The defensive line continued its improved play of the past three games. Some want to point out that the last three offenses the Gators have faced have not been very good. While I would tend to agree that's true for the most part, the fact is that the defensive line played much better, too, getting off the ball harder and faster, thus creating better results. The improvement began with the defensive tackles. It wasn't until the last three games that Ray McDonald and Marcus Thomas began playing with any kind of consistency. Once they got consistent, the help they got from Michael Hill and Kenny Parker just made them all the more effective. Against FSU's overrated and overweight offensive line, they were too fast and much too aggressive. The defense was one that would bend but wouldn't break. The starting tackles were allowed to rest some series, and when a drive would get to around midfield or a little further, the starters would be inserted back in. The result was one touchdown on a miracle throw and a bad call under tremendous pressure. Not a bad night for the defense. The talent at this position with three good players in Thomas, McDonald, and Hill will be a huge plus for UF over the Seminoles in the near future.
The ends played maybe their best game of the season. Again, helped by a very overrated offensive line, the pressure was on FSU's quarterback from the entire front four. Jeremy Mincey was everywhere. The coaches moved him around in the second half so he could get a better mismatch on the right side. Mincey had two more pass breakups to lead the defensive linemen in that category. Joe Cohen made his presence known for a change and was in on a sack and a few drops behind the line of scrimmage. The backups supplied heat and helped maintain the rush on the quarterback all night long. This position is deep for the Gators in the future and when you add in a Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss when he gains weight, this could be a formidable group. The Noles substituted DJ Norris into the game. Need I say more?
The linebackers once again played excellent football. Brandon Siler has become the MVP of the defense. The Gators are a different team when he is in there. He flies around sideline to sideline, makes the right drops in coverage, and blitzes about as well as anyone on the team. He got burnt deep in coverage once, but had enough speed to make up ground even though he just missed making a great defensive play. Still he hit the quarterbacks so often and hard they were seeing three of him. Earl Everett played well again. Siler and Everett seem to have a real feel for playing together. Travis Harris played strong while he was in there and Channing Crowder played all of five plays making two good plays in the five. This is a position where we match up well next year with starters against FSU, but their depth is a lot better.
The secondary improved all season long. The emergence of Kyle Jackson at safety has been a great blessing for the secondary in the last few games. Jackson comes up to the line to play the run, but has the speed to get back in coverage to break up the deep ball. He seems o really have caught on to the schemes. Jarvis Herring played well in all but about two games this year and had maybe the single biggest play of the defense all season with the interception of Chris Rix with less than a minute to go. Dee Webb played lights out again and his aggressiveness is unmatched in the rest of the secondary. He is simply unafraid of any receiver. Reynaldo Hill was good in coverage, too. He was staying with the FSU receivers all night. Even though he still wasn't looking for the ball when it was in the air, he made it difficult for the Seminole receivers to make catches with tight coverage. The secondary was also in the bend but don't break mode. The Noles moved the ball a few times between the twenties but the entire defense stepped up near the goal line and allowed only the one lucky touchdown. It was a complete team defensive effort.
Special Teams was also a beauty. What can we say about Eric Wilbur? His timely and booming punts helped the Gators to consistently win the field position battle. FSU almost always faced a long field when they started their offense thanks to his rockets.
Matt Leach kicked two long field goals and gave us a glimpse of something we will miss next year. Of course, Florida State had to bench its starting placekicker, Gary Cismesia in favor of Xavier Beitia, who was benched two games ago. The Noles have their problems with placekickers. Wide Right U was Wide Left U this game as Cismesia missed two easy kicks to the left.
Kickoff coverage was excellent all night except for the return in which Dallas Baker got the face mask call. Except for that the coverage was smothering. v Punt coverage was also great. These two areas have seen great improvement with the addition of more athletic players to the team.
From a personnel standpoint, the future looks really bright for the Gators. The next coach is going to have a world of talent to work with although there are some definite depth issues at corner, linebacker and to a lesser extent, offensive line. The overrated recruiting classes of the Noles are coming back to bite them now. Maybe they should move some of their 30 linebackers around and make a complete team.