Let's take a look at ten key points from tonight's game…
1. RHYTHM: The Florida offense didn't get into any sense of rhythm until the third quarter. The first quarter was pretty much a wash out as the Gators punted on three of their four possessions, including a pair of three and outs.
The first two series saw Florida trade a third and two for third and fifteen after a costly personal foul penalty. After Deshawn Wynn blew through the Louisiana Tech defense for a 50-yard gallop to the seven yard line, the Gators took four downs to punch it in for the score.
After an interception by safety Kyle Jackson, Florida quarterback Chris Leak slid short of the marker on third and two forcing the Gators to punt. Leak started slowly. He was off of the mark on several throws early in the contest. He definitely improved later in the game. The Gators can't afford to start this slowly against Tennessee or anybody from this point of the schedule forward.
Fortunately, the Gators reversed the trend after exiting for the start of the second half. Florida scored on three of their first four possessions.
2. LOUISIANA TECH INFERIOR OFFENSIVE FRONT: Louisiana Tech center Marcus Stewart (6-3 300), and guards Aaron Lips (6-5, 317), and Marcus Lindsay (6-7, 362) did a terrific job early against noseguard Marcus Thomas and tackle Steven Harris. These guys opened holes for backs Freddie Franklin and Mark Dillard, who amassed nearly four yards per carry on their first six attempts up the middle. They picked up runs of seven, twelve, and six yards running over right tackle. The Gators shut that down a little later though. Florida will have to guard against that next Saturday night.
3. THE PALM BAY BOYS --- NELSON AND COHEN: Reggie Nelson set an early tone as he stripped the ball from Bulldogs wide receiver Freddie King on the game's third play. Replay officials ruled that the ball was never in King's possession, but Nelson's quickness and effort was evident. He finished tied with a team high five tackles, including a tackle for loss and a sack.
Joe Cohen came in at tackle for a play or two and blew by the lineman assigned to block him and slightly disrupted the play as it ran away from him. Later, Cohen made a big tackle that helped give Reggie Nelson as assist on his sack of Donald Allen.
Linebacker Earl Everett #30 of the University of Florida Gators breaks up a pass intended for running back Freddie Franklin #28 of the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2005 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
4. HAND, BUTLER AND DEGORY: There were several nice blocks tonight by Hand, Butler, and Degory. I watched them each on several plays and noted their much improved play from last week. Degory was much quicker off of the ball than Louisiana Tech noseguard LaDarius Love (6-4, 332). Hand was out in front of a screen near the goal line and blew up a defender. Butler was out in front of two plays and was very aggressive in knocking people around. Solid play by these veterans tonight.
5. FLORIDA'S BEST UNITS ARE …: Wide receiver and the secondary. Both will get their first real test next week against the Vols, who have to be impressed. I think that Chad Jackson and Andre Caldwell are a step ahead of everybody else in terms of talent and sheer playmaking ability. That's saying a lot when Dallas Baker and Jemalle Cornelius are your three and four guys.
The Florida secondary gets the nod over the defensive line at this point of the season. This secondary defused a potent Wyoming passing attack. They held quarterback Corey Bramlett to 150 yards passing and All-American candidate Jovon Bouknight to a rather meaningless touchdown reception with just over four minutes left in the game and the Gators commanding a 32-7 lead. Saturday, they held Louisiana Tech to 117 yards through the air.
Florida's Dallas Baker (81) is tackled and knocked out of bounds on the two-yard line by Louisiana Tech defenders Barry Robertson (34) and Alton Bryant, bottom, in the third quarter in Gainesville, Fla. Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005.(AP Photo/Peter Cosgrove)
The secondary picked Bramlett off once, and should have had two more which were dropped. Saturday, the Gators picked off Bulldogs quarterbacks Matt Kubik and Donald Allen three times, and dropped two others.
Certainly, I know dropped passes aren't something that should elicit praise. Fine, then credit them for being in position. Bramlett completed only 14 of 32 (44%). The combination of Kubik and Allen completed only 11 of 32 (34%). On the season, the Gators have allowed just 25 of 64 (39%) for one touchdown and four interceptions.
Obviously, the defensive line deserves credit for forcing quarterbacks into hurried or bad throws. On the other hand, how often has sound coverage by the secondary given the defensive front time to get off of the blocks and rattle the quarterback?
6. THIRD DOWN CONVERSIONS: Saturday the Gators were 3 of 13 (23%) in third down conversions. Last week, they finished 4 of 12 (33%). This was not a better team than Wyoming, especially throwing the football. Vanilla offensive football aside, Coach Meyer will certainly address the Gators woeful 28% third down conversion rate.
7. PENALTIES: We're back! The Gators committed nine penalties for an unimpressive 85 yards today. Florida committed just four for 30 yards in the season opener.
8. RED ZONE OFFENSE: Give an assist to the "Urb" as he fired up his team and the entire Swamp by pumping his fist as Florida went for it on fourth and one in the first quarter. The Gators went four for six in the red zone, after going four for five last week.
9. SCREENS: Louisiana Tech running back Mark Dillard caught a screen pass from quarterback Matt Kubin and rumbled 21 yards for a first down. The Vols fullback Corey Swain hauled in three passes in Tennessee's season opener, while tailback Gerald Riggs Jr. caught one pass.
10. MARKUS MANSON: Florida's running game emerged. DeShawn Wynn rushed for 106 yards and a 6.3 yard average. Wynn looked good. His 50-yard run was outstanding. Personally though, I was very encouraged by the quickness and speed with which Manson hit the hole for a 6.8 yard average. There was no thinking this week. Manson took the ball and ran with it. He definitely looked much better than last week.
HUGE BONUS POINT --- SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY: Louisiana Tech had a pair of kickoff returns that covered a lot of acreage. Eric Newman brought one back 38 yards and Patrick Jackson 27 yards. Vernell Brown forced Newman to fumble on his 38 yard return. Unfortunately, the ball went out of bounds. Whether it was a missed tackle or getting out of your assigned lane, those mistakes are costly in SEC play.
Brown did not look comfortable at all returning punts, including his fumbled fair catch. Thankfully, Florida was able to retain possession. The one return looked as though he might make an adventure of it as he had a lane, but the play was shut down when gunner Johnathan Holland and blocker Avery Atkins came down in front of him. Brown wasn't able to side step them.
Andre Caldwell looked a solid as always returning the ball with one exception. Caldwell fumbled the ball on a 29 yard return in large part because he didn't switch hands to protect it from a hit. DeShawn Wynn also broke free into the secondary with the ball on the wrong side. Tennessee will prey on those types of mistakes and poor special teams play.