As Yogi might say, "it was déjà vu all over again". Florida watched Arkansas rally just as they did last year, this time taking a 38-7 deficit in front of the home folks to a 38-30 nail-biter. Last year, it was an idiotic penalty against Tony Bua that bailed the Gators out. This time, it was a poor throw from Matt Jones, tipped into the hands of Channing Crowder by Arkansas wide receiver Carlos Ousley that denied the Razorbacks a chance to driving for a tying score.
I really don't have any problems with coaching strategy or play calling during this stretch as I normally do. Nope, this was just a long stretch of bad play, mostly on the defensive side of the ball where again pressure on the quarterback was as rare a correct fumble call in the ACC.
All in all, it was a terrific win and the Florida offense showed it was over the red zone failures of last week and performed superbly. But the Gator defense once again allowed a game that was all but over to become dangerously close to a defeat. This is a scary trend, and one that is unprecedented in the recent history of Florida football.
For the tenth time in Ron Zook's tenure as the head coach, Florida has given up 30 or more points. It marks the first time in the past 30 years Florida has allowed that many 30-point games in a three-year period, and only the second time ever (1969-71). Think about it. Even in the years surrounding the 0-10-and-1 campaign of 1979, Florida did not allow opponents to score this much, this often. That winless group did allow four opponents to reach or exceed the 30-point mark, but the 2002 Gators let it happen five times.
STRANGE SATURDAY IN THE SEC
It could not have set up better for a glorious day of SEC football. The top four teams in the West and the top four in the East were going head to head. Great match ups promised to give us some gut wrenching moments and stir debate over who were indeed the teams to beat in the conference. Instead what we got was Florida 38 Arkansas 7 late in the third, Georgia 24 LSU Zip late in the half, South Carolina 20 Alabama 3 and Tennessee dominating Auburn 31-3 at halftime. As I write this, it is still 31-3 late in the third.
In the immortal words of Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddles, "What in the wide wide world of sports is a goin' on here?!" While Arkansas made it more than a little interesting and LSU closed the gap briefly, the performances of Alabama and Tennessee created a couple of stinkers. Auburn and Georgia looked better than they have in two years and certainly have stamped themselves as the teams to beat.
Back to the Florida game, this week's best highlights and lowlights.
THE BEST THINGS ABOUT SATURDAY'S PLAY
- Offense did almost everything right. Leak was extremely accurate; lots of guys got involved. Protection could have been better, but 45 points speaks pretty loudly.
- Chris Leak rebounds like a veteran. One thing you could always count on Danny Wuerffel and Rex Grossman to do is put bad days behind them and come back even better. Florida's soph. sensation did just that.
- Dallas Baker emerges. Florida's talented receiver catches six passes for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Is UF developing a "weapon of the week" within its receiving corps?
- Kickers bounce back too. Eric Wilbur has six punts for a 43.2 average while Matt Leach made his only FG try and added a most effective pooch punt which helped set up Florida's first score. Punt protection was good.
- Late TD was good to see. After Crowder's interception, Florida didn't sit on the ball, but instead drove it in for the exclamation point on the ballgame.
FIVE THINGS THAT DIDN'T GO RIGHT
- Defense still offers little pressure. Although Matt Jones spent much of the game standing tall in traffic after a 3-step drop, Florida didn't sack him until the game was almost over. That's three sacks total this year.
- Failed again to put a game away. Ron Zook often refers to this as "finishing" a game. Call it what you will, but another late rally means no playing time for Gavin Dickey little-to-no playing time for most reserve linebackers and DBs. It gets back to the issue of depth. If you aren't going to build depth by playing talent youngsters throughout the game, then you must put opponents away to create opportunities that way.
- Running game stalls. Not really a criticism because Arkansas stacked the line and dared Leak to beat them. Not a very bright idea granted, but they did limit Florida's ground game as a result.
- DE lost contain frequently. Not Jeremy Mincey, but the others for the most part let Jones have the corner. A big factor in Arkansas gaining almost 400 yards.
- Too many no shows. What is going on in GatorVille? Is it the after-effects of the hurricanes? I'm not certain, but outside the Swamp there were hundreds of sellers and a handful of buyers. Easily three thousand empties and maybe more. I don't expect that next week with LSU, but will it become more and more commonplace?
Final tid bit. I bet not many noticed that Saturday, Chris Leak moved into tenth place on the Gators all-time passing yardage list. With 3,548 in his young career, Leak moves past Terry Dean. Next up, Jesse Palmer who is 207 yards away. And, he's only 7,327 away from Danny Wuerffel!
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