FOOTBALL: Grading the Gators vs. MTSU

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

Grading The Gators vs. MTSU Lead: A week after losing to LSU and the disclosure that Head Coach Ron Zook had fraternized with an on campus fraternity, the University of Florida Gators needed a football game they could win and win big. Originally, this was scheduled to be an open week, but due to the real hurricane season, Florida's season opening game against Middle Tennessee State University had been postponed to this past Saturday. The overmatched MTSU Blue Raiders were just what the Gators needed, as Florida crushed the Blue Raiders 52 - 16.


IMPRESSIVE: Chad Jackson's one hand catch, how empty the stadium looked

SOLID: Given the competition everybody looked solid.

NEED WORK: Everybody, both on the field play and off the field behavior. Middle Tennessee State is not in the same category as other teams the Gators still have left on their schedule.


DEFENSIVE LINE: Florida's dominance of the line of scrimmage was evident early. Despite giving up some yardage to the draw play and the shuttle pass, the more athletic and bigger Florida defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the game. Florida got 2 sacks from defensive end/tackle Steven Harris and a sack each by defensive end Jeremy Mincey and defensive tackles' Kenny Parker and Marcus Thomas. Thomas registered 7 tackles to lead the defensive line, which had another 4 tackles for losses in addition to the sacks, while helping to limit the Blue Raiders to just 78 net rushing yards. Redshirt freshman Michael Hill saw action for the second week in a row at defensive tackle and should provide additional depth at defensive tackle for the rest of the year. GRADE B

LINEBACKERS: With stud linebacker Channing Crowder serving a one-game suspension, Florida got excellent play from sophomore Earl Everett and reserve junior Todd McCullough. Everett lead the team in tackles with 12, and by using his speed was very effective coming underneath the blockers to stop the bubble screen. McCullough, seeing his first significant playing time this year, added 7 tackles. Freshman Brian Silar also added 4 tackles including a tackle for loss and forced a fumble on a nice blind side hit on the quarterback. Starter Travis Harris also had an interception, but fumbled it back to MTSU at the end of the play. GRADE B+

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Florida gave up pass reception of 46 yards, setting up an MTSU field goal, and a 37-yard touchdown reception, both of which were setup off play action. Take away those 83 yards and the 63 yards racked up by the Blue raiders' running backs on shuttle passes and MTSU had only 77 yards passing on 16 attempts, an average of just under 5 yards a catch. Not to shabby. Cornerback Dee Webb got his second interception of the season and deflected a pass that was intercepted by Travis Harris. True freshman Kyle Jackson got his first start subbing for suspended Jarvis Harris and made a couple of nice plays. GRADE B

OFFENSIVE LINE: Florida started Colon, Butler, Degory, Mitchell and Hand, but it didn't matter, as the Gators were quicker and more athletic than the Blue Raiders. Florida quarterback Chris Leak could have played in a white suit for all the pressure he received. Key backup Anthony Guerrero saw plenty of action at both guard and tackle replacing tackle Randy Hand, who was banged up a bit. Florida's second team played most of the fourth quarter and seemed to be just fine. Florida pounded out 144 rushing yards for the game. GRADE B+

RECEIVERS: Florida's most experienced receiver O.J. Small sat out the second half after injuring his shoulder in the first half, it didn't matter. Small finished with 4 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown, but the real stars on Saturday were the youngsters Chad Jackson and Andre Caldwell. Sophomore Chad Jackson, who continues to press for playing time, had the best day of his short career with the Gators, hauling in 6 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Jackson displayed his athleticism by making a one-handed catch of a poorly thrown Leak pass, then showed his toughness on his touchdown catch by breaking tackles and fighting the last 8 yards to get the score. Meanwhile, sophomore Andre Caldwell contributed 4 catches for 91 yards including a 61-yard touchdown reception in which Caldwell displayed his speed by running by the Blue Raider defenders to haul in the throw. Dallas Baker, Keith Tookes, and Jermalle Cornelius pitched in with another 4 catches for 68-yards. GRADE A

RUNNING BACKS: Ciatrick Fason had 12 carries for 48 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown, but C-4 was not the star on Saturday. Deshawn Wynn, seldom used in the first five games, was. Wynn used his bruising running style to pound out 81-yards on 15 carries and scored 3 touchdowns. Wynn also had a reception for 21 yards. Billy Lasko had his obligatory pass reception for 12 yards. The reemergence of Wynn gives the Gators three solid tailbacks in Fason, Wynn and Thornton. GRADE A

QUARTERBACK: Florida quarterback Chris Leak shook off the ill effects of a poor performance against LSU to post his second career 300-yard game. Leak finished with 17 completions on 22 attempts for 316 yards 3 touchdowns against just 1 interception. The highlight of the day was Leak's second quarter 61-yard bomb to Andre Caldwell that hit the receiver dead in stride. Backup Gavin Dickey was a perfect 3 for 3 for another 44 yards during the fourth quarter mop up duty. GRADE A

KICKING/SPECIALTY: After almost wearing out his leg against LSU, Florida punter Eric Wilbur had to punt once this week, the result was a 45-yard kick. Place kicker Matt Leach didn't miss a kick on extra points or field goals. Coverage was solid all day, with MTSU returning only 4 kickoffs all day. Wide receiver Kenneth Tookes recorded all four special teams tackles on those kickoffs. Return teams were solid in not spectacular, the Blue Raiders punter only averaged 35 yards a punt. GRADE A

COACHING: Offensively, when your team rolls up 501 yards of total offense, score 52 points and only punts 1 time, there isn't a whole lot to add. This was a mismatch and it showed. The decision to get DeShawn Wynn more active in the offense was definitely a plus. Defensively, Florida once again had trouble on third down, allowing the Blue Raiders to convert 8 of 19 attempts. Florida also had trouble stopping the underneath shuttle pass, mainly due to the fact the Gators defensive line was able to penetrate the line of scrimmage, allowing the play to develop behind the penetrating linemen. On the positive side, the Gators were able to keep MTSU from scoring after the Blue Raiders had first and goal from the Florida 4 yard line mid way through the fourth quarter. GRADE Offense A, Defense B

FANS: Whether it was the reschedule date, with to many fans unable to attend because of previously made plans, or a hangover from last weeks loss to LSU, the Florida faithful weren't very faithful as the Swamp had an abundance of empty seats. Those that did attend weren't very vocal, but then again they didn't have to be. GRADE C-


Don't believe what you read in the press, there were a lot of more no shows than the 10,000 reported. Sadly, at one point it looked as if Middle Tennessee State had more fans than the Gators. Dallas Baker may be Wes Chandler's kin, but Chad Jackson's one handed catch in the first quarter was Chandleresque. Kenneth Tookes was a one-man coverage team on Saturday. As bad as last week went, it is still nice to know that the Gators can still dominate a directional team. OVERALL GRADE: B

Randy Platt
The Armchair Quarterback

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