Upon first glance and without the aid of replay, it looked as if Leak was just mis-firing his shots. After looking at the tape, he was just not firing where he should have been. I am not saying there were wide open receivers on all of his wrong throws, but there were certainly some that were not double covered and in better position to catch the ball than a few errant passes he made.
Still, after three interceptions and a not so pretty game, he made some very nice throws. The pass to Jackson was exceptionally nice and came after he had cooled at halftime. He also made some plays with his feet, especially late in the game. He maneuvered enough to eventually find open receivers and keep the chains moving.
Ciatrick Fason was pretty much unstoppable on the day. Not every play was perfectly blocked, but he seemed to pick a lot of nice holes and find some holes that weren't even there. I really don't know what else to say about his performance as it was the 4th best rushing performance in UF history.
The tight end is still the missing part of the offense, and I am not sure we will find it for a while. Time will tell, but I am not sure it is going to be missed with receivers emerging.
The wide receivers played ok but not great. They finally matched up against a team that punched them in the mouth and I don't think they got off the ball all that great. I think this had something to do with Chris Leak being a little off and a lot to do with why Chad Jackson started the second half of the game. The bigger, thicker receivers seemed to fare better, namely Bubba Caldwell, Chad Jackson, and OJ Small. I would look for defenses to do more of the bump and run like Kentucky used, although maybe Kentucky should be given a little bit of credit for doing it well. Mike Archer is a good coach and was out-talented. His guys played very hard.
The offensive line was solid in straight up protection and straight ahead blocking. Kentucky used a lot of stunting and gaming by their defensive linemen and linebackers and it caused a few breakdowns in our protection. Leak has become aware enough of the pressure these days that he avoided any sacks, but they often had a man chasing him. When the offensive line zone blocked, they really were able to create some seams for Fason to run through. The traps and counters didn't fare as well because of the stunting mentioned above.
I have had people argue with me about my stance on this game of the offense not being conservative. The offense had 17 plays of over 10 yards in this game. That is one in every five of the 83 offensive plays. That is a pretty high number. The average per pass completion was pretty low, but there comes a point when people are going to have to accept that sometimes a team can only take what the other team allows them. If they are playing three deep all the time, you can't just keep throwing deep and into the arms of the defenders. The plays that worked deep, were generally when the Kentucky defense was in a man to man defense or really messed up there lanes in deep coverage. Kentucky played a lot of three deep 4 under coverage and that is why the bubble screens to the triple stack kept working.
Just a technicality, I know, but the Gator's red-zone offense was actually four of six on the day. The Gators entered the 25 yard line or red-zone six times and came away with two field goals and two touchdowns. Another five yards, however, the Gators were a paltry four of ten inside the 30 yard line.
I don't know what has happened to Jemalle Cornelius. I tabbed him as the receiver to have the most yards on the team. Right now I think he stands fifth. I wouldn't be surprised to see Chad Jackson getting more and more playing time.
All in all I was happy with the offense except the three INTs and the penalties. Those plays marked the most undisciplined play I have seen from the offense since early in the game last year. The blame could also be placed at the hands of the Wildcats as Kentucky was savvy and aggressive all over the defensive side of the ball. They forced a few whistles, despite them doing it beyond the realm of the rulebook.
For all of the conservative offense we hear about, the Gators have some players among the tops in the league. Three receivers rank in the top ten in receiving yards per game; they are OJ Small, Bubba Caldwell, an Chad Jackson.
Breaking Down the Defense…
The defensive line still hasn't provided the sack performance that everyone had hoped for. Part of it can be attributed to the moving pockets the different quarterbacks have rough to the Gators. Part of it can be attributed to the inexperience of getting off of blocks and off the ball the Gator defensive ends have. Some can be attributed to lack of coverage. Whatever it is, the Gators need to improve. The defensive line did provide some push against the Wildcats. Even though the Gators had 23 more offensive plays, they had more tackles for loss against Kentucky than the Wildcats did against the Gators. The Gators pretty well shut down the Kentucky offense after the first drive Most of that was because the front shut down the quarterback and the running game as a whole.
The linebackers played well also. We saw them benefit from being able to crowd the line and make a lot of plays at or behind the line of scrimmage. It was good to see Brandon Siler step up, but don't think he made a huge number of plays. The Gators really need some depth to emerge here in the form of McCullough, Siler, and Estopinan.
The secondary played their best game. I know everyone points to the quarterback not being that good, but our defensive backs covered well down field. They still left some space at times at the line and allowed a few first downs, but they competed more and played more man than we have seen before this game.
The defense really benefited from a simpler scheme than they had been running. This was spoken of by a few of the players immediately following the game. It seems the coaches are going to let the athletes play and not make them think. I am hearing this will continue.
I thought the defense played extremely well against an offense you don't see everyday. They played hard and for the most part aggressive and made someone other than the quarterback beat them and they couldn't.
Breaking Down the Special Teams…
I'm going to make this one short and sweet. We know the potential the Leach and Wilbur have. They need to show us that potential.
The coverage teams looked sharp and Vernell had the longest punt return in some time.
How about the scouting on the kickoff team when the Gators almost recovered the kickoff that Petro pooched?