ASK ACK: Lost Turnover Battle Cost UF

Each week, former Gator football player and now sports talk radio host Brady Ackerman will answer your questions about the Florida Gators. Whether it’s this week’s game or the game just played, no question is too hot for Brady to handle.

Brady: Why do you think Florida lost to Auburn on Saturday night?

First the atmosphere is what makes college football so great and so unpredictable. Give Auburn’s players and coaches a lot of credit for the victory but I believe UF lost because of self-inflicted wounds. The safety, blocked punt and the first two Chris Leak’s turnovers kept the Gators from staying unbeaten. You cannot go on the road in the SEC and beat a quality opponent by losing the turnover battle and making mistakes on special teams.

Ack: What did you think was the key sequence in the game?

Florida has been so good at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half all season. They allowed a late field goal by Auburn to cut the lead to 17-11 and then it was six plays and time to punt on the first series of the second half. Auburn blocked the punt, gained confidence and Florida looked shaken which gave Auburn momentum for the rest of the game.

Brady: Do you think Chris Leak’s arm was going forward?

First I mentioned what I thought was the key sequence of plays, but this play was the entire game. Leak’s arm was going forward, but he also was trying to stop himself from throwing the ball. Because the ref ruled a fumble on the field, I did not think it would get overturned with slow motion. The problem with the rule is that by definition his arm was going forward and that means incomplete pass. The referee was using his judgment on the field that Leak had stopped his motion which surprised me. If the game is in Gainesville I believe it would have been an incomplete pass.

Brady: Did you like the play call on that third down where Leak fumbled?

Now that Florida has lost a game the second guessing will come more frequently from listeners and fans. I didn’t like the call because everyone in the park knew Leak was going to throw it. The play action did not hold the linebacker (Blackman) because he was coming all the way. It was too slow developing and Chris should have taken the sack. I was surprised by the call because I think Tebow with another chance could have scored or at least given the run-pass threat. Anytime Florida is inside the five yard line I like Tebow because of his flexibility.

Brady, Was Florida exposed or can they still have a great season?

UF was not exposed and as a matter of fact there are many who thought they should have won the game. It was unfortunate the last scores to get it to 27-17 because some voters in the Harris Poll and Coaches Poll may have not been watching. If you lose 18-17 at Auburn there is not shame in that what so ever. Look at the other one-loss teams. Only Tennessee would have an argument and Florida beat them at there place. Notre Dame was routed, Texas beaten soundly and California was dismantled by Tennessee. I think UF is the best one loss team in the country and maybe they will get a rematch with Auburn.

Brady: What does Florida need to work on with the off week?

The bye week is good because you can get healthy and also re-charge your batteries. Florida can use it to get in the right frame of mind mentally in what will be the most important three-game stretch any of these players have played in. Win three in a row and you are in Atlanta, guaranteed. Also UF can self-scout a bit and see what is working and not working and have a good plan for Georgia. Somethings I think need to improve. First, the zone scheme has worked well for turnovers but the corners gave way too much room to an unproven receiving corps Saturday night. They have to tighten the coverage up especially on key third downs. Offensively they must find more ways to get the ball in Percy Harvin’s hands. He needs to get some shovel passes and some screens within the framework of the offense. I would like to see Mullen in his 12-15 play script give every playmaker one touch of the football. Jemalle Cornelius needs to be in every game plan. Finally re-evaluate the shield formation on punt. I personally don’t like it but man it will cause you to go to the Rolaids a lot when UF punts.

Brady: What stat stood out to you the most Saturday?

45 plays. The University of Florida ran less plays than a junior high game in Marion County on a Wednesday night. Now give Auburn credit they were methodical and kept the ball for a large chunk of time but Florida could not afford to come out in the third quarter and go nowhere. They did put a great drive together before the Leak fumble that should have at worst given them a field goal and the lead. Florida scored with so much ease in the first half yet led by only six points that I wonder if that worked against them. Imagine if UF would have gotten its usual 62-66 plays? I have to believe with 15 more plays they could have won the game.

Brady: Where do the Gators go from here?

For the first time since Steve Spurrier left UF controls its own SEC East destiny when the Gators face off with Georgia. I could even see Florida winning the division even with a loss to Georgia (I don’t think they will lose) because Auburn will beat Georgia and I imagine at least one of Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina or Alabama will beat Tennessee. But the bottom line is win and Georgia is eliminated and you are two wins from a trip to Atlanta. Also the last time UF lost to Auburn in a shocker on the plains (2001) the Gators re-surfaced as the favorites in November to play Miami in the Rose Bowl although the he Gators would lose to Tennessee in The Swamp and the Steve Spurrier era was over.

Final thoughts … No preview column this week but catch College Kickoff on Sun Sports Friday night at 7 p.m. for the preview of the upcoming weekend in college football … The BCS is out and UF is in good shape if they can win out and get a re-match with Auburn … Urban Meyer’s team did not fold up or choke Saturday and nor were they exposed as an over-rated team. They lost to a good team in a hostile environment when strange things took place. That’s college football and that’s why we love it. UF can still have a big year and all their goals are still in front of them.