Grading the Gators

The Florida Gators failed to beat the Auburn Tigers for the second consecutive year, falling 20-17 as time expired Saturday night in The Swamp. Playing armchair quarterback from my newly purchased leather recliner, a couple of things stood out to me but first time for Grading the Gators.

Quarterback: B

Tim Tebow, in my opinion played a good game for the most part against a stingy Auburn defense. Tebow was 20-of-27 passing for 201 yards with one touchdown and one interceptions. On the ground, once again we saw Tebow take charge in the fourth quarter bringing the Gators back to tie the game at 17 in large part with his legs. Tebow had 19 carries for 79 yards and one touchdown or 3.9 per carry.

Wide Receivers: C+

Percy Harvin, in my mind, is one of the most dynamic players in all of college football and he backed that up Saturday night. Harvin, who was obviously not 100 percent, was able to haul in 7 passes for 119 yards and added 4 rushes for 19 on the ground. Cornelius Ingram hauled in four passes for 37 yards and one touchdown. Harvin and Ingram combined for 13 of the 20 completions and accounted for 156 of the 201 yards. Other than these two, the rest of the wide receivers were below average. Louis Murphy had three catches for 21 yards, but had a crucial fumble that Kesthan Moore should have been able to pick up and possibly extend the drive.

Running Backs: D

Five carries for 17 yards? That is about all that needs to be said on the running back situation. It is clear that Urban Meyer has no trust in the current group of running backs on the roster. I added Jarred Fayson in with the backs to inflate the numbers.

Offensive Line: C

The Gators went with from left to right, Jason Watkins - Jim Tartt - Drew Miller - Maurkice Pouncey - Carlton Medder. They were only able to muster 111 yards rushing on 28 carries (4.0 per carry), which is not bad, but when it counted, 1st-and-goal from the three-yard line, the offensive line was not able to get the push needed to get in the end zone. Tebow was not sacked in the game and was 20-of-27 passing and seemed to have the amount of time needed to throw the ball. The Auburn defensive line was gassed in the fourth quarter, and it is a shame that the staff did not give Tim Tebow the chance to once again run it down the throats of the Tigers when the game was on the line.

Special Teams: F

The special teams yet again was not so special. Brandon James is a very special return man that needs to be accounted for in all phases of the return game. The game started just like last week against Ole Miss, with James putting the Gators in great field position to start the game. On the day, the Gators had three kick returns for 94 yards and had only 11 yards on two punt returns. The Gators were 2-of-2 on extra points and 1-of-2 on field goal attempts. On the blocked field goal, a vertically challenged person could have blocked that kick. Chas Henry had four punts for 144 yards or 36 yards per punt. When the game was on the line with less than five minutes to go, Henry shanked the punt and gave Auburn the ball on their own 40-yard line and that was the game. A 25-yard punt when the game is on the line is unacceptable.

The Gators did not deserve to win the game Saturday night but as bad as they played, were still in position to win. I was sitting at home and as the Gators came out to start the drive with 4:49 left in the fourth quarter, I knew the Tigers were about to get a steady dose of young Tim Tebow. Instead, Florida went wide receiver screen and took the 6-yard loss as a result. The Gators had just marched 90 yards on the previous possession in large part due to the running ability of Tebow. Auburn was gassed and Quentin Groves was out of the game and yet the Gators go away from what brought them back, why? It is clear that all the parts of the offense need to be 100 percent healthy for this thing to work. Caldwell and Cooper were banged up and nowhere to be found Saturday night.

Defense: C

UF allowed 326 total yards, 227 passing and 99 rushing, 70 offensive plays and 23 first downs. Not bad numbers in the grand scheme of things, but when the game was on the line, the defense let Auburn march into field goal position to win the game. I was glad to see the defense step up during most of the second half allowing only six points. Unfortunately, three of them handed the Gators the first loss of the 2007 season. The Gators ended the game with four sacks but again were not able to keep consistent pressure on Brandon Cox. Cox in the first half looked a little like, well, Joe Montana.

Major Wright and Joe Haden both had very good games in my opinion. Haden had two knock downs and one fumble recovery. Wright ended with seven tackles and one forced fumble and continues his hot play and his huge hits from his safety spot. I believe that Kyle Jackson's days in the Florida secondary are over. The defense ended the day with nine tackles for loss, but allowed Auburn to dictate the pace in the first half. The Gators had only four possessions in the first half. Brandon Spikes and Dustin Doe combined for 17 tackles, but for the most part, they were all made three to four yards down the field. It is time to throw Torrey Davis and John Brown to the wolves. The Gators need to play this year in preparation for 2008.

What Stood Out?

The defensive staff not willing to bring pressure in the first half and make Brandon Cox make quick decisions. In the second half, you saw the corners play more press coverage and bring pressure, and it worked allowing only six points. The inept ground game - when you have the ball 1st-and-goal at the 3-yard line and your running back does not touch the ball, it does not bode well for the future. Watching the game, it was almost as if Meyer was showing the Jamie Harpers, Darrel Scotts and all the other top running backs in the country, WE NEED YOU.

For those of you that will say, 'hey, that is what we do inside the five-yard line,' I understand but you will be hard pressed to find another game all year on any level of football from high school to the NFL that will have five carries from the running backs during a game. The penalty situation at Florida is downright atrocious. How this team continues to make these kinds of mental mistakes at the most inopportune time is beyond me. The Gators have a tough task next week going on the road to face the LSU Tigers. It is a great opportunity to erase the bad taste left in their mouth. On the other hand, if they do not find a way to run the ball, they will go into the bye week with back-to-back losses in the SEC and find themselves out of the SEC East race.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Jason Higdon


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