OUTBACK BOWL: Grading The Gators vs. Iowa

In a rematch of the 2004 Outback Bowl the Florida Gators defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes 31 - 24 In the 2006 Outback Bowl, played in Tampa, FL. The Gators scored via the offense, defense and special teams enroute to their first bowl victory since the 2002 Orange Bowl.

Head coach Urban Meyer joins Steve Spurrier and Ray Graves in the Gator record book as coaches with the most victories in their initial season, while the team and fans will have an off-season thinking about what is to come, instead of what might have been.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

IMPRESSIVE: Chris Leak., Dallas Baker, Marcus Thomas, Vernell Brown, Urban Meyer, a win in a bowl game

SOLID: Offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, secondary, special teams, Kestahn Moore

NEED WORK: Game wasn't picture perfect and there is still plenty to work on, but there is plenty of time between now and the next game to work on all areas of the team.

THE GRADES

DEFENSIVE LINE: Marcus Thomas led a defensive line that was stout against the run, allowing Iowa just 64 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, with Iowa playing from behind most of the day, the defensive line couldn't get much of a pass rush, sacking Hawkeye quarterback Drew Tate only once. GRADE B

LINEBACKERS: Brandon Siler led the way with 6 tackles while Earl Everett record 5 tackles. Todd McCullough was as reliable as ever. Brian Crum saw plenty of action at outside linebacker, playing on obvious passing downs, and was solid if not spectacular. Due to the dictates of the game, the linebacking corps spent much of the day in pass coverage and chasing receivers across the field rather than stuffing the run. GRADE B

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Dee Webb led all Florida tacklers with 15 mainly because Iowa completed 32 passes trying to play catch up, which meant that the secondary had to make a lot of tackles. In fact the starting secondary of Webb, Vernell Brown, Jarvis Herring and Kyle Jackson were the top 4 tacklers in the game for the Gators. The highlight of the secondary was turned in by Vernell Brown, who picked off a pass and returned it 60 yards for a touchdown, midway through the second period. GRADE A

OFFENSIVE LINE: Except for 4 penalties for false starts/illegal procedure Monday may have been the offensive lines best game this season. Tackles Randy Hand and Lance Butler, Guards Steve Rissler and Tavares Washington, Center Mike Degory, along with reserve Drew Miller controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the game. The line was able open holes for the running game to pound out 169 yards on the ground, while allowing just two sacks. GRADE A

RECEIVERS: Dallas Baker delivered on all those preseason expectations enroute to MVP honors by collecting 10 catches for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns. Baker who at times through-out his career has been know to make the tough catch while letting the easy one get away was the total package on Monday. Baker showed sure hands and used his body to shield the ball from the defender or simply out jump the smaller Iowa defenders as he did on his first touchdown reception Chad Jackson had 7 catches for 74 yards to tie Carlos Alvarez for most catches in a season at 88. Tate Casey, Jermalle Cornelius and seldom-used Kenneth Tookes totaled another 5 receptions for 49 yards. GRADE A

RUNNING BACKS: Kestahn Moore got the start and showed that the running back position could be in good hands in the future. Moore got career highs in carries (13) and yards (88) that featured a 29-yard scamper on his first carry DeShawn Wynn and Marcus Manson were solid in support churning out 47 yards on 12 carries. Fullback Billy Latsko got a carry, but more on that later. GRADE B

QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak had his best game this season directing the offense. Leak seemed in complete control of the offense, racking up 278 yards in the air completing 25 passes on 40 attempts and 2 touchdowns with no interception, while adding another 31 yards on 13 carries. Leak would have easily been named MVP for the game had it not been Dallas Baker. GRADE A

KICKING/SPECIALTY: Kind of a mixed bag, on the negative side was a missed field goal, a momentum changing kickoff return after a Florida score and a muffed punt to setup an Iowa score, on the positive side was a blocked punt for a touchdown on Iowa's first possession to open the scoring, a 46.3 punting average, and other than the one kickoff coverage solid coverage units. The special teams play of the day belonged to Billy Latsko, who rumbled and I do mean rumbled for 5 yards off the fake punt on 4th and 1 from Florida's OWN 19 yard with a little over 5 minutes to play and momentum decidedly in the Hawkeye's favor. The positives outweighed the negatives. GRADE B

COACHING: Offensively, Dan Mullen, Florida's offensive coordinator used motion to pull Iowa's outstanding linebackers out of the middle of the field and then sent runners, Chris Leak included, up the middle for solid gains. Meanwhile, the Gators used the controlled passing game to setup big plays, throwing touchdowns passes of 24 and 38 yards. Defensively, defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison eschewed their usual blitz happy defense in favor of a bend but don't break attitude. Drive by the dictates of the game, Florida gave up the short pass, allowing the Hawkeye's to rack up 346 yards and 3 touchdowns, but allowed only 2 passes over 20 yards. Head coach Urban Meyer had the troops primed and ready, speaking about the need to win this bowl game leading up to the game, Meyer put his money where his mouth was when he called the fake punt from the Gator's OWN 19-yard late in the game. GRADE Offense A, Defense B-, Overall I Can't Wait 'til Next Year A+

FANS: As would be expected there were more of the Gator faithful than there were Iowa fans, but there was a surprising number of Iowa fans. Since Tampa Stadium only holds 65,000 plus, it isn't the SWAMP, but the Gator faithful did their part and stayed loud and long. GRADE B+

FINAL THOUGHTS After three years of losing bowl games, it sure was nice to win one. I can't think of a more poetic and poignant moment than watching Vernell Brown return a pass interception 60 yards for a touchdown. I'll miss Mike Degory, Randy Hand, and Lance Butler. I want Dallas Baker to graduate on time in August so he can regain his last year on eligibility. He deserves one last hurrah. I want Dallas BakICoach Meyer shall henceforth be referred to as Stones, he may not have any brains but he has guts galore. After the Outback and the first year under Urban Meyer I will paraphrase that line from that old rock n roll song. The future looks bright; we are going to need shades. OVERALL GRADE: A-

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


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