Last 10 Things: Florida Gators vs. Auburn Tigers

10 final things about Florida’s matchup with Auburn.


1. We start with must win.

2. Jacoby Brissett do your worst…er…best. The Gators are lacking in the experience department, but they’re gaining it quicker than they would have been under normal circumstances, so that’s a plus. Brissett should have an easier time against the Tigers’ defense than he did last week. Should.

3. Mike Gillislee got the praise of his offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and earned a starting nod. Good for the hard running halfback. Great for the Gators if he can pound away at the Auburn defense.

4. Odds of an Andre Debose big play: roughly 1-to-1. Is that how odds work? I’m not sure, but Brissett will take shots if last week is any indication and Debose will probably be on the end of an attempt or two.

5. Should we do it three times in a row? Yes? Okay, here we go. The offensive line needs to be tougher.

6. The offensive line needs to be more consistent.

7. The offensive line NEEDS TO PLAY AS A UNIT. On too many snaps, it looks like five individual going their separate ways. If that’s the play call, good. Most times it doesn’t appear to be. It appears like the ball is snapped and five minds go in five separate ways.

8. Tackle. Don’t always try for the strip. Take the right angle. Keep your head up. Hit cleanly. Push the ball carrier back. Stand your ground.

9. Florida needs to attack Auburn in every aspect of the game. Brissett needs to attack the secondary, the lines need to attack the opposing lines, and the defense needs to be on all-out attack mode on every play. This game is winnable. Go win it.

10. And we end with must win.

Preview: Florida Gators vs. Auburn Tigers – Saturday, October 15, 2011 – 7:00pm

The quick look came earlier this week; now to the full preview. Everything below has and will be discussed leading up to Saturday’s game against Auburn, but there is one thing Florida needs to do: just win. We’ve reached must-win status at game seven. The Gators need to learn from the losses and improve in the areas of concern right now. The second half of the season starts now and 4-2 must become 5-2.


The Facts

Opponent: Auburn Tigers
When: Saturday, October 15, 2011 – 7:00pm
Where: Auburn, AL
Television/Radio: ESPN, ESPN3.com, GRN, Sirius 91, XM 91
Records: Florida: 4-2 (2-2), Auburn: 4-2 (2-1)
Point Spread: Florida -2
Over/Under: 49.5
Betting Score That Would Calculate To: Florida 26-24
Scoring Offenses: Florida: 30.3, Auburn: 27.8
Scoring Defenses: Florida: 19.2; Auburn: 29.2
Gators’ Win Factor (See Here): TBG: 51, OEW: 49

Learn About Auburn

1. Auburn was originally chartered in 1856 as the East Alabama Male College. Doesn’t really have much of a ring to it, does it?
2. Auburn offered the nation’s first interior architecture design degree.
3. The school has a fully FAA certified Air Agency – the Auburn University Aviation Department.
4. Sure the Tigers are the defending national champions, but swimming and diving is where it’s at. The men’s and women’s squads have combined for 13 titles.
5. As you know, Gene Chizik played football at Florida. As you may not have known, he began his career as an assistant at Seminole High School. Don’t get confused though, that’s not the same Seminole Gators’ wide receiver Andre Debose went to.

When the Gators Have the Ball

When the Gators have the ball we at least know that the Gators will have the ball. What we don’t know is exactly which one of the Gators will have the ball. We do know that John Brantley is out until at least the Georgia game (some conspiracy theorists seem to think he’ll miss more time than that), so no. 12 won’t have it. We also know that both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are being prepared. What we don’t know is the exact combination we are expected to see. Odds are in favor of both playing along with a little Trey Burton thrown in there, without Burton actually throwing the ball more than once or possibly twice. And the “who will have the ball?” line of questioning doesn’t end there.

At running back there’s a similar situation that is there for entirely different reasons. Chris Rainey will get the majority of carries again as he looks to get back on track after a disappointing outing against Alabama and a subpar one against LSU. Jeff Demps, we all hope, will eventually return to his normal self and bring back the threat of world-class speed in pads. And Mike Gillislee has earned carries and should become a change of pace to the speedsters over the last half of the season. Not that Gillislee doesn’t have a nice burst of his own, but Charlie Weis may look to use him between the tackles against Auburn to give the Florida offense another dynamic to move the ball.

