The Florida Gators didn’t play their best game on Saturday in Nashville
against Vanderbilt Commodores but they did secure a 25 – 19 victory. The
victory, coupled with Tennessee’s 28-24 loss to LSU, clinched the SEC East
division championship and punched the Gators ticket for the SEC Championship
game December 2 in Atlanta.
The Gators’ victory over the Commodores wasn’t pretty—they had to hold off a furious Vanderbilt 4th quarter rally, but it was effective.
IMPRESSIVE: Jarvis Moss, Derrick Harvey, Dallas Baker, special teams
SOLID: DeShawn Wynn, Earl Everett, Brandon Siler, Andre Caldwell, Ryan Smith
NEED WORK: Chris Leak, offensive line, secondary, the trainers to get the offensive line healthy.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Despite losing DT Marcus Thomas, who was removed from the team prior to the Gators going to Vanderbilt, the defensive line had a solid performance. Defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss spent much of the first three quarters in the Commodores backfield. Moss had 7 tackles; two for loss including a sack and added a couple quarterback pressures, while Harvey continued his strong play with 5 tackles, two for losses including a sack. It should be noted that Harvey leads the SEC in sacks with 8 after Saturday’s play. Defensive tackles Ray McDonald, Joe Cohen, and Steven Harris were solid holding their own on the inside. McDonald only had one tackle, but it was huge—stopping a Vanderbilt drive deep in the Florida territory late in the fourth quarter on a fourth down play. Unfortunately, the game is played for 4 quarters, not 3 quarters, and the Gators struggled late in the game to get any kind of push up front. GRADE B+
LINEBACKERS: Earl Everett and Brandon Siler had solid, if not dominant performances. Everett record 7 tackles, while Siler contributed 5 tackles—two of which were for losses behind the line of scrimmage and included a sack, and one quarterback pressure. Everett and Siler expended a lot of energy chasing Vanderbilt players during the first three quarters and had little left in the tank in the fourth quarter. GRADE B
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Ryan Smith had a huge day, recording 11 tackles, including one for loss, a pass interception, and a pass breakup. Smith was charged with unenviable task of covering Vanderbilt’s outstanding receiver Drew Bennett, who had 13 catches for 157 yards. Safeties Reggie Nelson and Tony Joiner each contributed 4 tackles, but like Smith many of the tackles were made after receptions by Vanderbilt receivers in the Florida secondary. Florida’s secondary was victimized for almost 300 yards passing by Vanderbilt. GRADE C
OFFENSIVE LINE: To say the offensive line is struggling may be an oversimplification but it does seem accurate. Florida’s offensive line gave up 4 sacks for 24 yards and allowed Vanderbilt to pressure quarterback Chris Leak throughout the game including a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage that was intercepted by a Commodore defensive lineman. With center Steve Rissler, and guards Drew Miller and Jim Tartt nursing injuries received during the game the running game wasn’t much better as the Gators were only able to bang out 88 yards on the ground. GRADE D+
RECEIVERS: Dallas Baker, despite dropping his first pass reception attempt, caught just about everything else to finish with an impressive 7 catches for 135 yards and one touchdown. Andre Caldwell led all Florida receivers with 8 catches for 68 yards and had one carry for 7 yards. Florida only had 4 other receptions, as Baker and Caldwell got the bulk of the work. GRADE B+
RUNNING BACKS: DeShawn Wynn got all the work for the running backs on Saturday. Wynn rushed 15 times for just 64 yards as running room was hard to come by. Despite the lack of running lanes, Wynn ran hard and his carries kept the Commodores honest. GRADE C+
QUARTERBACK: One minute Florida quarterback Chris Leak looked great throwing 27 times for 18 completions, 237 yards and one touchdown to go along with 2 rushing touchdowns on the quarterback draw. At other times Leak looked awful, throwing 3 interceptions. Florida’s problems at offensive line meant that Leak spent much of the day under constant pressure. Leak may have his best day running the ball, scoring twice on the quarterback draw and picking up a first down on a scramble that didn’t include a slide. Tim Tebow recorded 40 yards on 6 rushes and also got to attempt 3 passes, completing 1 for 5 yards. Tebow actually played a complete series rather than his usual spot play, but could not sustain either drive he started. GRADE C
KICKING/SPECIALTY: By far the best game played by special teams all season. Chris Hetland made all his kicks including a 29-yard field goal attempt, Eric Wilbur averaged 42.2 yards per punt on six punts and 4 of those were downed inside the Vanderbilt 20, Brandon James had a nice 35-yard punt return, the coverage teams allowed nothing on returns, and both Ryan Smith and Reggie Smith blocked punts. Things were going so well for the special teams that when Florida botched the snap on their first extra point attempt, the Gators got a two point conversion on a Butch Rowley to Tate Casey pass. GRADE A+
COACHING: Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen decided on a more traditional offense featuring a tight end, two wide-outs and a fullback as Florida’s schizoid offense continues to search for an identity. While the offense found some success, it could not maintain much consistency, committing three turnovers and struggling along the offensive line. Co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison bend but don’t break defense finally broke—well, sort of. Despite playing very aggressively on defense through three quarters and looking fairly stout, the Gators ran out of gas in the fourth quarter and could not stop the Commodore offense, fortunately Florida had built a big enough lead. Special teams coach Urban Meyer had to be satisfied as special teams played inspired football and played a crucial part in the victory GRADE Offense C Defense B- Special Teams A
FANS: Looked like a solid Gator following in attendance, but this was a television game for me. GRADE I
You don’t need to style points to win the SEC Eastern Division, thank goodness, as the Gators have a front row seat at the Al Davis’ School of Just Win Baby! I wonder what improvements have been made to the Georgia Dome since my last visit. But first there is still a lot of football left to play and if the Gators want to dream of things more grander than an SEC Eastern Division crown they need to find some answers to and inconsistent schizoid offense and some killer instinct when they get an opponent down. Oh yeah, did I mention that the Ol’ Ball Coach is coming to town next week and would like nothing better than to find the Gators resting on their laurels? Speaking of which, for the first time ever, come next Saturday Steven Orr Spurrier will enter the SWAMP as head coach of the enemy. I love Steve Spurrier, but not next week, I hope we hang a hundred on him, I hope we harass and infuriate him so bad, that he elects to punt on third down, SHOW HIM NO MERCY. OVERALL GRADE: C+
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!