Grading the Gators

The Florida Gators took to the road for the first time in the 2007 season to take on the Ole Miss Rebels and came out with mixed results.

The game started like many the last year and a half, with a big return from one of the most exciting punt/kick off returnees in the nation in #25 Brandon James. James started the game off with a 55-yard kick off return to put the Gators in excellent field position. Unfortunately for the Gators, after James put them at the Ole Miss 32-yard line, the Gators could only muster 3 plays for a total of 7 yards as they missed the 42-yard field goal.

Quarterback: A-
Tim Tebow continues his hot play both by air and on the ground as he rushed for 166 yards on 27 carries (6.1 per carry) and 2 touchdowns. And he added 261 passing, ending the day 20-of-34 with two more touchdowns. Tebow did get away with a couple of throws that should have been picked off, one late in the game. Overall, I thought he was in command most of the day and he sets a new single game rushing record for a Florida quarterback. When the Gators need a play, they put it all on Tebow's shoulders. One has to wonder how long he can keep this pace up as SEC play continues. Tebow was very poised for his first start on the road.

Running backs: B
Kesthan Moore and Brandon James combined for 13 carries for 92 yards with a long of 18 yards. Moore has been very steady all year long but just is not getting enough opportunities as Tebow has carried the load running the ball. Moore, when given the chance, has shown the ability to hit the hole quick and hard with little or no hesitation. He has also shown the ability to make the first defender miss. Brandon James is electric with the ball in his hands. On the day, James had two carries for 21 yards. I would love to see the Gators utilize his abilities a little more on the offensive side of the ball.

Wide Receivers: B
It is hard for me to believe that a better offensive weapon exists in all of college football than #1 for the Gators. Harvin was electric all day long. He ended the day with 11 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown. Other than Harvin, no other offensive player had more than two catches on the day. I do like the way that this unit blocks out on the edge. The wide receivers will benefit from having Andre Caldwell back next week in The Swamp.

Offensive Line: A
Florida gained 246 yards on the ground and 261 through the air. That's about all you can ask for regardless of who you are playing. The Gators won the time of possession battle ending the game with 35:21 and Ole Miss ended with 24:39. The most impressive stat to me was the time of possession in the fourth quarter. The Gators ended the fourth quarter with nearly a 4-to-1 time of possession. The difference between last year's and this year's offense is that the Gators can now churn out huge chunks of clock when needed and that is exactly what they did late in the game.

Defense: C+
Ole Miss ended the day with 390 yards of total offense, 80 on the ground and 310 through the air. Joe Haden had another strong day, minus one play. Haden ended the day tied with Brandon Spikes with seven tackles. He also included three pass break ups which was tops on the team on a day where the opponent put the ball in the air 32 times. Derrick Harvey added another sack to his credit, as did Jermaine Cunningham. Dustin Doe was only in on three tackles for the day. The defense ended the day with only two sacks. With the youth that the Gators have in the secondary, they cannot allow opposing quarterbacks to sit back and have the time to look at the third and fourth options.

The key is the defensive line. It is very clear that teams do not respect the inside pass rush that the Gators have shown. Therefore, teams can move the tight end to Derrick Harvey's side and have the running back chip him on the way out of the backfield. The Gators need to establish some sort of pass rush up the middle to force the quarterback into some errant throws or worst-case scenario quicker decisions. Everything becomes much easier when the defensive line is getting pressure on the quarterback and right now, the Gators just cannot get the kind of pressure that they want from the front four. Ole Miss only ran 53 plays on the day but that is more a product of the offense controlling the clock with 45 rushing attempts and keeping the clock ticking.

Special Teams: C+
Special Teams were, well let us just say not so special. Outside of the opening kickoff by Brandon James, the Gators did not have a good day in this phase of the game. The Gators had five kickoff returns for a total of 123 yards or 24.5 per return. James would have scored, but he could not shake the kicker. The Gators were three out of four on point after tries and one of two on field goal attempts. Instead of being up six late in the fourth quarter, the Gators should have been up 10.

Ole Miss was the perfect team for the Gators to open up with on the road. For many of the Gator players it was the first time playing away from The Swamp. Offensively, I thought Florida controlled the ball most of the game but continues to hurt themselves with silly penalties. Florida ended the day with 14 for 127. Again, one has to wonder how long Tim Tebow can continue to carry this kind of load week in and week out. Did someone say they saw an "S" on his chest? The bottom line is anytime you go on the road in your league and get the win it is a good win.

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