Armchair Quarterback: Grading the Gators vs. FSU

The Monday Morning Armchair Quarterback grades the Gator's game vs. Florida State University.

He may be a lame duck, he may be lame, but Ron Zook is a winner in Tallahassee. The Gators beat the Florida State University 20 - 13 in Doak Campbell Stadium on the newly named Bobby Bowden Field for the first time since 1986. Much maligned head coach Ron Zook rode the shoulders of his players in victory celebration, as he became the first Florida football coach since Galen Hall to win in Tallahassee.


Ron Zook, his staff, and this team


A win in Tallahassee is impressive period


Jeremy Foley and Bernie Machem to make sure that the foundation that Ron Zook has built does not go to waste.


DEFENSIVE LINE: Ray McDonald spent the whole night in the Seminoles' backfield, on his way to a leading the Florida defensive line on possibly its' best performance of the season. McDonald recorded 7 tackles, 3 for losses, including 2 sacks. Marcus Thomas and Joe Cohen each had a tackle for loss as the defensive line did their part in limiting FSU to just 34 yards rushing, ZERO in the first half, and sacking FSU quarterbacks 4 times. GRADE A

LINEBACKERS: Brandon Siler is causing Gators fans to say "Channing Crowder who?" Siler led all Gators with 8 tackles including 2 for losses as he roamed sideline-to-sideline hitting anything in Garnett and Gold. Meanwhile, Earl Everett contributed 5 tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack all the while keeping the 'Noles contained on the outside. Both Silar and Everett were active in the pass defense with each having a pass defended. Senior Travis Harris has nothing to be ashamed of in his final game against FSU. GRADE A

DEFENSIVE BACKS: With the Gators shutting down the run, thanks in part to the exploits of safeties Jarvis Herring and Kyle Jackson who had 7 and 6 tackles, respectively, FSU went to the air with moderate success. Cornerbacks Reynaldo Hill and Dee Webb were left in man situations several times as the Seminoles rolled up 314 yards through the air. Florida's secondary was toughest when it counted most as FSU was just 1 for 14 on third down conversion. Webb broke up one pass in the endzone and his interception in the endzone after battling the FSU receiver thwarted another Seminole drive, Hill also broke up a couple of passes as the secondary allowed FSU to complete only 23 of 49 attempts. Jarvis Herrings interception with 8 seconds left sealed the victory. GRADE A-

OFFENSIVE LINE: The big fellas up front played a pretty good game, despite the usual plethora of penalties. Jonathan Colon, Mo Mitchell, Mike Degory, Randy Hand, Lance Butler, and Anthony Guerrero got off to a sluggish start early in the game but enforced their will as the game wore on. Florida rushed for 140 yards against the Nations number 1 ranked run defense while allowing just 2 sacks. After FSU closed the score to 13 - 10 with 8:55 to go in the game, the offensive line lead the way as Florida marched 80 yards, mostly on the ground, to regain the 10 point lead. Then with 2:56 left in the game Florida faced fourth and one from its' own 26 when coach Zook asked the offensive line to get him six inches, once again the line delivered as the Gators converted allowing them to run additional time off the clock. GRADE A-

RECEIVERS: Andre Caldwell led the receivers with 6 catches for 62 yards doing most of his damage on the short routes, while O.J. Small caught three passes for 51 yards working the intermediate routes, this allowed Chad Jackson who had 3 catches for 65 yards to work the deep routes. Jackson's 38-ard reception in the first quarter setup his 13-yard touchdown reception. Meanwhile, tight end Tate Casey was effective down the middle on the seam route catching 2 balls for 30 yards. GRADE B+

RUNNING BACKS: With the game on the line and momentum building in FSU's favor, the Gators danced with who brought them. In doing so, Ciatrick Fason, C-4, became the first running back to rush for over 100 yards against the Seminoles this season. With the score 13 - 10 in the fourth quarter, Florida gave the ball to C-4 and he proceeded to rip runs of 16 and 24 yards before finishing the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run to put the Gators back up 20 - 10. C-4 finished with 103 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown while adding another 4 catches foe 13-yards. Skyler Thornton was equally impressive filling in for Fason. Thornton tallied 48-yards on eight carries and added another 12-yards on 2 receptions. Billy Lasko continued his roll as the unheralded blocking back and one again was rewarded with a pass reception, it could have been disastrous had Lasko's fumble not gone out of bounds. GRADE A

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak started hot, cooled down, then warmed up again when needed most to post respectable numbers going 19 of 39 for 231-yards with one touchdown and one interception. Leak started hot and looked impressive leading Florida on a 97-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter. Went cold in the third quarter when he went 0 for 8. Then warmed up in the fourth to complete a 32-yard pass to O J Small to setup a 21-yard field goal by Matt Leach and a 14-yard completion to Chad Jackson on Florida's final touchdown drive. Backup Gavin Dickey saw action on several plays designed to exploit his talents on the option. GRADE B

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Punter Eric Wilbur had a fine night punting 8 times for a 45.7-yard average. Wilbur also supplied a textbook touchdown saving tackle on one return. Matt Leach was perfect on all his kicks. Punt coverage gave up the one return Wilbur saved and kick coverage allowed a 61-yard return to dull an otherwise fine performance. GRADE B

COACHING: Offensive coordinator Larry Fedora came out with his up-tempo offense that kept the Seminoles off balance early. By not giving up on the ground game, Fedora was able to salt the game away late. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong obviously wanted to stop the run and Force FSU to beat Florida with the pass. His scheme of blitzes and stunts limited FSU's offense to just 34 yards on the ground while allowing the Seminoles to convert just 1 third down conversion in 14 attempts. The real star was head coach Ron Zook who's hard work, determination, and love for his players may have just willed these Gators to victory. Zook's decision to go for it on fourth and inches late in the game showed the confidence he has in his players who have rallied around the embattled coach over the last four weeks to post a 3 - 1 record. GRADE Offense A, Defense A, Overall, Are you kidding me, the guy won in Tallahassee for the first time since Ronald Regan was President, A+++

FANS: I didn't make the game, but those Gator fans they kept showing on television sure did look like they were having a whole lot of fun. GRADE I


Thanks to Steve McKibben for filling in last week. Mo, about those anger management classes? To all my friends on Gatortalk, Bessie the mule died Sunday morning due to an alcohol related incident, it was a glorious death. In a strange way I will miss Ron Zook, I know he must move on, I am not sure if he was ever meant to succeed, but the hard work, dedication and determination he has shown over the last three years and the class he has shown since the announcement of his dismissal October 25th are a credit to the University. Thank you, Ron Zook, for a night to remember, may you find peace, happiness, and success at you next coaching destination. Ron Zook has more victories at Bobby Bowden field than the man for whom the field is named, now ain't that a hoot, who would have thunk it. OVERALL GRADE: A+, 6.0 if using a weighted system.

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

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