PEACH BOWL: Grading The Gators vs. Miami

The Monday Morning Armchair Quarterback grades the Gator's game vs. University of Miami.

The bad news is that the Gators closed out the 2004 season with a 27 - 10 loss to rival Miami Hurricanes in the Peach Bowl. The good news is the 2004 season is finally over and the Gators only had to wait just a few minutes after the end of the game for a whole new year to begin. The Gator's play in the Peach Bowl was simply a reminder of the season just finished, mental mistakes, missed opportunities, and moments of poor play with an occasional fine play thrown in to tease the faithful. The Peach Bowl like the season reflected an inconsistent Gator football team, which cannot seem to get everybody on the same page at the same time. Hopefully new coach Urban Meyer can find the right combination.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE: The defense in general, O.J. Small

SOLID: Ciatrick Fason

NEED WORK: The offensive line, special teams, quarterback, and mental toughness. A new coach is just days a way and a new season starts September 3rd, hope springs eternal. THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: Despite not registering a sack the Gators defensive line were able to hold their on against Miami's offensive line. Ray McDonald led the line with 4 tackles, while Jeremy Mincey, Marcus Thomas, and Joe Cohen were solid if not spectacular. The Gators could not quite get to Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, but they were able to pressure Berlin on several throws. Against the run, the defensive line helped limit Miami to just 106 yards on the ground, including tackles for loses by defensive end Steven Harris and Marcus Thomas. GRADE B

LINEBACKERS: Brandon Siler showed why he deserved to start, registering 10 tackles to lead all Gators in tackles. Siler played sideline to sideline, while outside linebacker Earl Everett cleaned up much of what Siler missed. Senior Travis Harris had a solid game in his final Florida appearance. Backup Channing Crowder did record a fumble recovery but was not the force he has been in the past. GRADE B

DEFENSIVE BACKS: The secondary could have had a monster night if they could only catch. Terrence Holmes snagged one errant pass to thwart a Miami drive, but Dee Webb dropped what could have been a big interception early in the game. Still the secondary had several big breakups and for the most part stymied Miami's pass attack, limiting them to just 171 yards in the air, while Jarvis Herring provided strong run support from his free safety position. GRADE B

OFFENSIVE LINE: To put it bluntly the offensive line got the collective heads handed to them by Miami's defensive line. Florida's offensive line up until the Peach Bowl had been the team's most consistent performers and a team strength. On Friday night they were one of Florida's biggest weakness. The offensive line could not handle Miami's speed up front. Allowing 4 sacks and constant quarterback pressure as evidenced by the fact that quarterback Chris Leak was credited with 14 rushes, many as an act of desperation. It is somewhat of a mystery as to how Florida was able to rush for 144 yards on the ground, but I guess every dark cloud has to have a silver lining. GRADE D-

RECEIVERS: Senior O J Small was his dependable self, catching 8 passes for 92 yards. Unfortunately, he had more catches than the rest of the receiving corps combined. Eliminate Jemalle Cornelius's 45-yard touchdown catch and Small's total yardage would exceed the rest of the receiving corps as well. Chad Jackson was the only other receiver with multiple catches (2), but his decision to slide rather than attempt to get a first down was dubious at best and embarrassing at worst. GRADE C-

RUNNING BACKS: Florida has ridden star tailback Ciatrick Fason and the Peach Bowl was no exception. Fason had 94 yards on the ground, averaging 5.5 yards a carry despite a poor performance by the offensive line. C-4 also had 4 catches for 40 yards. Backup Skyler Thornton had a couple of good runs early but was a non-factor except for a 22-ayrd reception late in the game. GRADE B

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak's play in the Peach Bowl like the regular season could best be describe as inconsistent. Every time Leak would get the offense rolling with a couple of nice plays, a series of bad plays would ensue to kill a drive or momentum. After a turnover by Miami, Leak overthrew an open receiver, which was intercepted by Miami killing momentum. His three straight incompletion after Florida had 1st and ten at the Miami 19 killed one drive, and an interception stopped another drive deep into Miami territory, both drives coming late in the fourth quarter. Granted Leak was under constant pressure most of the night, but if Florida wants to be the kind of team that they think they are, those plays have to be made. GRADE D

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Tremaine McCollum had an exceptional play in blocking Miami's second punt attempt was the highlight on the special teams play in the Peach Bowl. Other than Eric Wilbur's 40.9-yard punting average, the kicking/specialty team play left little to write about from the positive point of view. Blocked field goal for a touchdown, missed field goal, punt return for a touchdown were all crucial plays allowing Miami to set the tone for the night and putting Florida in a big hole. GRADE D-

COACHING: Lame duck offensive coordinator Larry Fedora had the right idea just the wrong execution. Florida rolled up 404 yards in total offense. While Florida had four trips inside Miami's 20 yard-line, those 4 drives produced just 3 points. Florida's second offensive drive stalled when receiver Dallas Baker ran on to the field late resulting in a motion penalty, causing the Gators to attempt a field goal which was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Who's responsible for getting the correct personnel on the field? Not so lame duck defensive coordinator Charlie Strong had his charges running all over the field disrupting Miami's offense, allowing the Hurricanes just 10 points off just two sustained drives. Given the circumstances, Charlie Strong seemed to do a respectable job as interim head coach. GRADE Offense B, Defense B, Overall Wait 'til Next Year

FANS: I couldn't make it to the game, but it was obvious that many of the Gator faithful did. I am sure they were ready to rock the house; unfortunately, every time the chance arose it was followed by a momentum killing play. I am sure the fans felt like a yo-yo after this one. Since I again watched this one on tv, I'll have to give this part an incomplete. GRADE - I

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Florida Gators need to find consistency to win these types of games. Sliding instead of trying for the first down is not the way to impress the new coach, based on everything I have read. This just in, the Atlanta PD has issued an APB for Florida's offensive line, last seen tin Tallahassee, FL. Thanks to Ray and the Gator Country staff for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts. I am glad this season is over, Saturday marked the beginning on a new year, both literally and figuratively for the Florida Gator football team, a new coach is coming with new expectations, I look forward to seeing how that all shakes out. I'll talk at ya'll in September, until then GO GATORS.

OVERALL GRADE: C-

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


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