The Florida football team experienced some exhilarating wins in 2002 but they also dealt with some one-sided defeats. Saturday night in Tallahassee, UF looked to put an end to the Seminole dominance at home in the series but found it's trip like many others, a one-sided loss. Florida appeared poised to take the game to FSU early but Chris Rix found redemption and the Gators found way too many penalties. FSU's 31-14 win over Florida salvaged a decent season of turmoil for the Noles and left a bitter taste in the mouth of Gator coaches, players and fans. What went wrong in Tally? Let's take a look.
Running off at the Keypad
The early plan to run right at FSU's defense worked as the Gators moved right down the field and even overcame a penalty. But when getting to the redzone at the 10 yard line, Florida elected to throw three straight times and settled for a field goal. Although it was points it was a moral victory for FSU. The Noles adjusted putting 7 men in the box and daring Grossman to throw into man coverage. It worked and Rex Grossman repeatedly tried to stick the long ball to Taylor Jacobs and came up empty. In Florida's first five possessions of the game each one contained a penalty or was the result of bad field position due to a special teams penalty in the return game. On UF's third possession with the game tied 3-3, Rex hit OJ Small at the 48 yard line for a first down. It was called back for a holding penalty and UF never recovered the field position the rest of the game. Florida's average field position was their own 12 yard line in the first half and they had only 6 points to show for two scoring drives over 70 yards. I thought Rex looked sharp and played well but after the first quarter it was apparent UF was going to have to dial long distance to get points. Aaron Walker struggled and his drop of a tough catch in the third quarter cost the Gators seven points. The offensive line did a nice job except for penalties and poor sportsmanship by Mo Mitchell. In the end the Nole line could tee off because of the score and situation. Twelve of Florida's fourteen drives started at their own 20 or inside it. Five started inside their own 10 yard line. The best starting field position for Florida was the 29 yard line in the third quarter and the Gators went 3 and out. In hindsight, the Gators should have run in the redzone and worked harder to get touchdowns. The complexion of the game can change at 17-14 rather than 17-6. Also penalties really hurt at crucial time. Grade:C-
The UF defense came out with the plan to blitz and confuse Chris Rix into making mistakes. He had 11 turnovers this season and that had been his achilles heel in his young career. In hindsight, it looks as if the basic umbrella coverage with a four man rush would have prevented some of the big run plays by Rix. UF's defense did go to this in the second half and played better, but when they needed it most, down 24-14 and 2nd and 20, Rix once again outran Bam Hardman and made up 17 yards on the drive that would lead to a game clinching touchdown. Rix is athletic and quick and played his best game of the year yet the UF defense did hold him to 13 of 29 passing. Ratliff struggled and was picked on most of the night and like other Gator losses, Leon Washington burned Florida's missed tackles by gashing them in the first half. Florida State had 3 possessions that started in Gator territory and they came up with no points which included a missed field goal. Football is a game of inches and several angles by blitzers and or pass rushers were just off allowing Rix to make plays. This was not the defense's best performance, as a matter of fact it was sub-par, but I think they played hard all the way to the end and the scheme and plan was good by the coaches. It just was not exececuted perfectly and it cost them. Grade C-
To me, this cost the team the game. Yes, F... should have run in the redzone and maybe they should have zoned up and been more passive defensively on Rix. Sure they made two field goals but, the fact of the matter is the return game was awful. It forced the offense out of it's game plan and it created a feeding frenzy for the crowd and the Seminole defense. On the flip side, the punting game was just so bad that FSU did not even try to block a punt, instead putting two returners back to field the ball. Sometimes a good punter can switch the field position back in your favor with a boomer.. UF has not had one all season. Grade F.
Snippets and Tidbits...
Grossman's 300 yard game gave him 16 for his career and the UF record. Kelvin Kight had a career high 132 yds on 6 receptions. Florida's secondary combined for 24 tackles to lead the Gator defense. Florida's starting defensive line recorded just 8.5 tackles and 3 TFl's. Chris Reynolds came off the bench to have 3.5 tackles. The Gators starting field position for the game averaged right around the 14 yard line. Florida's offense had 3 three and outs in the third quarter including a touchdown on an interception during a critical quarter of the game. Ben Troupe did not dress for the game but was on the sideline. Among the redshirts that did dress were wide receivers Reggie Lewis and Jermalle Cornelius. Randy Hand started and went the distance at right tackle. Jon Colon had been nursing a bad back and dressed but did not play. Florida's offense led the SEC with 278 first downs but only averaged 25.5 points per game. Florida was outscored 107-50 in the third quarter this season. Earnest Graham finished with 965 yards just 35 short of 1,000. Fred Taylor in 1997 was the last Gator 1,000 yard back. Florida's 4 losses were an average of 31-11 in score and their two instate rivals FSU and Miami defeated them by an average score of 36-16. Rex finished with 3,079 yards and 20 touchdowns and Jacobs had 64 receptions for exactly 1,000 yards.This season the NCAA is allowing stats in Bowl games to count in the record books. It appears the Gators are headed to Tampa to face a tough 9-3 Michigan Wolverine team..
Other nuggets...Gator Hoops finished third in the NIT but they beat a #2 ranked team in Ka