There you have it: a three-headed pass game and a three-headed run game. For the run game, it’s a positive – assuming the offensive line, well, you know. For the pass game, it’s a riddle of sorts. Brissett and Driskel have had a rough go of it this season; in part due to inexperience and in part thanks for the Alabama and LSU defenses. They will need all the time they can get against Auburn. Still in the learning mode, both need the offensive line to step up every aspect of line play. They need time to be able to make decisions without having to worry about avoiding a pass rush. Because of this, and the need for an explosive run game to return, the offensive line continues to be the most important unit on the team.

For those that watch football for the big play or the huge hit, there’s a sigh associated with hearing about offensive line play, but it’s a definite truth. The last two weeks have been rough for the Gators’ offensive line. It hasn’t been any easier for the defensive line, but we’ll get into that in a second. The offensive line hasn’t allowed the run game to develop and hasn’t given the young quarterbacks a chance to survey more than their first option, if they even have time to do that. The remainder of the season lies on the shoulders of the offensive line. That’s a lot of pressure, but there should be. Along that line is experience, talent and potential. The Gators have not used any of those three things to their favor over the last two weeks. In order to beat Auburn, they’ll have to bring them all together…FOR 60 MINUTES!

There should be a section in there about the wide receivers and the tight ends, but enough has been said at this point. The line needs to give the quarterbacks the chance to get through plays and the QBs have to deliver before we focus on the pass catchers yet again.

When the Tigers Have the Ball

Now for that other line – the defensive line. They’ll be named individually because they’re being called out: Dominique Easley, Sharrif Floyd, Jaye Howard, Omar Hunter and Ronald Powell. There are other names that could be thrown in there and Powell could also be taken out since he is technically occupying the buck position, but those five are the key to pressuring opposing quarterbacks and disrupting running plays in the backfield. They’ve done little of either since the win over Kentucky. Did we mention that among that group, there are four five-star rankings and a fifth-year senior? You already knew that, but more importantly the players know it too. They’re just as frustrated as the coaches and Gators’ fans are. They don’t want to underachieve. They want to be great in the orange and blue. If the offensive line is unit of importance number one, then the defensive line is number two.

And then there’s that whole tackling thing. Practice, coaching, a review of the fundamentals, film review and, yes, a lot of yelling needs to occur. This site counts Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins among its favorites on the roster. Michael Taylor is about the take the top linebacker spot on that list. He’s one more game away from taking actual minutes away from one of those two as well and rightfully so. Taylor is the bright spot on a unit that was invisible in 2010 and is quickly disappearing in 2011. It’s only a matter of time before a change is made on the field and off of it. D.J. Durkin doesn’t seem to be getting through to his players. Either that or he is but is just being completely ignored when games start. Guess is it’s the former.

This is another game for the secondary in which they’ll be facing an average quarterback. Kiehl Frazier is used often, but he rarely throws the ball, so the focus is on Barrett Trotter. Trotter’s efficiency rating has decreased progressively over the course of the season and he hasn’t made it through a game interception-free since the opener against Utah State. The secondary may not have much to worry about in the pass game, but they have to be prepared to help in the run game. Auburn is another team that pounds the ball at opposing defenses. The Tigers’ top four rushers all average between 5.2 and 5.5 yards per carry. If tackling from the front seven is an issue again, the Gators’ defensive backs must come up with meet the running backs and not allow those extra yards.

Special Teams

The Gators need a special teams spark. Whether that is a blocked kick or a Debose kickoff return, Florida needs a momentum shifter. The defense isn’t cause turnovers, so the special teams may need to provide that spark. A big special teams play can silence a crowd in a mere second. These previews usually only mention Will Muschamp and Weis when discussing coaches, but this will be the second time Durkin’s name has come up. The assistant needs his unit to come through.

