ARMCHAIR QB: Grading the Gators vs. USC

Urban Meyer and The Florida Gators got a coaching lesson from the "Old Ball Coach" on Saturday in Columbia, SC when Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks defeated the Gators 30-22. Florida seemed bent on self-destruction as the Gamecocks played it close to the vest. Penalties, an interception, and a pair of missed tackles were all that South Carolina needed to end Florida's hopes of an SEC Eastern division title.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE:

The running game, Marcus Thomas

SOLID:

Jarvis Moss, Chad Jackson, Billy Latsko, Deshawn Wynn, Marcus Manson, Kestahn Moore

NEED WORK:

Penalties, pretty much anybody not listed above

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: Defensive tackle Marcus Thomas came to play recording six tackles including two sacks and a quarterback hurry, plus had a blocked extra point on special teams. Defensive ends Jeremy Mincey and Jarvis Moss were solid. The rest of the defensive line, however, evidently didn't make the plane as neither defensive end/tackle Ray McDonald nor DE Stephen Harris recorded a stat and DE Joe Cohen only had 1 tackle for a 2-yard loss. The result Florida got decent pressure on the Gamecocks quarterback but couldn't stop the run. GRADE C

LINEBACKERS: Earl Everett had a decent game leading all Florida tacklers with eight. Most of the time Everett was chasing the USC running back down after he broke through the line of scrimmage past the defensive line. With Florida playing a lot of zone in anticipation of the Gamecocks passing attack, MLB Brandon Siler was rendered almost completely ineffective recording just a single tackle. Todd McCullough was used sparingly as Florida played a nickel package most of the day. Brian Crum saw action at linebacker, but was a non-factor as well. GRADE C-

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Except for one notable exception the defensive secondary tackled well. They had too, as USC chose to run the ball more than pass and the secondary was forced to make tackles. While the secondary limited the Gamecocks to just 120 yards passing and just seven reception, CB Dee Webb was called for 4 penalties (3 for interference) and Webb and S Kyle Jackson missed a tackle that resulted in a 64-yard pass completion in the third quarter that changed the momentum of the game. GRADE D

OFFENSIVE LINE: Florida ran the ball very effectively behind the offensive line as Florida got 168 yards from it's running game. Unfortunately, the pass protection suffered as the Gators gave up 5 sacks. Additionally, two penalties back to back, an illegal procedure and a holding call, killed a promising drive in the third quarter, which might have keyed a Gator comeback. GRADE C

RECEIVERS: Chad Jackson was solid catching 9 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, while Jermalle Cornelius added 5 catches for 64 yards. Dallas Baker, who was slowed by injuries, caught just 2 passes for 20 yards. No other receiver had a catch. Florida used the short passing game effectively, but was unable to come up with a big play when needed late in the game. GRADE B

RUNNING BACKS: Florida running back by committee approach produced solid results averaging over 5.8 yards a carry. DeShawn Wynn, Marcus Manson, Kestahn Moore and Billy Latsko all contributed to the success. Wynn had 11 rushes for 73 yards, Manson 13 carries for 57 yards, Moore 5 carries for 38 yards, and Latsko added 2 catches for 31 yards and a touchdown. GRADE B

QUARTERBACK: Despite getting off to a bad start, Chris Leak's first pass attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage intercepted and returned to the Gator 5-yard line to setup the Gamecocks first score, Chris Leak finished with respectable stats, completing 18 of 31 pass attempts for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Most troubling was that Leak looked indecisive at times, double clutching his release, not getting the ball off quick enough, which contributed to his 5 sacks on the day. GRADE C

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Kicker Chris Hetland made all of the kicks he attempted. After that special teams were pretty much a disaster. Starting with Florida kicking the opening kick out of bounds for a penalty and ending with the Gators having too many players on the field for USC's last punt attempt, the special teams had an off day. Punter Eric Wilbur averaged just over 38 yards a punt, the Gators just fielded one punt return for a whopping 2 yards, and only two kickoff returns for just 51 yards. GRADE D

COACHING: Offensively, offensive coordinator Dan Mullen's decision to use the running game and the short passing game against the SEC's 11th ranked rushing defense of South Carolina seemed solid. The Gators moved the ball effectively throughout the first three quarters, only stopping themselves with penalties. However, Mullen's decision to stick with this game plan when time began to run out and not move to a hurry up offense seems dubious at best. Meanwhile, co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison's decision to abandon their up-tempo, aggressive, blitzing defense in favor of a more traditional zone defense seemed to backfire. While effective for the most part against the pass, it allowed USC; the 12th rated rushing attack in the SEC, to rush for 120 yards. Head coach Urban Meyer's special teams have already been discussed. Furthermore, the fact that Meyer's Gators were unable to make adjustments to what the Gamecocks were doing is very disconcerting. GRADE Offense C+, Defense D, Overall D

FANS: The Florida faithful did what we, yes, I made the trip, could, but every time the Gators would do something good, they would follow it up by shooting themselves in the foot. Most of us stayed until the end. GRADE B

FINAL THOUGHTS

Penalties finally contributed in a meaningful way to the loss. Can't say I didn't see that coming. Why change the defense, what is the old adage about dancing with the one that brought you there. Coach Meyer still has plenty to learn about playing on the road in the SEC. Now I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of a Spurrier coached team, it ain't pretty. A victory of FSU would give the Gators victories of UT, UGA, and FSU this season, while respectable, it will fall short of the promise this season held. To sum it up, Saturday was a case of could've, should've, would've. OVERALL GRADE: D

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


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