ARMCHAIR QB: Grading the Gators vs. Vandy

Whew! The Florida Gators defeated Vanderbilt University Commodores 49 - 42 in double overtime on Saturday night in the SWAMP. Florida led 35 - 21 with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter, when Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler led the Commodores on two touchdown drives to tie the score and force overtime.

In the first overtime both teams traded scores, in the second overtime Florida scored first, then cornerback Reggie Lewis playing in place of injured Vernell Brown, intercepted Cutler to end the game and securing the Gator victory.


IMPRESSIVE: Reggie Lewis, Chris Leak, the offensive line, Marcus Manson, defensive line, the running backs

SOLID: Receivers, linebacking, special teams

NEED WORK: Reggie Lewis and the secondary, the hands team for onside kicks, penalties


DEFENSIVE LINE: If Vanderbilt's quarterback Jay Cutler wasn't such a Houdini in avoiding the rush the Gators might have had numerous sacks, as it was defensive end Jarvis Moss recorded the only sack. Against the run the defensive line, led by defensive end Jeremy Mincey's 6 tackles were virtually impenetrable, allowing just 58 yards against the run and recording 3 tackles for losses. GRADE A-

LINEBACKERS: Brandon Siler was once again Johnny on the spot recovering two fumbles for the Gators and recording 5 tackles including one tackle for loss. With Siler blitzing on almost every play, Earl Everett was left to play pass coverage. Everett broke up a couple of pass plays, while recording 5 tackles. Todd McCullough was steady but didn't play as much as Florida was in nickel and dime coverage for most of the night. GRADE B+

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Definitely a mixed bag of results. Cornerbacks Vernell Brown, Dee Webb and the aforementioned Reggie Lewis were victimized all night by Vanderbilt's passing game allowing the Commodore to rack up 361 passing yards much of it coming on inside slant and middle crossing patterns. Yet Brown had an interception, before leaving the game with a broken leg, and of course Lewis had the game-ending pick. Safeties Jarvis Herring and Reggie Nelson led all Florida tacklers with 8 and 7 tackles respectfully. However, several of the tackles were downfield after a Commodore completion. GRADE C-

OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line had arguably its' best game of the year. Starters Randy Hand, Tavares Washington, Mike Degory, Steve Rissler, and Randy Hand and reserve lineman Drew Miller helped the Gators bang out 191 yards on the ground, while allowing just one sack. Vanderbilt did not choose to blitz often, which allowed the offensive line to force rushers to the outside, forming a nice pocket for Florida quarterback Chris Leak to step up into, with a clear view downfield. On running plays Florida was able to move the line of scrimmage and create running lanes, which were also used very effectively with the inside shovel pass. GRADE A

RECEIVERS: Florida lost receiver Dallas Baker to a back injury in the second half; Baker had only one reception for 12 yards. Chad Jackson, a somewhat forgotten player these last few weeks picked up the slack catching 8 balls for 53 yards and a touchdown, while adding two rushes for 11 yards and a touchdown. Jermalle Cornelius added another 4 catches for 34 yards and the game winning touchdown reception in double overtime. With Baker out injured and Jackson and Cornelius still suffering the effects on leg injuries sustained earlier in the season, Florida needed help at receiver. Help arrived in the form of Kenneth Tookes, 4 catches for 36 yards, Nyan Boateng 1 catch for 11 yards and tight end Tate Casey who had one catch for 12 yards. GRADE B+

RUNNING BACKS: Collectively and individually the running back corps for the Gators were outstanding. When starter DeShawn Wynn, 4 carries 20 yards, one reception for nine yards, left the game for good after the first offensive series when he re-injured his shoulder, Florida turned to redshirt freshman Marcus Manson and true freshman Kestahn Moore. Both players were exceptional, Manson got most of the work, displayed his impressive quickness by carrying a career high 18 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, while adding another 48 yards on six receptions. Meanwhile, Moore carried 3 times 48 yards and added 30 yards on 3 receptions including a 9 yard scoring reception for Florida's second score in which Moore broke several tackles and showed incredible toughness before willing himself into the endzone with several Vanderbilt defenders hanging on for dear life. Fullback Billy Latsko even chipped in with a couple of catches for 12 yards. GRADE A+

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak had his best game during the Urban Meyer era. Leak finished with 3 touchdown passes and 257 yards passing, completing 32 passes on 41 attempts. More impressive was the fact that Leak led all Florida rushers with 67 yards and 2 touchdowns on 12 attempts. Leak looked comfortable in the pocket, choosing to scramble for positive yards on several occasions when his receivers were covered. Leak also looked solid on the option series, carrying several times for positive yards. GRADE A+

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Florida kicker Chris Hetland missed his first field goal attempt of the season, Punter returner Vernell Brown was lost for the game when he broke his leg returning a punt, and Florida allowed Vanderbilt to recover an onside kick. Otherwise special teams and kicking were pretty solid. Hetland made all his extra point attempts and punter Eric Wilbur average over 44 yards a punt with 3 punts downed inside the 20-yard line. Coverage teams were solid if not spectacular. GRADE B

COACHING: Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen used a balance attack featuring 42 rushes and 41 passes to move the ball at will against the Commodores. The only thing stopping Florida's offense on Saturday was Florida. Vanderbilt chose to play a basic zone defense, which forced Florida to use a controlled passing attack, the longest reception was for just 16 yards, and featured several check downs to running backs as Florida could not get deep against Vanderbilt. Co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison saw their worst fears realized on Saturday night. Despite playing very aggressively on defense, Florida could not get to Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler, and forced the Gator cornerbacks, playing primarily man to man, to cover the Commodore receivers for longer than normally required and obviously Vanderbilt took advantage of the situation. Special teams coach Urban Meyer may need to explain why the regular kickoff coverage team was sent onto the field after Vanderbilt's fourth score, since everybody in the stadium figured the onside kick was coming. GRADE Offense A Defense B- Head coach B

FANS: All the fans that left with 5 minutes to go in the game and Florida up by 14 points missed a lot of football. The students moving from one endzone to the other in the east stands during the overtime was pretty neat to watch. Those fans that stayed were loud and rewarded for their efforts. GRADE B+


Thank goodness Jay Cutler is a senior, he and his ability to avoid the rush was the only thing keeping Vanderbilt in the game, otherwise Florida blows the Commodores out. Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson is a dead ringer for comedian Steve Martin. Marcus Manson hits the hole as quick as anybody I've seen in a long time. It should be noted that the slants and square-ins Vanderbilt used so effectively against the Gators are the bread and butter plays of a certain former Florida head coach now residing in Columbia, SC. Best wishes for an Orange and Blue Saturday next week. OVERALL GRADE: B+

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

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