Hard not to give any Gator positions high marks for the performance in Rocky Top. Florida weathered the storm early, while the Vols were washed away. The Gators were better prepared, better coached and delivered new coach Ron Zook the perfect tonic for the nay-sayers in college football... a road win in Knoxville over a top five team.
Quarterback: A Rex Grossman threw two picks and had a fumble. So what. He willed this team to a win and found other receivers when there appeared to be nothing. His scramble play to keep the first drive alive tells me Rex has put this team on his back.
Running Backs: B+ Tough conditions combined with a good Vol defense kept them under 100 yards. But combined, Earnest Graham and "the mudder" Ran Carthon had 92 yards. Both had huge momentum runs including the extra effort by Earnest on 4th down at the Goalline. Carthon's speed does not slow down in muddy and rainy conditions. Graham's run late showed the poise of a champion when he stayed inbounds to keep the clock running.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A Time for this group to get high marks. Taylor Jacobs had a sensational performance versus a good secondary catching passes from three different alignments. Carlos Perez showed outstanding concentration on the touchdown catch while Kelvin Kight made a couple catches as well. OJ Small play was wonderfully executed.
Offensive Line: B They did give up 4 sacks and some pressure but they wore down the Vols late in the third and early in the 4th quarter. The 11 play, 80 yard drive at 24-13 was due in large part to the big boys up front. This unit is starting to gel and the entire five guys went the distance.
Defensive Line: A+ Clint Mitchell played like Bruce Smith in his prime with tremendous effort. His play at the end of the half to set the field goal up was a big time dagger. The boys in the middle, Ian Scott and Tron LaFavor, redeemed last season's 34-32 game by holding the Tennessee run game under 100 yards. The Vols did not have a run over 6 yards in the first half.
Linebackers: A The move of Bam Hardman to the middle was genius by Ron Zook and John Thompson. Mike Nattiel was active and Todd McCollough went the distance with a bum shoulder. They did not allow Tennessee to run and get to the UF secondary.
Secondary: A 45 passes were thrown by Casey Clausen and no real big plays. Robert Cromartie did a job with Kelley Washington and Guss Scott led the team with 10 tackles. The touchdown pass was a screen and Vol receivers could not get deep behind the Gators who played man most of the day.
Special Teams: B Caused a turnover, got the punts away and kicked a huge field goal in horrible conditions before the half.
Overall Florida played with bad field position, inclement weather and hostile fans and still garnered a 17 point road victory over a top 5 team. This was big for reassuring the college football world that the "Mighty Gators" are still the team to beat in the SEC.
Snippets and tidbits....
UF has won four of it's last five games in Knoxville. The road team has won three consecutive games in the series. The Gators forced a Tennessee single game record 8 fumbles. The Gator defense held Tennessee to 115 yards in the first half and knocked starting tailback Cedric Houston out of the game. 60 of those yards came on the first series of the game. On the first touchdown drive Rex Grossman rushed for 21 yards. UF was 6-13 on third down and 1-1 on fourth down. In rainy conditions, Florida picked up 14 first downs via the air. Florida's first touchdown drive was 9 plays and the last one was 11 in which Grossman was 6-7 on the game clincher. No injuries forced players out of the game... Graham twisted ankle, Grossman thigh bruise but keep an eye on Todd MaCollough this week. He dinged his shoulder. Mo Mitchell will meet with coach Zook to discuss his status with the team. Dwright Jackson appears to be close to being ready, while Darrell Lee dressed but did not play Saturday. Kenneth Tookes and Reggie Lewis dressed and did not play. Matt Jackson made two solo tackles on special teams. Kentucky is next and they are 4-0 for the first time since 1984. They have a balanced attack led by quarterback Jared Lorenzen and the SEC's leading rusher Artose Pinner.T he Wildcats are not eligible for the title this season because of NCAA Probation.