It is Monday Morning and the Armchair Quarterback grades the Gators on their performance vs. Western Kentucky University.
The 2006 National Champion Florida Gators got their 2007 season off to an early start with a rare 12:30 kickoff on Saturday at the Swamp. The Gators needed only 51 minutes and 37 seconds to dispatch a woefully undermanned Western Kentucky University team 49- 3 as Mother Nature put an ending to the beat-down when lightning ended the game with 8 minutes and 23 seconds still left on the clock.
Tim Tebow and the offense, albeit, against WKU, it was somewhat expected.
Defense, special emphasis on pass defense and tackling, offense, special teams all could use some improvement.
The only returning starter along the defensive line, defensive end Derrick Harvey, picked up a couple of sacks and sophomore defensive end Jermaine Cunningham and true freshman defensive tackle Torrey Davis each picked up a sack. Florida played multiple combinations along the defensive line, including Davis, true freshmen Duke Lemmens, Justin Trattou, Carlos Dunlap, and red shirt freshman Terron Sanders all saw playing time Sophomore Brandon Antwine and senior Lutrell Alford found playing time at defensive tackle behind starters senior Clint McMillan and junior Javier Estopinan. Lack of a pass rush up the middle could be problematic in the future.
Sophomores Brandon Spikes and Dustin Doe did a respectable job replacing Brandon Silar and Earl Everett. Spikes led all tacklers with 11 tackles while Doe had a highlight reel tackle to stop the Hilltoppers on fourth and one from the Gators’ ten yard line on WKU’s opening drive and another bubble screen. They also showed their inexperience by over pursuing and missing a tackle or two. A J Jones took over for the departed Brian Crum and looked to have trouble against the tight end on running plays
Florida had to replace both cornerbacks from last year’s team. Sophomore Wondy Pierre-Louis and true freshman Joe Haden, the first true freshman to ever start for Florida at cornerback, gained valuable experience on Saturday. The fact that Pierre-Louis and Haden struggled was not unexpected and the secondary at times looked like they were playing some version of I’ve got him, I’ve got him, you take him on coverages. Also, the fact that senior safety Tony Joiner, the only other returning starter on defense besides Derrick Harvey, would miss tackles was not unexpected either. Major Wright and Dorian Munroe provided most of the depth, with Wright looking the better of the two.
Florida’s offensive line pretty much had their way with WKU’s defensive line. Returning starters Drew Miller and Carlton Medder, both seniors, and junior Jim Tartt, along with junior Jason Watkins and true freshman Maurkice Pouncey allowed no sacks. Of note, when Florida was in short yardage it seemed they favored Watkins and Tartt on the left side. Pouncey became the first true freshman to start at guard in Florida’s 101-year history and the first true freshman to start on the offensive line at any position since Reggie Green started at tackle in 1992. He needs to play against stronger competition but he looks like a keeper. Senior center Miller, who started at guard last year, looked pretty good on his snaps
This was a total mismatch. The Hilltoppers didn’t have anyone near as fast as the Gator receivers and it showed. Florida’s number 4 receiver sophomore Riley Cooper had 4 receptions for 122 yards and two scores, one for 58 yards and one for 42 yards. Senior Andre Caldwell had 103 yards and made a nice adjustment to haul in a 48-yard strike on the Gators’ first drive. Mr. Everything sophomore Percy Harvin had 78 all-purpose yards on 3 reception and 3 rushes with 1 score. Junior Louis Murphy did the yeoman’s work catching 3 passes for 20 yards on underneath routes
Junior Kestahn Moore showed why the coaches have been singing his praises since the beginning of fall practice. Moore looked quick and decisive in his carries. Running hard and finishing the run, Moore recorded 91 yards on 16 carries while scoring twice. Jarred Fayson added 21 yards on 3 carries, I’m just not sure what position to put him in, since Fayson didn’t have a reception, I put him with the running backs. Lightning cut short the debut of freshman Chris Rainey.
Tim Tebow answered several questions on Saturday; he also raised a few. Can Tebow pass? Against WKU Tebow was 13 for 17 for 300 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions, showing the ability to throw long with completions of 46, 58, and 42 yards two of which for went for scores. On intermediate routes, a 16 yard dart to Harvin for a score and short underneath to the likes of Murphy when his downfield receivers were covered. Tebow also added a score and 32 yards on the ground. For all the good, Tebow was whistled 3 times for delay of game, once after a timeout. That proves even someone once anointed as the “Chosen One” can always find room for improvement. True freshman Cam Newton showed promise in a backup role scoring once of a 4-yard keeper and throwing four times with 3 completions for 25-yards
Senior Joey Ijjas showed a strong leg on kickoffs with several kicks coming down inside the 5-yard line. One such kick pinned the Hilltoppers at their own half-yard line when the returner’s momentum carried him out of bounds. Ijjas did have one kick go out of bounds. He also made all his extra points, which when considering last year is exciting. True freshman punter Chas Henry’s first punt was almost blocked and went for a total of 20 yards, but he next two were better as Henry finished with 3 punts for a 38.3 average. Receiving and coverage teams were adequate. The Gators have tremendous speed on coverage teams and Jarred Fayson and Chris Rainey should complement Brandon James, as punt returners.
Offensive coordinator Dan Mullen made sure all his playmakers—Moore, Caldwell, Fayson, Harvin and Tebow – get their touches on the first series which resulted in a score and continued spreading the ball around throughout the remainder of the game. Florida didn’t show much offensively because they didn’t need too, but the fact that they spread the ball around so well will certainly keep future defensive coordinators worried. Defensively co-defensive coordinators Charlie Strong and Greg Mattison had to replace nine starters from last year’s team, so they played a pretty vanilla zone defense on the first series that resulted in a nine play 62 yard drive by WKU which was theior best drive of the day. After that Strong and Mattison made some adjustment, the defense settled down a bit, but clearly there is plenty of work to do on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Meyer’s special teams showed promise while leaving plenty of things to work on.
GRADE Offensive A, Defensive C, Overall B
Given the early start time and the weather conditions, it wasn’t the fans’ best effort. Hopefully, next week will be better. Bonus points for the fans that ringed the bottom of the stadium and did the wave during the lightning delay
The new improvements to the Ring of Honor in the North Endzone and the Championship history in the South Endzone looks pretty cool. Western Kentucky University will never be confused with Appalachian State University, at least not this year. We won the game and didn’t get anybody hurt — that’s better than what Michigan can say. Riley Cooper is a scoring machine with career eight catches, five of which were for touchdowns. Now if Cooper can do that against someone whose University doesn’t start with the word Western, we may be one to something. The defense, particularly the secondary, is going to make this season very interesting…
OVERALL GRADE: B-
The Armchair Quarterback
Later GATORS, after while the rest!