On Saturday night in Auburn the Florida Gators showed how far they
have come and how far they have to go, coming up on the short end of a 27–17 decision. The Gators jumped out to 17–11 halftime lead, but could not
hold it, getting outscored 16–0 in the second half.
As a team, offensively, defensively, individually, special teams, and coaching, Florida made too many mistakes to overcome such a hostile environment. The Gators also showed what they could become, IF, they can eliminate the mistakes, a strong SEC championship contender.
Marcus Thomas, Derrick Harvey, Percy Harvin, Phil Trautwein, Jason Watkins
DeShawn Wynn, the linebackers, the offensive line, the receivers, the secondary
That to play SEC championship caliber football on the road, you have to be able to play near error free football for four quarters not just two.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Derrick Harvey, Marcus Thomas, Ray McDonald, Jarvis Moss and Steven Harris each caused their fair share of trouble. Harvey had 2 sacks and a fumble recovery, Thomas led all tacklers with 8 and had a sack, McDonald had 6 tackles, a sack, and broke up a pass, Moss had 3 tackles and forced a fumble, while Harris collected 3 tackles and half a sack. Yet, the Gators allowed over 175 yards on the ground before subtracting the sack yardage, or a little over 5 yards a carry. GRADE A-
LINEBACKERS: When not over pursuing, the linebackers were making plays, granted some of them seemed to be 10 yards downfield. Brandon Siler had the quietest 9 tackles in recent memory, while Earl Everett and Brian Crum added 6 and 5 tackles each, respectively. A missed tackle here, the inability to close the counter running lanes there contributed to the Tigers success on the ground. GRADE C+
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Tony Joiner had a very impressive evening stuffing the run on the outside, chasing down receivers causing fumbles and generally making a nuisance of himself. It must have been a good thing Reggie Nelson was playing 20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, because Nelson had to make several touchdown saving tackles. It is also a good thing that cornerbacks Ryan Smith, Reggie Lewis, and Tremaine McCollum are such good tacklers because they allowed the Auburn receivers plenty of room on the underneath routes. At least they didn’t get beat deep. GRADE B
OFFENSIVE LINE: In the first half the offensive line was dominant. Whether it was Jason Watkins sealing off the outside from his tight-end position or Phil Trautwein leading Tim Tebow to a touchdown, the offensive line imposed its’ will on the line of scrimmage, as the Gators were able to average 10.8 yards per first down play and allowed no sacks. The only glaring mistake a holding call in the endzone, which resulted in a safety. The second half was almost completely the opposite as Florida gave up 3 sacks and allowed too much penetration for the running game to be as effective. GRADE C+
RECEIVERS: The receivers did just as much with their feet as their hands. Percy Harvin rushed 5 times for 66 yards, while Andre Caldwell added another 3 carries for 47 yards to finish as Florida’s top two rushers on the night. Meanwhile, Dallas Baker made another circus style catch, going up high to take away the ball from two Auburn defenders, to score a touchdown on Florida’s second possession. Baker finished with 4 catches for 62 yards and the one score. Andre Caldwell and Tate Casey added a couple of catches each, but remarkably Jermalle Cornelius was shutout on the night. The Gators downfield blocking continues to be impressive. GRADE B
RUNNING BACKS: DeShawn Wynn returned from injury to produce 46 yards on 11 carries and Kestahn Moore added another 15 yards on 2 carries and a single catch for 12 yards. While Wynn ran hard when given the chance, the game plan obviously was not intent on featuring either back. Clearly both were there to keep the Tigers honest. GRADE C
QUARTERBACK: Up until the final 9 minutes of the game Chris Leak was have a solid if not spectacular night. Leak was something like 8 for 10 for about 100 yards and one touchdown, but more importantly had managed the game very well. Then the questionable fumble/incomplete pass occurred and Leak then complicated matters even worse by throwing an interception on his next pass attempt, all but ending Florida’s night. Tim Tebow didn’t get many opportunities, but did have a nice 16-yard touchdown run. GRADE C
KICKING/SPECIALTY: Florida’s kicker Chris Hetland finally made a field goal, connecting on his only attempt to tie the score at 3. The kickoff return team did allow one return for 58 yards, but that was erased when Tony Joiner caused a fumble that was recovered on the Florida 3-yard line. The big play and a tremendous momentum changing, in Auburn’s favor, event was a blocked punt on Florida’s first possession of the third quarter, when Eric Wilbur couldn’t handle the snap. GRADE C
COACHING: Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen had it all working in the first half as Florida scored on 3 of its’ 4 possessions in the first half and was at least effective for half the second half. But a some of curious decisions, namely the lack of use of Harvin in the second half, the inability to adjust to the defensive changes made by Auburn at halftime, and the decision to pass for the first down or touchdown with Leak on the critical fourth quarter series rather than run with Tebow as the Gators have done all year will probably haunt him for a while. Defensively, the Gators continued to play in a manner as to not give up a big play, allowing Auburn to control the clock and rack up some yardage, by giving up 12 points on four field goals but denying the Tigers an offensive touchdown. Co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Chris Mattison used variety of zone packages and relied on their front four to provide most of the pressure, in keeping the Tigers offense in check. Coach Meyer obviously still has confidence in kicker Chris Hetland, as Meyer did not hesitate to send in Hetland to tie the score on Florida’s first possession. Unfortunately, for the second week in a row the Gators had a punt blocked, Florida also gave up a long kickoff return of 58 yards for the first time in a ling time. GRADE Offense C+, Defense B+, Special Teams C
FANS: The Florida faithful never had a chance, despite the Gators leading 17 – 11 at half, the Gator fans could not overcome the hometown crowd. The effort was there, the numbers weren’t. GRADE A-
Florida’s defense gave up 12 points, special teams 7 points, and the offense was responsible for 8 points, truly a team defeat. Now I know how the fans that went to Alabama last year must have felt. Chris Leak’s Florida legacy is rapidly becoming similar to Peyton Manning’s at Tennessee, great stats but not enough wins in big games. Give Auburn credit, they made the plays when they had too. The Florida fans, players, and coaches need to remember this is the SEC, you have to bring it every play, there is a whole lot more football to play, AND we can not loose sight of our goals, of which there are still many left. Take this loss, suffer from it, witch and moan about it, remember why it happen, learn from it, and then put it away. Do these things and become a better team because of it. OVERALL GRADE: C+
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!