FOOTBALL: Grading the Gators vs. UA

It is Monday Evening and the Armchair Quarterback grades the Gators on their performance vs. University of Arkansas.

The Florida Gators were at their schizophrenic best on Saturday at the Swamp. Despite a dominating performance for nearly three quarters the Gators somehow manage to see a 38 - 7 lead turn to a 45 - 30 victory thanks to a late game interception by Channing Crowder. Those Florida faithful who stayed for the whole game were left shaking their collective heads as the exited Ben Hill Griffin stadium trying to figure out what it will take for this football team to put away an opponent. If this keeps up, I am going to increase my stock position for Maalox and Pepto Bismol.



Chris Leak, Lance Butler, The second quarter, Jarvis Herring, Channing Crowder, Dee Webb, the receivers collectively, tackling in general


Defensive line, the offensive line, linebacking, running backs, special teams, secondary


A killer instinct, 3rd down and long defense


DEFENSIVE LINE: Defensive tackle Ray McDonald and defensive end Jeremy Mincey led the defensive line, which seemed content to read and react rather than penetrate the Arkansas offensive line. The reason for this style of defensive play was Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, who has ample ability to either run or pass effectively. For the good part of 3 quarters this scheme was working as Jones was held in check. Jones finally got loose in the fourth quarter making more than one Gator defensive lineman look silly trying to defend the Arkansas quarterback. Jones accounted for 68 of the 134-yards Arkansas gain on the ground as Florida was able to contain the Razorback vaunted running game exclusive of Jones. GRADE C+

LINEBACKERS: Channing Crowder made 11 tackles and had what possible was the game saving interception in the fourth quarter. Earl Everett was solid, adding 4 tackles, while Travis Harris had 2 tackles. Harris fell victim to Arkansas quarterback a couple of times. While Crowder was playing sideline to sideline, Everett and Harris spent much of the afternoon trying to keep the Razorbacks from getting outside, while they didn't rack up a lot of tackles they were instrumental in turning the Arkansas running game inside where they had help in the form of Crowder and the secondary GRADE B

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Dee Webb, Jarvis Herring and Terrence Holmes may all be first year starters, but on Saturday they all played as if the had been starters for a very long time. Webb had his best outing as a Gator, recording 6 tackles, including 1 and half tackles for losses by coming up quickly to make the tackle on the bubble screen. Holmes and Herring seemed to be everywhere on run support recording 7 tackles with a tackle for loss and 5 tackles, respectfully. Holmes also came up with his first career interception. Safety Cory Bailey and cornerback Reynaldo Hill were respectable, with Bailey contributing 4 tackles and Hill an interception. Lack of a pass rush allowed Arkansas to have some success through the air, as the secondary can't be expected to cover the receivers forever. GRADE C+

OFFENSIVE LINE: With Arkansas putting as many as eight men in the box to stop the run and blitzing from various places it is noteworthy that Florida only gave up 2 sacks. It appeared at times as if the Razorbacks were coming from everywhere, which is a tribute to the offensive line that for the most part were able to pick up the Arkansas defenders. On the ground Florida was effective enough as the Gators rushed for 118-yards. With Arkansas clearly stacking the line of scrimmage to stop the run, there were several times when there were more defenders than blockers. Lane Butler should draw praise for two memorable plays that led directly to touchdowns. On the first Butler made a key block to spring Andre Caldwell for a 61 yard touchdown run, the second a hustling Butler recovered a Caldwell fumble 25 yards from the line of scrimmage, Florida scored a touchdown on the next play. GRADE B+

RECEIVERS: Florida has been saying that they have playmakers at wide receiver; they just need to gain experience. On Saturday, the Florida faithful got to see what the coaches have been talking about. While senior O.J. Small was his usual steady self, 5 catches for 69 yards, it was the play of the youngsters that set the tone. Junior Dallas Baker finally delivered on his potential, leading all Gator receivers with 6 catches for 89-yards and 2 touchdowns, sophomore Andre Caldwell had 4 catches for 53-yards and a 61-yard touchdown run on a reverse, sophomore Chad Jackson added another 4 catches for 57-yards, while Jermalle Cornelius added 2 catches for 49-yards and a touchdown. Each week that goes by gives these guys more confidence, allowing their playmaking abilities to take over. On Saturday the Gator receivers may have just turned the corner. GRADE A

RUNNING BACKS: With Arkansas clearly loading up to stop the run, Florida runners didn't have a very big day, fortunately they weren't needed that much. C4 got the lion's share of the carries, 18 carries for just 62 yards, but was able to find the end zone twice. DeShawn Wynn after registering zero carries against Kentucky the week before, had 7 carries for 17 yards but fumbled once. The only other rusher of note was Caldwell who did have a carry; it went 61 yards for a score. GRADE C+

QUARTERBACK: When Chris Leak is on he is one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. Leak had his first 300-yard passing day as a Gator on Saturday. Leak finished the day completing 23 passes on 38 attempts for 322 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. In the 28 point second quarter he threw touchdown passes of 34-yards to Baker and 48-yards to Cornelius. Both passes were setup by excellent play fakes. Unfortunately, Leak has his dry spells, such as the first three series of the game or the three series during the fourth quarter when the Razorbacks mounted their comeback. In both instances Leak was unable to find his receivers effectively as the offense sputtered. The amazing thing is it doesn't seem to affect Leak. Florida scored on five consecutive possessions to close out the half and Leak rallied the Gators late in the fourth period with his third touchdown pass, a 2-yard toss to Baker. GRADE A-

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Matt Leach made all his kicks this week, but his best kick was a 36-ayrd pouch punt that pinned Arkansas at it's own 1-yard line. Punter Eric Wilbur averaged 43.2 yards per punt. Coverage teams were excellent, Arkansas averaged only 15-yards per kickoff return and returned only one punt for minus 5 yards. Kickoff specialist Matt Piotrowicz had 4 touchbacks on 7 kickoffs. GRADE A

COACHING: Once Florida realized that Arkansas was crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run, they went to the passing attack and the results were gratifying. Florida's offense began to hit on all cylinders as the Gator's offense reeled off 5 consecutive touchdowns on 5 consecutive possessions to close out the first half and a sixth possession to open the third quarter resulted in a field goal. Why Florida couldn't sustain the pace after that is somewhat of a mystery. Defensively, Florida held Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones to just 151-yards of total offense in the first half by having their defensive line read. Florida was unable to execute during the Razorbacks rally in the fourth quarter, allowing Arkansas to convert several third and long situations. GRADE Offense B+, Defense B-

FANS: Okay guys, if you haven't figured it out by now, leaving at anytime before the final whistle means you will miss something and with this team, something may turn out to be really really big. Maybe the heat and humidity had something to do with it. Either way the crowd was active while they lasted. GRADE C+


Andre Caldwell is fast, really fast, and has some serious moves, now if we can just get him to quit carrying the ball like a loaf of bread. The Gators have got a the third and short defense, now if they can just find a third and long defense to go with it. Florida needs to find a way to close out teams when they get a big lead. The second quarter was amazing; does Larry Fedora wear a visor? Dallas Baker doesn't have to make every catch look spectacular, but he does need to get his feet/foot down in bounds for the official to call it a reception. Lance Butler's hustle is pretty impressive when you consider he is a 6 foot 7 inch 300 plus pound offensive lineman. OVERALL GRADE: B+

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

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