If you returned to our planet in the city of Gainesville on Saturday you may have realized something. Gator football has returned. If the Gator flags hanging off SUVs and the tailgating off every road in Gainesville weren’t enough for you to realize, maybe the 45 minutes it took me to get from one side of campus to the other will.
Gator football has its own aura. And it’s back.
The first game day this season began with a drive through campus headed towards the normal tailgating spot near Norman Hall. Living on the east side of campus makes this difficult and we spent 45 minutes trying to get from one side of campus to the other.
It was interesting to see a different side of campus on game day, and Museum Road was full of cars on both sides tailgating. My new favorite potential tailgating spot is on the side of Museum Road, overlooking Lake Alice. There were a lot of groups setting up over there, and it looked like one of the best locations on campus.
But honestly, there’s nothing like a sea of orange and blue headed towards the stadium. I started thinking about my first trip to the Swamp and what an overwhelming experience it was. To think that every Saturday 90,000+ people pile into a stadium to cheer for the Gators, it’s an experience like no other.
Saturday was no different. As reigning national champs, the entire campus had a special feeling. Even when the team was on the field for warm-ups, the crowd was excited to see what this team could do.
But don’t fool yourself. Every person in the stands came for one main purpose; to see how Tim Tebow will prove himself as the new starting quarterback. Before Tebow came out to start his first drive for the Gators, a “Te-bow” chant even broke out in the student section. Face it; the kid is reaching god status in Gainesville. That was even before he took a snap as the starter.
Once he took that first snap, he didn’t disappoint. After a handoff to Kestahn Moore, Tebow dropped to pass, and threw the crowd into a frenzy by tucking it and running for 18 yards. It was almost as if he was proving to the crowd that, outside of the throwing clinic he was about to provide for the young kids in the stands, he was still the same Tebow. Through the day though, he did the unthinkable by stepping out of bounds.
The first time Tebow stepped out was one of my favorite moments of the day. The student section didn’t know how to respond.
But just how good will this offense be? To think that this team went for 510 yards and still didn’t play a full game. What would those extra eight minutes have done, not only for the stats, but for the players involved?
How much would those extra eight minutes have benefited guys like Chris Rainey, Deonte Thompson, Cam Newton, Duke Lemmens, and all the other freshmen who were beginning to see the field? I hate to make a big deal about losing eight minutes against a far worse team, but the time lost would have been valuable time for a team as young as this one.
Some of my favorite plays on defense were in the third quarter when we had an entire freshmen defensive line. I believe we went through an entire series with Carlos Dunlap and Justin Trattou at the end positions, along with Torrey Davis and red-shirt freshman Lawrence Marsh inside. Ladies and gentlemen, the future is bright.
Watching Torrey Davis if you get a chance next week. His combination of size and athleticism is downright scary. He made a few great plays, including a sack, but he is going to be an outstanding defensive tackle for us. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him start at some point this season.
I wasn’t completely impressed with our defense, but the overall speed is fantastic. Think about the potential they have. Take a Joe Haden, who is our #2 cornerback once Markihe Anderson comes back. He comes in and starts as a true freshman. How high is his ceiling with three to four years under Coach Heater? He got beat deep at least once, but it was his first game.
Brandon Spikes was everywhere. People all over the student section were talking about his performance. Then they put up on the scoreboard that he had eleven tackles at that point in the game. What a day for Spikes.
Dustin Doe had an outstanding day too. He gave everyone flash backs to Earl Everett as he not only made a tackle without his helmet, but put two hands in his chest and threw him backwards. Spikes and Doe have solidified themselves as solid parts of this defense, that third spot is still up for grabs as far as I know. I honestly didn’t watch enough of AJ Jones. Jerimy Finch could potentially come in and steal the spot. He looked great at linebackers and made an excellent hit on special teams.
The question for me is, how long until Jamar Hornsby or Major Wright is our starting free safety? Kyle Jackson continues to take bad angles and show that he is inept in the tackling department as well.
When I was walking out of the stadium, I started thinking to myself about what a successful game this was for the Gators. Plenty of things were accomplished. Tebow, yet again, proved that he can throw. Kestahn Moore proved that he should be able to handle the load this year. Our receiving group was lethal, with Louis Murphy and Cornelius Ingram getting limited touches. While the defense may not be as clear, it is still a young, talented group who has plenty of upside this season.