FOOTBALL: Upon further review of the MTSU game

Chris Leak had his best outing of his career going 17-22 for 316 yards, one interception, and three touchdowns. The number that may be most striking was that he also had four drops. He should be credited with 21-22 passing. Of course there was the one interception of which had he led Dallas Baker across the field just a little more, he cold have had a completion.

The Offense…

Leak was on the run on the play, but slightly misfired for his only interception in the last three games. He now stands at 15 touchdowns and five interceptions on the year. Compare that to the 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions Leak had all of last season and it certainly looks like he is on the right track.

Gavin Dickey looked very fluid out there with the offense and save for a delay of game penalty he did a nice job. The big shame with is 3 for 3 performance is that he didn't get more of a chance to play. I am assuming the coaches were planning on giving him the entire fourth quarter, and that is what they did. Of course, combined with the blowout score and the fact that MTSU held the ball for half the quarter themselves, he only got 2/3 of a drive to show what he can do.

Ciatrick Fason and DeShawn Wynn combined to have a nice game running with a combined 27 rushes for 129 yards or 4.8 yards a carry. When the Gators went to a 2 back set, the Blue Raiders would add an eighth man in the box. The MTSU front four as a decent formidable group, very stout against the run. They also would delay their defensive front set so that the Gators could not get a good read on the blocking assignments up front. This helped them with a few times hen the Gators didn't gain yardage, but also burned them when they didn't get set, and mostly with pass protection. Wynn was what the coaches wanted to see. He fought hard for his three touchdowns and really looked like a different back out there.

The receivers were on again. After last week's poor showing against LSU, they played well. They were responsible for 4 drops in the game, but also made a few catches that were tough. Bubba Caldwell and Chad Jackson continue to emerge as the playmakers of the group. Most likely unnoticed in Caldwell's first touchdown catch of his career, was the sharp route he ran to help with the separation on the play. Of course his blazing speed doesn't hurt, but on the 61 yard post pattern his head fake and sticking his foot in the ground allowed him to split the defenders and go catch up to the ball. It was a thing of beauty. Jackson continues to show more of his arsenal. I am not sure which was a better play -- the one handed grab of an errant Leak screen for about 16 yards or the touchdown pass from Leak where he fought hard for the final 10 yards and spun in for the TD.

The offensive line was just about perfect on pass protection, as usual. There were very few breakdowns and I believe Leak only had to scramble twice. There were no sacks again. The running game was a little different because they would take so long to set their defensive front four. This did cause a little confusion on assignment blocking up front, it seemed to change as the game went on. Sill the Gators averaged 4.8 yards per rush.

Offensive Intangibles…

The Blue Raiders were insistent on trying to stop the run. I guess they must have only watched the LSU game and the way Leak threw in that one. Whatever the reason, Leak carved them up like a pro. He completed passes to eight different receivers and the only pass I don't remember seeing was a Fade.

No tight ends again.

DeShawn Wynn needs to stay this fiery. I really liked what I saw out of him on Saturday. He definitely has the speed and power to do more great things here at UF.

Dallas Baker showed he has a little more playmaker in him than I gave him credit for with his catch and run in the third quarter. He caught the ball in traffic and fought his way out. Then he blasted out of the pack for a nice 41 yard pickup.

The offense averaged 8.8 yards per snap. One stat I always like looking at is yards per catch. The Gators had three players with four catches or more and over 15 yards per catch average. There were 6 receivers that caught passes of 18 yards or more. The receptions averaged 18 yards on the day.

The Defense…

I thought the defensive performance was about as well as could be expected. Certainly they gave up too many passing yards, but most were by an all American receiver and the shovel pass which many consider a running play but it goes under passing stats.

The defensive line finally got its first taste at a drop back quarterback and certainly added to their sack total. The six sacks on Saturday were the most of the year and barely surpassed the five against LSU the week before. Most of the passing yardage came on rollouts or scrambles. Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris were too much to handle for the Blue Raiders. I absolutely loved Jeremy Mincey's first quarter sack when he came around the corner and had the blind side hit. Mincey actually beat the tackle and the back for that sack; it was a thing of beauty.

Earl Everett as mentioned here a few times had his best game of the season. He Gators went to man coverage a few times and he seemed to do everything right. He led the team in tackles with 12 and had a pass breakup on a drag route over the middle that he covered like a blanket. Todd McCullough continues to show a tendacity missing sometimes on the field. He makes plays and seems to have an attitude when he does. Brandon Siler made a lot of plays, but was caught out of position a few times. Still, his speed and ability can make up for errors.

Kyle Jackson played better than expected in the secondary. Coach Zook has mentioned how he played fast and that is what will get him on the field. He nearly had two interceptions and what he does seem to bring to the table is an angle awareness. That is an ability that goes unsaid sometimes. He just knows what angle to take to get to the point of intersection at the right time. The one thing that he will be fighting is knowing his assignments all of the time. That is the key to getting him on the field as a young safety and last line of defense on the field. Terrance Holmes got beat on the first long pass completion of the day. He lost his assignment but raced over to catch up. The quarterback threw the ball inside and the all American receiver just made a great play on the ball. Even with his late awareness of the play Holmes was there to make it, but the inside throw and the skill of the receiver beat him. Reynaldo Hill bit on an out and up for the only Blue Raider TD of the game. In man coverage, Hill was suckered into believing a shorter route with the quarterback rolling out. When he made the move forward, Wright darted past him in the opposite direction. Hill had no chance at that point.

Defensive Intangibles…

The defense continues giving up the draw like plays. The shovel pass in the middle is one that MTSU hit on a few times.

The middle of the field seemed to be covered all day. With the way that MTSU throws the ball around I expected to see crossing pattern after crossing pattern get hit for long yardage all day long. It didn't happen, there were defenders there. Everett covered his man crossing and the safeties seemed to come down and play the right zones. This is a very positive sign of things to come.

Do we finally have a 2-deep at linebacker? Well, we are close. It certainly looks like Brandon Siler and Todd McCullough will now be able to provide a great deal of help if not improve our lineup with their addition.

Knowing that we get beat one on one a couple of times for long plays, the defense played well against a very good, albeit out-manned offense. MTSU was fourth in the country in passing, so they were bound to make some plays. The Gators were also without three of their top defensive players in Channing Crowder, Ray McDonald, and Jarvis Herring.

Special Teams…

I think our coverage woes of years past are cured and so far this season they seem to actually be a team strength. That continued on Saturday.

Leach remained perfect on PATS and knocked his only FG through the uprights.

Wilbur boomed his only punt.

Our kickoff returns haven't been abundantly special, but they are adequate and continued that way.

Chad Jackson go his first shot at punt return and although he never broke one, he was awful close a couple of times. He has strength and uses it to keep the first guy from bringing him down and then he has elusiveness to make one or two miss. That said, I bet most didn't know that Vernell Brown is second in the conference in punt return average.

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