 20's. Florida used a combination Fason's running and the bubble screen to Caldwell to roll up 523 yards of total offense with only 2 punts. Unfortunately, and somewhat alarming, the Gators, who in the first two games converted 10 of 11 red-zone opportunities into touchdowns, could only score 3 points on 3 red-zone chances. Defensively, the Gators, allowed what has become the all to familiar opening drive for a score before shuttling down the Kentucky with a very solid assignment football defense. GRADE Offense A, Red-zone offense F, Defense B

FANS: Once again, a hurricane, this one named Jeanne, caused the game's start time to change. Originally scheduled for 6:00 pm the game was moved to 11:30 am. This obviously had a significant affect on attendance, as there were a noticeable number of fans disguised as empty seats. Given everyone's concern about the weather and the tenor of the games, you could tell the fans weren't into the game. The fans will be needed in the future; fortunately they weren't needed on Saturday. GRADE C

FINAL THOUGHTS

Fason reminded me of Jim Brown or O J Simpson in the way he would carry the ball, get tackled, get back up, limp or mope back to the huddle as if total spent, only to get the ball again and rip off another tremendous effort, only to repeat the same scene again. My thought and prayers are with all who have suffered this hurricane season, but I have had about enough of these hurricanes messing up my Gators football schedule. Obviously, Terrence Holmes did not attend the Corey Bailey School of pass catching. Look for Chris Leak to have a better game against Arkansas. I am not ready to panic about the red-zone offense, but I am a little concerned. Florida is suppose to beat Kentucky, they have done it now 18 times in a row, I just wish I felt a little bit more comfortable about the way it was done. OVERALL GRADE: C+

Randy Platt
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!


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