My Thoughts on yesterday's game:
I liked how the defense came out to open the game; Florida Atlantic managed only six plays and 22 yards on the games first possession. Tebow and the Gator offense went 85 yards, capped off by Kesthan Moore's 9-yard touchdown run to put Florida up 7-0 early. On the drive, Tebow was 6-of-6 and looked very sharp. It was clear from the start that without Percy Harvin, Andre Caldwell would once again be No. 15's go to guy.
Florida Atlantic started its second possession inside the 20-yard line but did hit a couple big plays, one from running back Charles Pierre and the second was a pass from Rusty Smith to Gent that brought the ball out to the 40-yard line. I would have liked to have seen the Gators bring a little more pressure early on and try to keep the opposing quarterback from getting into a early rhythm.
Joe Haden did come on a corner blitz on second down and it worked as he knocked the ball down. Ryan Stamper made a great play as Florida Atlantic tried to slip the running back out in the flat as the Gators allowed six more plays for a total of 28 yards. Sophomore Joey Sorrentino from Ocala, Florida came untouched to block the punt which was picked up by Markus Manson and returned 20 yards for the Gators second touchdown to go up 14-0.
On Florida's second offensive possession, I loved the shuttle pass call to Aaron Hernandez on first down. Talk about a beast in the open field, the Gators need to get this kid the ball. I also liked seeing Cameron Newton in the game early, but he's got to pitch the ball when the defensive end stays with him.
Tebow started 10-of-11 for 145 yards when on third-and-goal, he hit Cornelius Ingram in the back of the end zone. It was a great play because Tebow threw the ball high and away where only his guy could make the play. Great awareness by Ingram to get the foot down. Great first quarter of play for the Gators.
Florida Atlantic managed a field goal on its third possession of the game. Then Tebow made his only mistake of the game when he overthrew Louis Murphy and had the pass intercepted and returned into Florida territory. While the offense put the defense in a bad spot, I would liked to have seen the Gator D hold them to a field goal, instead FAU scored to cut it to 21-10.
Florida went three plays for minus-one yard on its next series. The offensive line made no adjustments to pick up the blitz, which was shown early by the defense and Florida Atlantic added another field goal to cut it to 21-13.
The Gators seized momentum back when Caldwell made a great catch (his seventh of the first half), and Tebow ran it in for his 20th rushing touchdown of the year, setting a new SEC record.
The Gators went 69 yards in six plays in 2:14 to go back up 28-13.
The passing onslaught by Florida Atlantic continued as they marched right down the field before the end of the first half to cut the Gator edge to 28-20. I found myself saying, it's a ball game all of the sudden.
With 68 seconds left in the half, the Gators did a great job, going 65 yards to take a 35-20 lead when Ingram made a great grab. It is great to see him come back the way he did Saturday.
With 27 seconds left, Caldwell made his ninth catch of the first half to set the Florida career receiving record at 173. He would add his tenth catch later on the drive.
It was a little disheartening to see what the Gator defense allowed in the first half. Florida Atlantic had 247 pass yards at the break and 20 points. They had 16 runs and 28 passes for a total of 44 plays. The Gators had 31 rushing yards and 267 passing yards and 35 points. It is hard to imagine questioning the offense when they put up 35 at the break, but shouldn't they run it a bit more to keep Florida Atlantic off the field with such an explosive passing attack?
Louis Murphy had a nice return to set up the Gator offense in the third quarter. After a 15-yard Tebow run off the option keeper, Aaron Hernandez showed great toughness as he took a big shot at the FAU 14-yard line. Two plays later, Moore had his second rushing touchdown of the game, putting the Gators up 42-20.
The defense came out and tried to prove a point in the second half, and they did just that. After a 13-yard run set up a 2nd-and-short, Justin Trattou had great penetration for a 4-yard loss. Coach Greg Mattison loves his motor, and when he adds a little weight, look out. A bad snap would give the Gators the ball back at its own 45-yard line.
On 3rd-and-11, Tebow forced a pass, but Caldwell came down with the first down and his 12th catch Later in the drive on a 3rd-and-long again, Tebow once again hit Caldwell for another Gator first down. It looked like Caldwell tweaked a knee, but would be okay.
Later in the drive, Aaron Hernandez made a great catch in the end zone taking the ball away from the linebacker on a pass that shouldn't have been thrown. It was his second touchdown catch of the season and the kid looks like a future star at the position. Gators went up 49-20.
Florida Atlantic's second possession became the Trattou show. After pressure from cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis, Trattou crashed in and made the sack. Smith would hit Gent on a 20-yard pass play on 2nd-and-16 for a first down. Trattou again made a great play with his second sack of the series to force another 3rd-and-16.
Ryan Stamper made some nice plays on Saturday. His fumble recovery at the Florida Atlantic 18-yard line early in the fourth quarter gave the Gators the best field position of the day. Tebow hit Caldwell in the numbers on first down, but he dropped it. The Gators settled for three to go up 52-20.
The defense came up big and forced another three-and-out. The HE15MAN front runner's day would be over with more than 11 minutes left in the game. Tebow now has at least one rushing and one passing touchdown in 12 straight games, the longest streak in the nation.
It was nice to have a Markus Manson sighting in the fourth quarter as he exploded for a 23-yard run where he showed great balance and drive to stay on his feet. Then on 2nd-and-9 from the FAU 25-yard line, Newton broke free and looked very athletic and extremely fast to put the Gators up 59-20.
Game Ball goes to...
The Gators won't reach the SEC Championship game, but with a win against FSU on Saturday could find themselves in a BCS game. If Georgia makes it to the championship game and gets beat by LSU, I believe that the Gators will make it to a BCS game. If the Vols make it to Atlanta, Georgia with a win over Georgia Tech could find themselves in a BCS game should the Vols get beat by LSU.
If the Gators continue to improve on the defensive side of the ball, and especially at the defensive tackle position, this team will be scary good next season and should be pre-season No. 1. I would not want to face this team in 2008 or 2009!