ARMCHAIR QB: Grading The Gators vs. MSU

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

On Saturday, before a homecoming crowd at the SWAMP, the Florida Gators avenged last year's loss to Mississippi State by defeating the Bulldogs 35 - 9. With the Gator offense struggling once again, the Gators got a tremendous game from its defense and special teams, which contributed a combine 17 points directly and indirectly helped setup another 12 points.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE:

Reggie Nelson, Jeremy Mincey, Brandon Siler, Dallas Baker and Eric Wilbur

SOLID:

Dee Webb and most of the secondary, Earl Everett, the defensive line, Marcus Manson, the receivers

NEED WORK:

The need to avoid penalties, the offense in general

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: Jeremy Mincey had a monster game that included 2 sacks and 10 tackles to lead a defensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage and kept heavy pressure on the Mississippi State quarterbacks all day. The Bulldogs had no answer as defensive tackles Steven Harris, Marcus Thomas and defensive end Joe Cohen who were able to tie up the interior line and funnel much of the action towards Mincey and the linebackers. The defensive line helped stuff the Bulldogs running game, allowing just 109 yards on the ground despite giving up a 76 yard touchdown run. GRADE A-

LINEBACKERS: Brandon Siler was everywhere and when he got there he made an impression. Siler was credited with just 4 tackles, one a bone jarring tackle for a six-yard loss on the bubble screen, another a one-yard sack for a safety, but contributed is so many other ways with a fumble recovery, a couple of passes broken up, and a couple of quarterback hurries, one of which knocked starting Bulldog quarterback Omar Conner out of the game. Earl Everett was hardly able to get noticed, contributing six tackles. GRADE A

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Reggie Nelson is a backup cornerback but plays almost as much as starters Dee Webb and Vernell Brown and when he does play he plays wonderfully. Nelson had two sacks and quarterback hurry from his corner position while contributing 5 tackles overall. Nelson's best play of the day may have been when he ran down Mississippi State receiver Keon Humphries after a 56-yard reception to save a touchdown to end the first half. Despite a huge lead Nelson showed great speed and pursuit angle to track down Humphries. Dee Webb had a solid game at corner contributing several tackles, while safety Jarvis Herring and reserve Tony Joiner were effective in run support. Vernell Brown went virtually untested as the Gator secondary shut down the Bulldogs' passing attacked, holding Mississippi State to just 134 yards including the aforementioned 56-yard reception. GRADE A

OFFENSIVE LINE: Florida's offensive line seemed to have a better day against a decent defensive line. Florida was able to get 191-yards on the ground while giving up just two sacks. Florida's offensive line was to able block effectively for the shovel pass, which the Gators emphasized throughout the day. The o-line was also able to get outside and downfield to help with wide receiver screens. GRADE B

RECEIVERS: Last week wide receiver Dallas Baker had a career day in a losing effort against Alabama, this week Baker was even better, making 7 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. With Jermalle Cornelius sideline with an injury, Florida has lost, along with Andre Caldwell, two of its best playmakers; Baker has tried to take up the slack, showing an ability to get yards after catch. Chad Jackson added another 7 seven catches for 78 yards, but had a costly fumble when trying to stretch for a touchdown near the goal line. Jackson also had 28 yards on 4 carries. With Florida big four receivers down to two, true freshman Nyan Boateng was pressed into service and delivered a couple of catches for 44 yards. Gavin Dickey also added a twelve-yard catch. GRADE B

RUNNING BACKS: Running back by committee produced 108 yards on 22 carries with one touchdown, plus 4 receptions for 32 yards. DeShawn Wynn had a nice 13-yard touchdown run showing some tough power running. Marcus Manson looked the quickest, leading all runners with 7 carries for 45 yards. Kestahn Moore struggled with two fumbles. Skyler Thornton looked like the odd guy out this week carrying only twice for 16 yards. GRADE C+

QUARTERBACK: After the game it was disclosed that quarterback Chris Leak had a sore shoulder that required Leak to get a painkilling shot before the start of the game. This may explain why Leak had such a dismal first half. Leak finished the first half completing just 7 passes on 16 attempts for 60 something yards and one interception. The effects of the shot must have worn off some in the second half as Leak finished with 18 completions on 33 attempts for 244 yards one touchdown and two interceptions. Josh Portis' education continued as he got work, going 3 for 5 for 45 yards with an interception when he didn't see the Bulldog defender drop into coverage. GRADE B

KICKING/SPECIALTY: It is doubtful if the special teams and kicking game could have played any better. Kicker Chris Hetland made all his extra points and field goals. Punter Eric Wilbur had a huge game punting, averaging over 47 yards a punt with 5 punts inside the 20, including one downed by Jarvis Herring inside the one and another downed by Reggie Nelson inside the one, both of which were turned into safeties by the defense. On punt coverage Reggie Nelson recovered a muffed punt, which Florida turned into a touchdown. Meanwhile, Dee Webb blocked a punt that Terrance Holmes caught in midair for a touchdown. Marcus Manson gave a spark to the kickoff return team by returning 4 kicks for 92 yards and Vernell Brown added another 38 yards on 5 punt returns. GRADE A+

COACHING: Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen moved up to the coaches box this week. In retrospect Mullen was probably trying to protect the injured arm of Chris Leak as Florida offense relied heavily on the throwing the ball to the outside receivers on the screen and running the middle using the shovel pass. While the Gators rolled up almost 500 yards of offense it didn't seem to have the consistency or scoring punch one would expect. Still, it did seem that the offense was able to move at times in the second half. Defensively, the Gators were excellent. Except for two plays, which accounted for 129 of the 243 yards Mississippi State gained, Florida stuffed the Bulldogs. Co defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Chris Mattison used a variety of blitz packages to confuse freshman Mike Henig who replaced the injured Omar Conner for the Bulldogs. The Gator defense finished the day with two safeties, six sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception. Coach Meyer obviously had his special teams ready to play, now if can just get something done with the penalties. GRADE Offense B-, Defense A+, Overall A-

FANS: You could tell it was a homecoming. Due to the 12:30 pm start time; a lot of the students didn't get there until about 12:45. Meanwhile a bunch of folks seemed to disappear early in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the fans weren't needed much GRADE C

FINAL THOUGHTS

Does Reggie Nelson play offense? Every time Nelson is on the field it seems like good things happen, Nelson is definitely a playmaker. Penalties' wiped out several positive plays, the Gators must find a way to stop the penalties before it comes back to haunt them. Now we know why Florida seemed unwilling to throw the ball down field against Mississippi State. Hopefully, Leak's shoulder will be better for LSU because the Gators will need to throw downfield against the Tigers. Can the defense and special teams continue to carry the Gators? I wish I knew.

OVERALL GRADE: B+

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


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