Gator Country’s Cody Jones keeps you updated with quarterly reports from Florida’s season opener with Hawaii at The Swamp.
SO CLOSE: Will Hill looked just a tad slow in some coverages, but overall is having a good day for a freshman safety. He barely missed an interception of a deflected pass that bounced off his hands. He showed signs of a sure tackler on a screen pass later in the fourth quarter. His hits may not be on Major Wright caliber but he packs a punch.
TERRON LOOKING GOOD: Terron Sanders has looked good in time as the fourth defensive lineman. He has nice quickness for a guy his size but shows the strength to hold off large interior linemen. The hype about the defensive tackle position looks to be realistic.
HAWAII ON THE BOARD: Well it took 50 minutes, but the Warriors are on the scoreboard. In fact, they might have been saved by their own issues. They got a kick off two seconds after the play clock died, and the Gators blocked the kick before it was called a dead play. The Hawaii kicker then drilled a kick to give the team three points.
HELLO MR. BRANTLEY… KIND OF: John Brantley came in as Tebow’s replacement with 9:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, only to be pulled when a lineman false started. Brantley then returned after one play from Newton. Brantley’s first throw as a Gator went incomplete over the head of new scholarship player Cade Holliday.
ROUGH START: David Young’s career could have gotten off to a better start. He false started on the first play he lined up at scrimmage.
END OF A GREAT DAY: Brandon James capped a great day with a nice open field tackle on special teams. He gets my vote for player of the day.
LOTS OF THREE MAN FRONT: The defensive line has split a lot between three and four down defensive linemen. It looked to be using the three man front for passing plays and four man front for rushing plays.
GREEN NO MORE: Watching William Green terrorize offensive tackles for Hawaii almost makes you feel bad. He blew past the right tackle twice in the fourth quarter, and it resulted in a holding penalty on the next play. Stop him however you can, I suppose.
RICKERSON IMPROVES: A great play out of Rickerson down the right sideline for his first interception of his Florida football career. He played the fade route perfectly, couldn’t have timed the jump any better, and came down with a catch. The improvement Vance Bedford has brought to this secondary is undeniable.
QUESTIONS REMAIN: The offense didn’t have a good day overall, but it just doesn’t seem to work well without Tebow in the offense. This needs to get corrected just in case something was to happen to the Heisman winner.
HOW ABOUT A FAKE?: Chas Henry executed a fake punt perfectly on the first drive of the second half. He took the punt, faked a rugby kick, and took off for 17 yards down the right sideline and a Florida first down. The Gators are 6-6 on fake punts for first downs under Urban Meyer.
THE LITTLE MAN CAN: Jeff Demps isn’t your average speed back. He ran straight through a tackle on his way to the end zone on a 62-yard run. Demps isn’t one to waste time. He scored the touchdown on only his second carry as a Gator. Demps was the third running back to score, making it the first time in a season opener that an Urban Meyer team has.
GETTIN’ GREEDY: Jermaine Cunningham recorded a sack and forced the quarterback to fumble, when Dustin Doe approached the football. He wanted a little too much as he bobbled the football instead of covering it up, and Hawaii recovered. Doe made up for the error on the next play by making a nice open field tackle to end the Hawaii possession.
TALL RECEIVERS CAN MOVE TOO: Louis Murphy caught a post pattern from Tebow and spun out of a tackle to give the Gators their first passing touchdown. It came as their sixth touchdown in the game.
NOT ANY MORE: Running backs under Urban Meyer have never exceeded 100 yards in a season opener. At the 9:42 mark in the game, they were already at 165 yards.
BUTTER FINGERS: The Hawaiian receivers seemed to have dropped more passes than they caught. Sure they aren’t the surest group in the country, but part of it has to be fear the Florida secondary has put in them, especially with the bone crushing hits from Major Wright.
ATTENDANCE: Today’s announced attendance is 90,575. It ranks as the 10th highest attendance of all-time.
HE’S HOW BIG?: Chris Rainey took a screen down the sideline and almost got into the end zone, when he was blasted by a much larger Hawaii defender. The first one up was Rainey, and the Hawaii player was left in pain. Apparently the Breakfast Club has paid off for Rainey.
BACKUP QUARTERBACK: Cameron Newton took the first snap as the backup quarterback. He ran the ball up the middle, but was denied, only to score on the next play. Still, him coming in inside the five yard line isn’t a position John Brantley would replace Tebow, so the looming backup quarterback controversy goes on.
FIRST WAVE OF THE SEASON: Mark down the first wave of the 2008 season making its way around the stadium at the 9:31 mark in the 3rd quarter.
