FOOTBALL: Grading The Gators vs. LSU

It is Monday Morning and the Armchair Quarterback grades the Gators on their performance vs. Louisiana State University.

On Saturday The University of Florida Gators were poised to turn the corner on the Ron Zook era, they had the defending national champions The Louisiana State University Tigers, a team which has struggle this year, in town, a full house at the Swamp, and a chance to go 4 - 1 for the first time under Coach Zook. Instead Florida ran slap dab into the wall, dropping a 24 - 21 decision to the Tigers. The only consistent thing about these Gators is the fact that they are inconsistent. This team can't stand prosperity, every time they get themselves into position to take a step forward in their evolution; they fall flat on their face. Reminds me a lot of the Doug Dickey era, lots of talent and promise but never a bride always the bride's maid.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE:
The crowd, Corey Bailey finally caught an interception, the special teams particularly Eric Wilbur

SOLID:
The secondary, the defensive line, the offensive line, running backs, linebackers

NEED WORK:
Chris Leak, dropped passes, penalties, how to win a close game

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: For 3 quarters the defensive line held it's own. By the fourth quarter these guys were out of gas. Out of gas will be a reoccurring them from for the defensive side of the ball. Led by defensive tackles Marcus Thomas, who had a solid game, and Ray McDonald who had a solid game except for a critical personal foul penalty in the first half, the Gator defensive line was able to stop the running game while pressuring the quarterback. Quarterback pressure was a key ingredient in two interceptions, which stake the Gators to an early 14-point lead. As the second half rolled on it became obvious that these guys we wearing out and becoming ineffective against the run or pass. GRADE C

LINEBACKERS: Channing Crowder was well on his way to a career day, Crowder finished with 10 tackles, 3 for losses, and 2 sacks. Earl Everett had 8 tackles, 1 for loss yardage and a half a sack. Reserve linebacker Brandon Silar had 7 tackles, 1 tackle for lass, and a sack. Travis Harris added another 5 tackles. Sounds great but the problem came in that most of those stats were recorded in the first three quarters, by the fourth quarter the linebackers were like there defensive line brethren, out of gas. Poor tackling and missed assignments seemed to plague this group late in the game. Play action seems to give these guys trouble, as the linebackers were very little help against the pass. GRADE C

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Safety Corey Bailey, who had 8 tackles, finally got an interception, thanks to a cornerback Reynaldo Hill tip. Hill, who had 6 tackles and 1 pass defended, may have had his best game as a Gator. Cornerback Dee Webb made a very athletic play on an interception to set up the Gators first score. Jarvis Herring whose interception set up the Gators second score added 7 tackles. All the fine plays went for naught however as LSU was able to complete way to many intermediate pass plays, sustaining the Tiger's drives. GRADE C

OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line did a pretty decent job throughout the contest. Florida was able to run effectively at times, averaging 3.6 yards per rush. Florida seemed most effective with the inside running game off the counter play. Mo Mitchell had several key trap blocks. While Florida gave up just 1 sack, it did not appear to be the fault of the offensive line. GRADE B

RECEIVERS: Dropped passes seemed to rule the game for the receivers. Usually reliable senior O.J. Small dropped two passes, while Dallas Baker dropped another. Dropped passes are a part of the game, but Saturday's drops all seemed crucial at the time. While Small led the Gators with 4 receptions and a touchdown he produced only 27 yards. In fact Small, Baker and Andre Caldwell had only 9 catches for 114 yards combined. Tight end Tate Casey got his first career reception when he caught a 3-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. It was the first reception for a Florida tight end this year. GRADE C

RUNNING BACKS: Running back Ciatrick Fason contributed 21 of Florida's 26 running plays and was credited with 92 of the Gator's 94 net rushing yards. Fason also scored the only rushing touchdown. C-4 was solid all night. Fullback Billy Lasko didn't get any carries but he did catch 2 passes for 17 yards and had a nifty 25-yard catch and run negated by penalty. Lasko also provided solid blocking on the fullback lead series. GRADE B

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak finished the game with 15 receptions on 33 attempts for 142 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. Leak wasn't that good. In fact Leak had a terrible night, as he seemed confused, forced passes into multiple coverages and overthrew wide-open receivers. Leak's inconsistent play, while not the sole reason, was a major contributing factor in the offense's woes on Saturday night. GRADE D-

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Eric Wilbur had a monster night. Wilbur averaged 42 yards on 8 punts and had 4 points downed inside the 20-yard line. Wilbur would have had a fifth inside the 20 but Terrence Holmes muffed the catch. Two of Wilbur's kicks downed inside the 20 came courtesy of Chad Jackson who made two exceptional plays on consecutive punts to down the ball inside the 1-yard line. Travis Harris blocked a field goal attempt to thwart one Tiger drive. Other than a Matt Piotrowicz opening kickoff that went out of bounds special teams did an exceptional job all night. GRADE A

COACHING: After 4 weeks of offensive strategy that was reminiscent of a certain offensive coordinator much loved by the Florida Gator faithful offensive coordinator Larry Fedora laid an egg. Florida's offense seemed out of sync from the get go. Outside a 67-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, the offense did nothing. While I not sure how much was the play calling and how much was the poor play of Chris Leak, I found the decision to call 3 pass plays in four attempts, including a bubble screen from our own endzone, while trying to use up the clock after getting the ball back with a little less than four minutes to go in the game, dubious at best. Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Charlie Strong came out with an aggressive defensive scheme that was rewarded with two quick turnovers resulting in an early 14-point lead. Still Florida gave up way to much yardage over the middle on pass plays, their third and long defense still suffers, and allowing LSU to score in just 1 minute and 39 seconds and with only 1 timeout was costly. GRADE Offense D, Defense C

FANS: After several lackluster games the Florida faithful came out in force on Saturday. The seats were full, the crowd was loud and the Swamp was rocking. Too bad the game ended the way it did. GRADE A

FINAL THOUGHTS

The prevent defense prevents nothing. Chris Leak needs to quit second-guessing himself while he is on the field playing. During the Ron Zook era Florida has lost 12 games, 6 of those losses have come with the Gators leading with 2-minutes or less to go in the game, that can't be just dumb luck (good or bad depending on your point of view). This was a real chance to get over the hump and embrace Zook as the head coach; unfortunately we are back where we started. OVERALL GRADE: D

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


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