Armchair QB: Grading The Gators vs. LTU

It is Monday Morning and the Armchair Quarterback grades the Gators on their performance vs. Louisiana Tech University.

Led by a stout defense and the return of wayward running back DeShawn Wynn the Florida Gators defeated the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs 41 - 3 on Saturday evening. While the Gators found their running attack against the Bulldogs, they lost their passing attack for the first half, before scoring two touchdowns in the 3rd quarter to put the game away and emptying the bench during the final period. Penalties, special teams and a fairly vanilla offense that sputtered at times made many wonder if this team is ready for what lies in wait next week, the SEC home opener against the University of Tennessee.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE: Reggie Nelson and Vernell Brown lead the defense for a second straight week

SOLID: Deshawn Wynn and the running game with help from the offensive line

NEED WORK: Penalties, special teams, and the passing game.

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: While Louisiana Tech is not the running juggernaut of a team like Tennessee the Gator defensive front made short work of any notion the Bulldogs had of running the ball. A slight adjustment by the defensive front after the second series shut down the Bulldog running attack, helping to limit them to just 45 yards on the ground. Starters Jeremy Mincey, Ray McDonald, Marcus Thomas and Steven Harris were also able to get solid pressure on the Bulldogs quarter. Backups Joe Cohen, Derrick Harvey, Clint McMillan, and Lutrell Alford were just as good as the starters when inserted into the game, with Harvey recording a sack, Cohen a tackle for loss, and Alford forcing a fumble. GRADE B+

LINEBACKERS: Other than Todd McCullough's pass interception, there didn't seem to be many notable plays by the linebackers this week. That doesn't mean the linebackers were not active, just that Saturday's game was more of the blue collar, lunch pail variety. Earl Everett had more opportunities this week recording 5 tackles and a pass breakup, while Brandon Siler had four tackles and quarterback hurry. Reserves Brian Crum, Billy Latsko, and Jon Demps got some much-needed experience, but produced nothing noteworthy. GRADE B

DEFENSIVE BACKS: The Louisiana Tech Bulldog receivers must have thought Florida was playing with 11 defensive backs, all of whom were occupying their hip pocket. Led by the stellar play of Vernell Brown and Reggie Nelson the Gators secondary covered the Bulldogs passing attack like a blanket, limiting Louisiana Tech to just 117 yards passing. Nelson had a sack and 5 tackles, Brown had 5 tackles and a pass breakup, Dee Webb and Kyle Jackson contributed a pass interception each, and backup safety Tony Joiner, seeing significant playing time, recovered a fumble. GRADE A

OFFENSIVE LINE: The question to be asked is did the offensive line get better this week or was Louisiana Tech's defensive line just overmatched, probably some of both. Clearly the offensive lined produced better results than last week as Florida ground out 251 yards rushing. Pass protection was adequate but allowed 3 sacks again this week. Overall, the offensive line seemed improved over last week. The second team line opened some nice holes in the fourth quarter against a worn down Bulldog defense. GRADE C+

RECEIVERS: Chad Jackson had his second consecutive 100-yard game, thanks to a beautiful 80-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. Dallas Baker seemed to have the better all around game catching 5 balls for 63 yards and throwing several solid downfield blocks. Andre Caldwell had a nice run on the reverse to set up a touchdown, but only one catch for 26 yards. With Florida emphasizing the run, Florida only attempted eight or nine passes in the first half, the Gator receivers didn't get many opportunities, but still, they managed to provide several solid plays. A couple of drops and untimely penalties made it seem like only an average evening for the receivers. GRADE B-

RUNNING BACKS: DeShawn Wynn stated his case for being Florida's starting tailback. The much talked about tailback showed his speed with a 50 yard run, his power with 2 touchdown plunges of 1 yard each, and his hands with a 24 yard touchdown reception. Wynn finished with 101 yards on 16 carries. That Florida was going to feature the running game and Wynn in particular was apparent with the second series of the day, as Wynn account for all 57 yards, bulling over from the one yard line on fourth and goal, of the Gators' first scoring drive. After giving the ball just 15 times to the running backs last week, Gator running backs touched the ball 32 times this week. Marcus Manson got most of the carries Wynn did not rushing 10 times for 68 yards in the fourth quarter. GRADE A

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak was five for eight and only 66 yards with one touchdown in the first half, but his three incompletions looked worse than his production looked good, Leak also lost a fumble. However, Leak bounced back in the second half to finish with 12 completions on 23 attempts for 219-yards, 2 touchdowns throwing and 2 rushing touchdowns. Leak had a nice 22-yard touchdown run to start the scoring in the second half off the option and followed that with an 80-yard touchdown strike to Chad Jackson. Leak appeared more comfortable with the option this week. Josh Portis got to attempt his first passes going 1 for 2. Portis reminded everybody he is only a freshman with minus two yards rushing. Gavin Dickey had a couple of plays at quarterback, but they didn't turn out that well. Cornelius Ingram saw action in mop up duty. GRADE C+

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Special teams were inconsistent all evening. Punter Eric Wilbur muffed a punt snap and had 2 kickoffs go out of bounds, but averaged 42 yards a punt. Chris Hetland missed an extra point, but made three others, backup kicker Eric Nappy made both of his extra point attempts. Punt returner Vernell Brown muffed a punt; kickoff returner Andre Caldwell had a nice 29-yard return that ended in a fumble. Kickoff coverage continues to be only so-so. Grade C-

COACHING: Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen clearly wanted to concentrate on his running game as the Gators rushed 49 times on Saturday. The results seemed satisfactory given the quality of the opposition. It appeared that the Gators didn't want to show to much, with next weeks game against Tennessee looming large, as Florida's offense seemed very pedestrian as compared to last week when the Gators continually got the ball to it's playmakers at wide receiver. Co-Defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison have to be pretty excited about the way the defense is playing. Defensively the Gators used just enough of their blitz package to keep next weeks opponent guessing while completely shutting down the Bulldogs offense. Florida allowed just 162 yards of total offense with the only score set up by a fumble and 15-yard unsportsman like penalty. Head coach Urban Meyer showed a lot of emotional spirit, much to the delight of the crowd with his decision to go for it on fourth and goal in the first quarter. But Coach Meyer, who coaches the special teams, needs to find some answers for the play of the special teams. Meyer seemed to have the team focused on Louisiana tech, but nine penalties after committing only four last week says otherwise. GRADE Offensive B Defensive A Coach Meyer gets a B

FANS: The Gator Nation might have been a little guilty of looking ahead to next week's opponent, the University of Tennessee. Once Florida got the lead, most of the fans appeared to settle down in an effort to get the game over and move on to next week. Many fans left early, once the Gators broke the game open in the third quarter. Grade C

FINAL THOUGHTS

Glad to be 2 - 0. Dee Webb found his stick 'em, oh wait you can't use that in college football anymore. Florida has a lot more talent than Louisiana Tech The rash of penalties this week is a concern. Special teams do not look very special at this point. The defense appears to be much improved over last year and the secondary maybe one of the best Florida has ever had. The Gators have shown they can pass based on last week and run based on this week. Now can they prove they can do both in the same week. Wonder how Coach Meyer will handle the hype of Tennessee week? We are about to find out.

OVERALL GRADE: B

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


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