Defense: (A) and (C-)
Starters: (A) The starters have only given up one full drive that resulted in points all season, and that was against Tennessee. Kentucky's offense got the ball deep on the first drive as a result of a blocked punt. The defense allowed 74 total yards in the first half and no points after the "gimme" touchdown from 16 yards out in the half. The Gators were in the quarterback's face the entire first half and it resulted in two Earl Everett interceptions. Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey got some early playing time up front and looked good.
Backups: (C-) They started strong, but lost their luster once the new quarterback came in. When Kentucky's starting quarterback Andre Woodson went down with an injury, backup quarterback and freshman Curtis Pulley stepped in and did his Vince Young imitation, leading the Wildcats to 21 unanswered points. The second teamers had their moments, but not enough for the head coach who had to bring in the starters late in the game.
Taking Care of the Ball: (A)
Turnover margin may be the most important statistic in football out side of the final score. The Gators have been very good at not turning the ball over this year and only backup quarterback Josh Portis' fumble late in the game blemished this statistic for this game. The Gators intercepted the ball three times and recovered a fumble. On the season the Gators have turned the ball over only twice and have taken the ball away 10 times.
Red Zone Scoring (A)
The starters were 7 of 7 in the red zone all seven were touchdowns. Only Josh Portis' fumble kept the offense from being perfect in this category Saturday.
Special Teams (C)
Nick Fleming and Chris Hetland saved the grade. Eric Wilbur consistently kicks and punts the ball to the wrong place on the field causing multiple long returns from the units. That and the kickoff coverage just hasn't been good all year. Kentucky does have a good return unit, but that is no excuse. The blocked punt was a product of the back field blocker taking the wrong rusher in the punt formation I have never been a fan of.
When talking about the kickoffs after the game, Meyer said, "We're going to have to re-evaluate that whole thing."
Players of the Game
Chris Leak was as sharp as I have ever seen him, and that says a lot for Leak. He was 25 of 32 passing on the night with 319 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. He ran the option and the running game that Meyer has been wanting him to like he has never done before. He was exceptional on the day.
"I thought Chris Leak played terrific," Meyer said after the game. "That's the best he's thrown the ball in practice, warm-ups, conditioning, whenever he has thrown the ball. I thought he had that look in his eye… he's taking care of the ball."
"I thought Chris ran the option well today," Meyer said. "It's the first time he has pulled it and pitched it and we had some nice looking plays. When we first put this in -- in the spring -- he looked at us like wow, I am really going to have to read that end and he's fast. There is a little gamesmanship to it, where if I am reading the end and he is leaning, I have to pull (the ball) at the last second. I thought he did a good job with that. I think it is just repetition and confidence."
Earl Everett missed one against Tennessee, but got his first two interceptions of his career Saturday. Everett was held back in some of the things he is going to do until the Tennessee game and he had a sack and almost an interception in that one. Everett is a difference-maker on defense and my preseason pick for defensive MVP.
"It felt real good, these were my first two interceptions at the University of Florida," Everett said after the game. "On our defense there are so many play makers, at any given time we don't know who it's going to be (making plays). I feel comfortable and confident going through the plays, (compared to) last year. I can just react now."
It certainly looks like Jemalle Cornelius got the message this week when Meyer said his part in the offense would triple. Cornelius was there to answer the bell and Chris Leak was ready to get him the ball. Cornelius had a career high 138 yards on eight receptions and looked extremely comfortable and fluid on the field.
"I thought Jemalle Cornelius played brilliant," Meyer said. "One guy goes down -- Bubba Caldwell -- the next guy comes in and we challenged him to go harder, and he did."
"I love Jemalle Cornelius, I love that kid," continued Meyer. "You talk about all the right things, he is about all the right things. I am so proud of him. He has a big ole smile on his face and he had his best day as a Gator."
The play of Jarvis Moss getting pressure on the quarterback was a welcome sight for Gator fans. The red-shirt sophomore from Denton, Texas was expected to miss half the season suffering from an infection. He has missed the better part of two seasons for the same infection that went unidentified for years. He played on two downs in each of the previous two games before entering in the first half and often on Saturday. He applied pressure and showed glimpses of what he may be capable of. Coach Meyer was a little rough on him for the personal foul call and a shot to the head of the quarterback, but he played well.
"He had two penalties on one play, I might have to make him sit on the wing on the way home," Meyer joked after the game. "No, it was good to see him out there. The best thing about him is -- that is someone's son that is (finally) healthy and living right."