Former Gator Brady Ackerman talks about Florida’s win over South Carolina and the BCS.
Brady: What did you think of the Gators big win over South Carolina?
I would describe the showdown as uncomfortable, riveting and flat out emotional for all those who enjoyed it. The Gators won the fourth quarter by driving twice for scores against the Gamecocks while Spurrier and his offense came up empty because of special teams. The Gators found a way to win this game against a South Carolina team that will always be a tough “out” while Spurrier is the head coach. It really is hard to describe to the national pollsters and those around the country what it was like Saturday. To most of them it was Florida struggling against a 5-4 team but for the Gators it was Urban Meyer finding a way to win over the godfather of Florida football. Great win for the team and especially for the seniors in their final meaningful home game.
Ack: The difference was special teams, did that surprise you?
Not really. Think about this — since Urban Meyer has been at UF the Gators have blocked 12 kicks. We are not even through season two yet but that is a staggering number. It pays to put your starters on special teams. Field position played a role in the low number of possessions and lack of easy scores for both teams. UF averaged starting on their own 20 yard line while South Carolina averaged starting on their 17. Chris Hetland has made two of his last three kicks if you want to think positively.
Brady: I am frustrated with the offense, why didn’t we give the ball to DeShawn Wynn more on Saturday?
First of all the Gators had seven total possessions and scored on three of them. They missed a field goal, had a bad interception (which was after their best starting field position) and a holding call on Jim Tartt that negated a big pass play to inside the ten yard line. First of all I agree with you they must ride #21 down the stretch as long as he is healthy. He gives them balance and opens up the play action passing game. Florida’s two one-point wins (Tennessee, South Carolina) he was a big reason they got it done. I thought it was a good plan except for a few (tricky) plays here and there. Florida seems to try to score on (gadget) plays instead of just doing what you do to get points. Pound the ball let leak throw it and score touchdowns. I still believe it is the maturation process of Dan Mullen and learning that you don’t have to be remembered for calling a reverse pass for a touchdown at Florida, just score touchdowns.
Brady: What did you think of the Gator offense?
I thought for the most part is was very good. Remember what I said in the preseason with the new clock rules. The word of the year is efficiency. You must get the most out of every drive and turnovers will be more costly this season. You combine that with the fact that UF’s defense could not get South Carolina off the field and you better be efficient. The Gators were terrific on third down they scored on three out of seven total possessions. When the chips were down at Tennessee and again on Saturday, the Gators picked up fouth down conversions and drove the ball to take the lead. Give the seniors Chris Leak, DeShawn Wynn and Dallas Baker a lot of credit but don’t forget about the true freshmen, Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow. One other thing, Florida did throw the ball down the field with some effectiveness. They got two pass interference penalties and the big catch to Bubba Caldwell was called back due to a Gator holding penalty.
Ack: How do you think Chris Leak played?
Except for one throw Chris was terrific. Yes the touchdown to Baker could have been picked off, but when you have a guy like Dallas that you can trust you just throw it up and let him go get it. The interception was a bad throw but it was also a poorly conceived play or busted route. Chris has made some great drives under pressure that people seem to forget from time to time. His freshman year against Georgia, the fourth quarter in Tallahassee, last season against Tennessee at home and this season on the road at Tennessee. The drive before the half was a thing of beauty and the game winner was championship worthy. Chris has had some flaws but he has delivered the Gators to the doorstep of the national championship game.
Brady: Was it all Spurrier or is our defense struggling?
Both. Spurrier mixed it up well and had a good plan. In eight total possessions he only punted twice and one of those was after a penalty erased a 55-yard field goal. He was at his best and if they would have had good field position they might have won the game. The Gators were not strong up the middle without Marcus Thomas and with an injured Brandon Siler. Siler should not have played and I thought he hurt them being in the game. I have a lot of respect for his toughness but he was not himself on Saturday. Reggie Nelson did not have a great game with a couple of blown coverages and missed tackles on the run. The Gators were the best in the country up the middle three weeks ago, but right now they are vulnerable. I think Spurrier had a lot to do with it and the Gator defense will play much better the next two weeks. Against Arkansas in the title game UF needs the tackles and Siler to step up big.
Brady: What is to be gained this week against Western Carolina?
Statistics. This is a good time for UF to re-charge their batteries emotionally and put up some good numbers. Go get Wynn a 100 yards, let Baker and Cornelius score as seniors and put up 40 points. Defensively the fact that UF had 0 sacks last week was big and they need to rack up some numbers and also force turnovers. The Gators had a zero sack, zero turnover day on defense versus South Carolina. It is Senior Day and the key is taking care of business and getting out of the game healthy.
Brady: What is your take on the BCS?
I knew the Pac Ten and USC especially had a chance to overtake the Gators, but I had no idea it would happen so soon. These teams are pretty close the fact that the Pac 10 added a ninth conference game could be the difference. USC has beaten two divison champs in Nebraska and Arkansas (assuming Ark closes it out) while UF’s marquee wins are over LSU and Tennessee. In the BCS there are three terms that end up deciding the outcome as frustrating as it might seem.
1. Style Points: This is the human polls and while UF ran through it’s gauntlet of Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia at 3-1 earning some respect. USC was floundering in 6 point wins over Washington and Washington State and a 7 point win over Arizona State. They also lost to Oregon State who was bombed by Boise. But it’s November and the pollsters were impressed by USC last week.
2. Calendar losses: Michigan and Ohio State will be affected by a “calendar” loss late in the season possibly eliminating their chance for a title. But look at the calendar for UF. They finish with three regular season games that feature no winning teams while USC gets a shot at three ranked opponent (last week’s BCS poll). This will influence the humans and they will all forget about the Trojan struggles of October. This will also help Notre Dame which lost in September but because it was early on the calendar they are back in the mix.
3. Strange bedfellows: This is the worst part of the BCS because you root for teams that you beat to be good the rest of the season. How is a Gator fans suppose to enjoy the misery of FSU or even Alabama when they have to root for those teams to win? If the Gators win out and don’t go to Glendale it will be FSU that cost them a shot at a national title. The BCS is maddening and it’s better to play all the games and see what happens. Florida, Notre Dame, USC, Rutgers and Arkansas all have games they could lose the rest of the way.
Check out College Kickoff on Sun Sports Friday night at 7 p.m. and listen Monday through Friday to the Brady Ackerman Show on ESPN Radio AM900 Ocala and AM1230 Gainesville from 7-10 a.m.