FIRST TIME THE CHARM: Jeff Demps got his first collegiate touch on a 3rd and 2 screen pass. He took the ball ten yards up field before being tackled. He also showed some jets with a 14-yard run near the end of the half.
FOR THE HIGHLIGHT REEL: The Warrior defense played a Tebow-Rainey option perfectly, causing Tebow to juke a few defenders and reverse the field, where he stepped out of bounds and missed a touchdown by mere inches.
ANOTHER FIRST: Brandon James captured his first career rushing touchdown to give the Gators their first touchdown of the season. His role in the Florida offense is seeing a large jump with the absence of Percy Harvin.
KICKOFF SPECIALIST UP FOR GRABS?: Caleb Sturgis kicked the ball off at the beginning of the game, but Jonathan Phillips kicked off after the Florida first touchdown. His kick was fair caught around the 30 yard line, and Sturgis regained kicking duties after the second score. Phillips regained kickoff duties after the third touchdown, only to bounce a kick at the 20 yard line.
SAFETY SENSATION: Major Wright returned an interception for a touchdown, the second interception from the safety position in 20 minutes of play. It’s a good thing he started studying the Hawaii film early.
TAKE IT AWAY: A Gator defense that desperately needed more takeaways last season secured three in 21 minutes of play. Two interceptions by the starting safeties and a fumble recovery by Joe Haden gave them the much needed ability to get off the field and the ball back in the offenses’ hands.
THAT DIDN’T TAKE LONG: Brandon James accumulated his second touchdown of the first half on his punt return in the second quarter on a 72-yard return. It’s his third punt return for a touchdown, one short of the school record of four, held by Jacquez Green.
FRESHMAN MISTAKE: Jeff Demps got a long lecture from Coach Meyer after he roughed the kicker. Demps is in the mold of a perfect punt blocker in Meyer’s system, as a fast athlete who can get lowly easily, mostly because of his size.
HADEN AGAIN: Joe Haden now forces a Hawaii fumble. He continues to be all over the field in the mold of an athlete that coaches dream about.
MISDIRECT THEM ALL: Chris Rainey took a misdirect play 33 yards into the end zone to show off tremendous execution. Riley Cooper deserves a giant assist on the play for throwing outstanding blocks all the way down the field. Rainey followed his lead and wound up with six points.
THREE WAYS: Florida scored on offense, defense and special teams in the first half. The last time they did that in an entire game was against Tennessee last season.
TEAM CAPTAINS: The four captains for the game are offensive tackle Jason Watkins, offensive tackle Phil Trautwein, linebacker Ryan Stamper and tight end Cornelius Ingram. Ingram walked to midfield in his jersey top and basketball shorts.
COIN TOSS: Florida won the toss and elected to defer until the second half. This is what the Florida coaches did all throughout 2006 because of the great confidence they had in their defense to go out and get a stop on the first possession. When the Florida coaches feel good about their defense, they have always chosen to defer.
KICKOFF COVERAGE: Freshman Caleb Sturgis kicked the ball off to start the game. New additions to the kickoff coverage unit include Joe Haden, Jacques Rickerson, Jeff Demps, and Will Hill.
NOT BAD FOR A FRESHMAN: Janoris Jenkins started the first play of his collegiate career as Florida lined up in the nickel package. Joe Haden was inside, covering the slot receiver. Jenkins did jump offside on a blitz later in the first drive.
ALL OVER THE PLACE: Joe Haden was everywhere. He deflected the first pass as he blitzed from the slot position, and made a tackle on a screen play that occurred on the opposite side of the field he blitzed from.
DIFFERENT LOOKS: The Florida cornerbacks threw out a lot of blitzes during the first quarter. It’s something that looks completely different from the soft coverage the Gator secondary displayed last season.
INSIDER PUSH: Lawrence Marsh lived up to all the preseason hype on a critical third down stop on the first drive. The Hawaii center did a good job with him on the previous few plays, but Marsh got the pass rush necessary to end the first drive for the Warriors.
ALL IN THE GAME: Kestahn Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps all got into the game at the running back position within the first six plays of the game. The rotation of these backs shows the faith that the coaching staff truly has in their players at the position this year.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?: Chas Henry did not have one touchback on all of his punts in 2007. His first punt on the 2008 season landed in the end zone for a touchback.
WHAT’S THE HURRY? The Gators jumped offsides four times on defense in the first quarter. The defensive unit looked a little antsy or nervous. There looked to be too much thinking going on.
NEVER FORGET THE FIRST ONE: Ahmad Black recorded his interception of his career as the quarterback badly overthrew a receiver. Black made the catch similar to a wide receiver, sliding into the end zone while doing so. This was the key play of the first quarter to completely turn the momentum Hawaii was building.