ARMCHAIR QB: Grading The Gators vs. UT

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

On a hot humid night in the SWAMP, the Florida Gators defeated the University of Tennessee 16 - 7 because of defense and special teams. Coach Urban Meyer fielded questions all summer about how his spread option offense against a quality SEC opponent would fair, the answer to which is still uncertain. What is certain is that Meyer is certainly capable of coaching a game based on SEC old school football. Shugg Jordan, Bear Bryant and Vince Dooley would have been proud as Meyer used a solid defense, solid kicking, opportunistic special teams, and just enough offense to beat a very good and determined Volunteer team.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE:

Jeremy Mincey, Marcus Thomas, Steve Harris, Ray McDonald, Joe Cohen, Derrick Harvey, Brandon Siler, Earl Everett, Todd, McCullough, Vernell Brown, Dee Webb, Jarvis Herring, Kyle Jackson, Tony Joiner, Reggie Lewis, Reggie Nelson, and anybody else I missed from the defense. Chris Hetland, James Smith, Eric Wilbur, Tremaine McCollum from the special teams, along with everybody else from special teams.

SOLID:
The receivers, Chris Leak, DeShawn Wynn, the offensive line.

NEED WORK:
Penalties, of special note should be the penalties about lining up to start the play or illegal motion, pass protection, both scheme and execution, getting rid of the ball

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE:

This had all the making of a mismatch, as Tennessee outweighed the Gators by an average of 40 pounds per man, When Ray McDonald went down with a injury midway through the second quarter things didn't look so good for the defense line. Enter Joe Cohen and Derrick Harvey who filled in admirably for McDonald and along with Mincey, Harris and Thomas were able to neutralize the much larger Tennessee lineman. This allowed the linebackers and safeties to fill the voids or shoot the gaps, which helped limit the Vols to just 66 yards on the ground and 147 yards in the air.
GRADE A

LINEBACKERS:

Thanks to the defensive line keeping Tennessee's lineman off them, linebackers Brandon Siler, Earl Everett and Todd McCullough we able to roam sideline-to-sideline making plays. Siler had six tackles, 2 for losses, got a quarterback pressure, and broke up two passes. Everett had five tackles, including a sack. McCullough contributed two tackles. Even when note credited with a tackle Siler and Everett were usually getting up from the pile
GRADE B+

DEFENSIVE BACKS:

These guys are good. Except for one uncontested touchdown pass, the secondary clamped down on the Vol receivers, allowing Tennessee just 147 yards on just 16 completions in 35 attempts. Possibly the most impressive aspect of this secondary was their ability to tackle. Whether it was in run support or after a reception, this secondary just did not miss a tackle.
GRADE A+

OFFENSIVE LINE:

Against a very good defensive front seven the offensive line struggled at times on Saturday night. Whether it was talent or a funky defensive scheme, at times Tennessee had none of the defensive front seven in a three point stance, but rather standing along the line of scrimmage, Florida had trouble picking up their blocking assignments. Yet at times Florida offensive linemen were able get a good enough push for some solid gains only to have the played called back due to a penalty. Still with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, the o-line was good enough to grind out a 16 play 68-yard drive for a score. While the line gave up 5 sacks, the first two looked more line a protection scheme failure, as Florida had no one to block the backside cornerback on the delayed blitz.
GRADE C

RECEIVERS:
Andre Caldwell was looking to have a breakout performance when he broke his leg to start the second half. Caldwell accounted for Florida's only touchdown with a 19-yard score on a reverse. Caldwell also caught 2 balls for 26 yards. Chad Jackson led all receivers with 8 catches for only 53 yards; Jackson did contribute a clutch 8-yard reception to keep Florida's final scoring drive alive. Jemalle Cornelius picked up the slack with 3 reception for 51-yards, highlighted by a 24-yard grab on Florida's final scoring drive. Dallas Baker continues his stellar blocking, throwing a key block on Caldwell's touchdown reverse, while adding 3 receptions for 32 yards. No other receiver caught a pass.
GRADE B+

RUNNING BACKS:
DeShawn Wynn would have had better stats had several of his rushes not been called back. Wynn was solid if not spectacular, accounting for 53 yards on a career high 17 carries and adding 17 yards on one pass reception. Wynn really showed his shiftiness on Florida 80-yard touchdown drive, Wynn left Vol defenders grabbing for air on a 16-yard run off tackle and a 17-yard reception down the sideline. Kestahn Moore added 14 yards on 5 carries as a reserve.
GRADE B+

QUARTERBACK:
Chris Leak didn't have his best performance on Saturday, completing only 17 passes in 26 attempts for just 179 yards and no touchdowns for the first time in 23 games. Leak seemed to struggle on his reads for both the option and in the passing game, Leaks inability to get rid of the ball contributed in two early sacks. What Leak did well was avoid turnovers, he threw no interceptions, and produce on third down. Leak helped the Gators convert 8 of 18 third down opportunities, with several clutch passes and a 17-yard run that featured a move Barry Sanders would have approved of. Leak didn't win the game, but he didn't loose it either.
GRADE C+

KICKING/SPECIALTY:
Wow! After the first two weeks the best that could be said for the kicking and special teams was that they were mediocre. Saturday night they all but won the game. Kickers Chris Hetland provided the winning scores with 3 second halve field goals, while punter Eric Wilbur averaged over 44 yards a punt. But no one will remember any of that as the game turned on three key special teams plays. The first was Dee Webb's blocked field goal attempt in the second quarter; Tennessee would not seriously threaten to score again. Then in the second halve Tremaine McCollum and James Smith recovered a muffed punt to setup one Florida field goal, while Tony Joiner broke up a pass off a fake punt to setup a second 3-point attempt.
GRADE B


COACHING:

Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen must have taken a page from the SEC playbook circa before the age of Steve Spurrier. Mullen didn't use a lot of the misdirection and reverses his spread-option offense is noted for instead he relied on a very basic offense scheme which appeared to be designed to control the clock and avoid turnovers or putting the defense in a bad situation. It wasn't very pretty, but it was effective. Co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison along with the rest of the defensive coaches have their charges playing defense as well as any Florida defense since the late 90's. Using their trademark blitzes along with some coverages not shown in the first two games, the defense allowed just on long touchdown drive, while holding the Vols to just 213 total yards and just 66 yards in the second half. While Meyer's decision to go for it on fourth and inches early in the third quarter was almost the second coming of "fourth and dumb", Meyer proved that he is capable of coaching against SEC quality competition. Meyer who coaches the special teams should get a game ball for their performance.
GRADE Defense A+, Offense B, Head Coach A-

FANS:

It was hot, really hot and muggy, but the Gator Nation proved why the SWAMP is one of the toughest venues in the country. The Gator faithful were loud really loud, contributing to two Tennessee penalties, one a false start, the other a delay of the game on Tennessee ill fated drive late in the second quarter. That is the way to rock the house. Nice job.
GRADE A+

FINAL THOUGHTS

Did anybody besides me feel like they had time warped back to the mid 70's to watch an old fashion SEC slobber knocker? If this defense ever learns to catch the ball, things could get real interesting. Ray McDonald and Andre Caldwell will be tough to replace, did this game cost the Gators too much. This is basically the same defensive personnel as last year, amazing what a year and a different scheme will do. The offense must find a way to improve, especially the silly penalties. A win is a win, this game wasn't pretty, but it was effective. I'll take it.
OVERALL GRADE: A

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


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