All week long head coach Urban Meyer has been preaching toughness as the way
to win on the road. On Saturday night in front of 106,000 at Neyland
Stadium in Knoxville Tennessee the Florida Gators proved they were tough
enough. The Gators rallied from 10 points down at halftime to win 21 – 20
against the Vols.
The victory gives the Gators a leg up in the SEC Eastern division and buried some of the ghosts from last season’s 1 – 3 road record.
IMPRESSIVE: Earl Everett, Brandon Siler, Jarvis Moss, Joe Cohen, Marcus Thomas, Ray McDonald, Brian Crum, Deshawn Wynn, Brandon James
SOLID: Chris Leak, Tim Tebow, the receivers, the offensive line, the secondary
NEED WORK: Long field goals, pass protection, running hard to the first down marker
DEFENSIVE LINE: This was a mismatch with the Gators on top for a change. Tennessee could not run, period, in fact the Vols had minus 11 yards rushing on the night. Jarvis Moss had a tremendous game as he spent a good portion of the night in the UT backfield harassing quarterback Eric Ainge, recording six tackles and 2 quarterback hurries. Moss, along with Ray McDonald supply the pressure from the outside, defensive tackles Marcus Thomas and Joe Cohen were the stonewall up the middle which turned Tennessee’s vaunted running game into a joke. GRADE A+
LINEBACKERS: Earl Everett was everywhere as evidenced by his team high 11 tackles, but Brandon Siler, 7 tackles, 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss, and Brian Crum, 4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss were not far behind. If the a Vol running back made it past the defensive line, these guys were there to knock them down in their tracks. Tennessee’s longest run from scrimmage was a whopping 5 yards. Everett was also quite active in pass coverage, making several key stops. GRADE A+
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Reggie Nelson had two interceptions, one on the first offensive play by Tennessee and the second on the last offensive play by Tennessee. In between the Gators had a lot of good moments and a couple of bad moments. The bad consisted of a 49-yard trick play by the Vols, which resulted in a touchdown when Florida overplayed the play and lost contact with the running back/receiver. The other was a slant pass that went 29-yards to setup the Vols second touchdown. Other than that Florida’s secondary limited Tennessee’s passing game to just 154 yards on 16 of 31 passing. Not a bad night’s work, it just almost wasn’t enough. GRADE B-
OFFENSIVE LINE: Tennessee uses a defensive alignment, which features three interior linemen and two standup defensive ends/linebackers, allowing the Vols to rush different combinations. This caused the offensive line to struggle somewhat with the pass protection, as Florida quarterback Chris Leak was sacked 3 times and faced quarterback pressure on numerous occasions. On a more positive note the offensive line was able to get some push for the running game as the Gators rushed for 121 yards. GRADE C+
RECEIVERS: Dallas Baker got some redemption for his performance in 2004, catching 4 passes for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns, including the game winner with 6 minutes and 30 seconds to go in the game. Andre Caldwell and Cornelius Ingram each provide a big catch on Florida’s second touchdown drive in the third quarter. Jemalle Cornelius got things started with a nice effort to score Florida’s first touchdown. No one receiver was dominant but collectively they each helped get the job done. GRADE B+
RUNNING BACKS: DeShawn Wynn must be out of head coach Urban Meyer’s doghouse, as coach Meyer put the running game on Wynn’s shoulders. Wynn responded with a 22 carry 104 yard performance that feature 26-yard run in the fourth quarter that help setup the Gators final winning score. Wynn did a solid job, squaring his shoulders and running north south. Fullback Billy Lasko provided a key block on Wynn’s 26-yard scamper. GRADE B+
QUARTERBACK: Chris Leak may not have had his best day, but he was money when he needed to be. Despite throwing a wounded duck interception which allowed Tennessee to score a field goal, a bad sack that took the Gators out of field goal position, and a slide that came up 2-yards short of a first down, he was 5 for 5 for 90 yards with 2 touchdowns on Florida’s two second half touchdown drives. Tim Tebow saw action on 7 plays, all of which were rushes by Tebow netting a total of 29-yards, none bigger than his fourth and two carry late in the fourth quarter to keep the Gators scoring drive and its hope for victory alive. GRADE B
KICKING/SPECIALTY: Erick Wilbur averaged 43-yards on only 4 punts, one of which went for only 32-yards; two others were downed inside the twenty. Brandon James provided plenty of excitement, including a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown, which was called back for an illegal block, averaging nearly 17 yards per return. Two field goals were missed but both were over 45-yard attempts. Chris Hetland did make all of his extra point attempts this time. Punt coverage had only one opportunity, while kickoff coverage gave up only 65 yards on 4 returns. GRADE C+
COACHING: Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen has figured out how to make Chris Leak a better runner, replace him with Tim Tebow. Inserting Tebow into the game to run the ball from the quarterback position worked every time despite the fact that every single person, players, coaches, and fans new what was coming. Co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison decided to play their base defense most of the night, only blitzing late in the game, a strategy good enough to hold Tennessee to just 220 yards of total offense. Coach Meyer’s special team units showed improvement over the first two games, with the return game possibly on the brink of breaking a long for a touchdown. GRADE Defense A-, Offense B, Special Teams B
FANS: Watching from television doesn’t allow for much of a grade GRADE I
To hold the Tennessee to minus 11 yards rushing, must truly stick in head coach Phil Fulmer’s craw. Somebody check Brandon James size, I think there might be a misprint in the program. We need to outlaw the quarterback slide. If Tebow ever throws a pass, he should catch the defense flatfooted. This defense could end up being one of the best in the country. 1-0 in the SEC East, holding the tiebreaker against the Vols, next up is Kentucky, this is no time for a letdown. OVERALL GRADE B+
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!