It is Monday and the Armchair Quarterback grades the Gators on
their performance vs. University of South Carolina.
The Ol’ ball coach, who returned to the SWAMP on Saturday night as the coach of the visiting team, said that God smiled on the Gators after Florida’s 1996 National Championship. Ten years later God smiled on the Gators again. With eight seconds left in the game and South Carolina’s kicker, Ryan Succop, poised to kick the game winning field goal, the shadow of Steve Spurrier about to grow bigger and blacker than a total eclipse of the sun, and the 90,703 fans in attendance whipped into a frenzy like a evangelist’s revival on Saturday night, Florida defense end Jarvis Moss lifted his hands to the heavens, about thirteen feet into the heavens, and God smiled, as Moss blocked the kick to give the Florida an improbable 17 – 16 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks and former Gator head coach Steve Spurrier.
IMPRESSIVE: Jarvis Moss, DeShawn Wynn, Jarvis Moss, Percy Harvin, did I mention Jarvis Moss
SOLID: Quarterbacks, receivers, offensive line, linebacking, secondary,
NEED WORK: Defensive line, kicker, avoiding shooting one’s self in the foot, personality for the offense.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Jarvis Moss didn’t just block kicks, he also blocked a pass at the line of scrimmage, and he also made tackles, eight to be exact. Moss seemed to be everywhere, making several tackles while playing in pass coverage off the zone blitz. Overall, the defensive line struggled to get a solid pass rush or penetration into the backfield as they recorded zero sacks, zero tackle for losses and allowed the Gamecocks to gain 135 yards on the ground. GRADE C
LINEBACKERS: Despite a shoulder stinger injury in the first quarter, Earl Everett returned to lead all Florida tacklers with 11. Unfortunately, most of the time Everett was chasing the USC running back down after he broke through the line of scrimmage past the defensive line. Brandon Siler did the best he could on an injured, but recorded just 3 tackles before being replaced in the third quarter by freshman Brandon Spikes. Freshman Dustin Doe also saw significant playing time, subbing early for the injured Everett. Both Spikes and Doe had some good plays, but also showed their freshman inexperience. GRADE C
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Florida played a lot of zone, choosing the slow death over the fast death of man to man, and it show in the stats as the Gamecocks recorded 275 passing yards on 24 completions. Every good Gator fan knows that if Steve Spurrier’ s quarterback has time he will chew up a secondary. Ryan Smith had the unenviable task of covering the Gamecocks top receiver, Sidney Rice, and did a decent job, holding Rice to just 72 yards on 7 catches. With so much emphasis on keeping the receivers in front of them, it was imperative that the secondary tackle well, thankfully the secondary was up to the task. GRADE C+
OFFENSIVE LINE: The offensive line seemed to get better as the night wore. The offensive line gave up 2 sacks early in the game, but settled down to provide decent pass protection in the second half. The offensive line was particularly effective on run blocking between the tackles. Center Steve Rissler and guards Jim Tartt and Drew Miller open big holes in the middle of the offensive line as DeShawn Wynn, Chris Leak, and Tim Tebow all gained significant yards running strait up the field. The Gators finished with 147 yards rushing on 32 attempts to average 4.6 per attempt. GRADE B-
RECEIVERS: Percy Harvin made a living on the short crossing route, catching 6 passes for 91 yards, showing his elusiveness as much of his yardage was gained after the catch. Harvin also contributed 20 yards on 4 carries. Dallas Baker had 4 catches for 51 yards. Baker had one touchdown reception, an interesting reception on an under thrown pass which deflected off the defender, right into Baker’s hands. Cornelius Ingram had an excellent game catching 3 passes for 50 yards, including a 28 yarder which got Florida a first down to keep a drive alive that eventually resulted in a field goal and a 10 – 10 tie. Andre Caldwell and Jermalle Cornelius also caught passes, as Florida spread the ball around. GRADE A
RUNNING BACKS: If DeShawn Wynn had had the opportunities he would easily have had over 100 yards rushing. As it was Wynn gained 90 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry on just 12 carries. Wynn ran hard all night and was a touchdown saving a tackle away on at least two occasions from breaking a really big run. Wynn had five carries for 10 yards are more, including a long of 21 on the Gators field goal drive. Wynn also had a fingertip grab of a Chris Leak pass that went for 10 yards during Florida first touchdown drive. Fullbacks Billy Latsko and Eric Rutledge didn’t get a carry or a reception but provided several key blocks, none more important than the blocks thrown for Tim Tebow on fourth and 1 from the Florida 29 yard line on Florida’s final touchdown drive. GRADE A
QUARTERBACK: At times Chris Leak didn’t look very good, under throwing Dallas Baker, but got good results, Baker somehow made the catch for a touchdown. And sometimes he looked very good, standing in the pocket surveying the field, finding to the correct receiver, only to have something bad happen, ball intercepted when another receiver ran the wrong route which allowed his defender to make the play. But what Leak did best was lead the Gators to a go ahead touchdown mid way through fourth quarter and the game on the line. Leak carried the drive with his legs, 3 carries for 29 yards as much as his arm, 1 of 3 for 19 yards passing. Leak finished the game with 19 completions on 27 attempts for 254 yards one touchdown and one interception. Tim Tebow attempted 2 passes neither was completed, but Tebow did have 5 carries for 29 yards, highlighted by his 6 yard carry on fourth and 1 from Florida’s own 29 yard line and his 12 yard touchdown run to give the Gators the lead with 3 minutes and 3 seconds left in the fourth quarter. GRADE B
KICKING/SPECIALTY: Chris Hetland missed another field goal, this time from 29 yards out, but did make a 22 yarder. Ray McDonald also blocked a field goal in the third quarter. But those two things along with every other special team play were overshadowed by two plays made by Jarvis Moss. First Moss blocked an extra point attempt, which allowed the Gators to take the lead 17 – 16 when they scored with 3:03 left in regulation and second the aforementioned game winning block on the final play of the game. GRADE A-
COACHING: It is hard to argue with 401 yards of total offense, but, offensive coordinator Dan Mullen may have to many toys in his toy box. Despite having success with Wynn between the tackles, Harvin over the middle or Ingram in the flat, Mullen’s decisions when the Gators were in scoring position, such as the ill-fated Caldwell throwback pass in the fourth quarter were curious. Mullen seemed reluctant to stick with plays that were having success in favor of; I don’t have a clue what. Meanwhile, co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison were obviously concerned about match-up problems for their secondary, as they played zone against the Gamecocks almost exclusively. Against a Spurrier offense, if you can’t disguise coverages at the line of scrimmage, you are going to have problems stopping the offense. Only some miscues by the Gamecocks and Florida’s special teams helped carry the defense. Coach Meyer’s special teams did what they had to do; you just can’t depend on your special teams to block 3 kicks every week. GRADE Offense C, Defense C-, Special teams A
FANS: As part of the halftime festivities celebrating Veterans Day, two Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons did a fly over at 1,000 feet; they were loud, very loud. Those F-16’s had nothing on the Florida faithful with the game on the line. Outstanding! GRADE A
Thanks in part to circumstances and luck the Gators find themselves in a position to control their own destiny for things beyond just an SEC Championship, but sooner or later the Gators circumstances and luck will run out, and then the Gators will be forced to play a game they have not thus far shown. Memo to Dan Mullen, it is okay to run the same play over and over again, don’t worry so much about getting all your players into action for the sake of getting them in the flow of play. Jarvis Moss will be selling popcorn at half time of next week’s game. I am glad this one is over! To coin a phrase from my friend, Carl Graves, survive and advance. The Gators survived and advanced, let’s move on.
OVERALL GRADE: C
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!