VETTEL: Nice Start, but Much to Work On

Opening day has come and gone and we now have some more specifics by which to assess Urban Meyer and his staff. We saw plenty of positives on Saturday, most notably a comfortable, business-like win over a solid, though not great opponent. While opening day can give some false impressions, at least it gives us specific things to look at and react to. That beats the heck out of the eight-month love-fest that just ended.

Florida's opener was about as expected/predicted save for that last scoring opportunity that would have let UF cover the 23-point spread (I suspect a $ million or more changed hands when Portis couldn't get that final touchdown). The crowd was energized starting with the "Gator Walk" and it was the earliest-arriving opening day crowd I can remember.

The opener showed Florida is better on defense than last year but at times confused offensively. It showed that Gator Nation is as pumped as everyone thought it was.

High Marks

Chad Jackson was tabbed in this space two months ago as Florida's next number one draft pick and he sure played like it. The one-handed touchdown catch was spectacular and there will be more to come. It wont be long before opponents game plan to deal with # 8.

The defensive front brought plenty of energy to the park, especially Ray McDonald and Jeremy Mincey on the ends. Marcus Thomas was a load but Steven Harris can do more.

Secondary was much improved from this time last year. Wyoming is a much better passing team than they looked and that's a big credit to the guys in the secondary. Vernell Brown was able to answer most challenges and the other starters were all excellent. And just wait until Reggie Nelson and Avery Atkins are fully involved.

Chris Hetland came through in a big way. So much for the wise cracks about not trying field goals. The junior in his fourth year at UF got his chance and made the most of it. The 40-yarder was nice and wrapped up a 17-nothing first half. But the 47-yarder was a clutch response to Wyoming's first score and made it a 19-point lead.

Zero turnovers. No running back or receiver fumbled. No quarterback threw it to the other guy. Life is easier when you keep possession.

Low Marks

  1. Spotty offensive line play was disappointing. Florida started four seniors and yet seemed to have numerous breakdowns. Chris Leak was sacked four times and backup QB Josh Portis was Florida's leading rusher. Add in two dreadful snaps that cost UF 39 yards and you have a rough day.
  2. Little playing time for defensive line reserves. Here we go again. Joe Cohen made a nice play on the goal line one snap before Wyoming's first TD and we didn't see him again for hours. Derrick Harvey played little; Clint McMillan at bit more. This cannot continue.
  3. Special? Teams had several moments. Two botched extra points, a successful fake punt went for 31 yards, one kickoff return went 66. And I'm not thrilled with the idea behind Dee Webb sprinting 30 yards just before the snap to get into position to field a punt. Coach Meyer says it's designed to assist the punt block, which is fine as long as Webb fair catches the ball. Trying a return in that situation is way too risky. Eric Wilbur was inconsistent. His best punt was actually a negative because it went through the end zone, essentially a 20-yard return. And he gets a break that his worst punt late in the game was waved off by a penalty.
  4. Short yardage offense needs to be defined. Gators had several mishaps in short yardage offense including losses near the goal line. One question many of us have about the "spread" is whether it can be reliable in a crucial 3rd-and-2 situation. That's something that's still to be answered.
  5. Leak missed two or three deep throws. The first play of the game should have been a touchdown, but was under thrown. Later in the half the same play was called and completed for 63 yards to Bubba Caldwell, but that could have been six, too. Leak also over shot Dallas Baker deep. Florida scored ten points on those three possessions, so it obviously wasn't a big deal, but you need to connect when you have chances for big plays.


Overall Florida has to be happy with the first game of the Urban Meyer era. As we have discussed, there will be growing pains with this offense because timing is of the essence. This was really the first full-speed test for the Gators and they came out okay. The defense did a great job holding this offense to 222 yards and both Wyoming touchdowns were aided by lapses in special teams. Still it would be nice had more playing time been found for the backups on the defensive line… especially Harvey and Cohen. It is a crucial element in Florida's goal to "win the fourth quarter" this season. They didn't win the fourth quarter last night Wyoming did 7-to-6.

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