Outcome

The Gators can’t drop three in a row. It’s really as simple as that. The game won’t be, but the outcome needs to be. Florida needs to believe they have the talent to compete in the SEC this year and not wait for the future to come. The Gators are still alive in the chase for the East, but a loss to the Tigers almost assuredly knocks them out. Auburn is a team Florida can beat, but it has also become a team the Gators must beat.

Special Teams: LSU Tigers 41 – Florida Gators 11

First thoughts here. Offense here. Defense here.


Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. You may not agree with the rule and what LSU’s Brad Wing did may have barely crossed the line of breaking it, but the call wasn’t a bad one. How can it be a bad call if the refs are enforcing an existing rule? You can go on and on about how the new rule was probably brought up during offensive and defensive meetings, but not during special teams meetings. First of all, that would be a guess. Second of all, he still broke it. There’s that; now let’s move on the more pressing punter issue: Florida needs one.

Maybe we’ve been spoiled. Eric Wilbur was followed by Chas Henry. For years, the Gators didn’t have to worry about the punting game. Both could punt for serious distance, but also place the ball extremely well. David Lerner – I’m sorry to say – isn’t Wilbur or Henry. Lerner has only had one game this season in which he averaged more than 38.5 yards per punt. That was against Alabama and was the result of some lucky bounces. Against LSU, Lerner didn’t have a good day. He hasn’t seemed to figure out which style is best for him, but the biggest problem could be a lack of hang-time. I’m not sure what other options Florida has – Lerner is obviously beating out all competition – but the first step should be to have him stick with one style. I’ve never been a fan of the rugby-style punt unless you have an unbelievably strong leg. Lerner does not. He may still develop into a weapon, but he needs to figure out what type of punter he is. Once he does that, he can focus on the intricacies of getting the ball into the air. (And yes, I have credibility in saying all of this. I was the punter for three coed flag football league champions. I believe I punted a grand total of two times in somewhere around 30 games. I clearly know what I’m talking about.)

The return game was nothing special for either team. A 37-yard kickoff return by Chris Rainey was perhaps the highlight if there was one. Other than that it was business as usual. The fireworks were kept put away for another week. We’ve seen Andre Debose break out in the pass game recently; maybe his special teams explosion is coming soon. Maybe.

Coming tomorrow: final thoughts.

Offense: LSU Tigers 41 – Florida Gators 11

First thoughts can be found here.


213 yards of total offense. If that number – or at least the ballpark that number resides in – looks familiar, it’s because it is nine yards lower than last week’s output – 222. Against LSU, Florida was expected to struggle. Against the Tigers, the Gators did. In the 41-11 thrashing at the hands of one of the nation’s best, Florida totaled 100 yards in the air and 113 on the ground. LSU’s defense was actually better than it had been against the pass and in points allowed. Not surprising, but a punch to the gut all the same.

It all started and ended with ankle injuries. One week ago, Alabama had the better team, but if John Brantley hadn’t gone down near the end of the first half, I have a hard time believing a 28-point loss was in the Gators’ future. The passing game was beginning to come together and surely could have kept Florida in the game longer. Against LSU, that would have been the case as well. Both the Tide and the Tigers possess all-world defenses and losses wouldn’t have been shocking, but the Gators would have been able to move the ball more effectively. But the ankle injury happened and Jeff Driskel was thrust into action. Then another ankle injury would haunt Florida. Driskel was rendered unavailable for the matchup with LSU and another true freshman – Jacoby Brissett – was named the starter.

Let me start this section by saying no one blames Driskel or Brissett for what happened against Alabama or LSU; or at least no one should. There may not be two tougher defenses for the true freshmen to have faced in their first significant minutes. Driskel was handed the reins in a split second after a fifth-year senior went down. Brissett was then given them when he was clearly on a path to a redshirt season. Both are extremely talented, but extremely inexperienced. It doesn’t help that the defending national champions are next on the schedule (it does that Auburn doesn’t possess defensive talent even in the same room as Alabama and LSU). In the last five seasons, three programs have won the national championship not named Florida. The Gators play those three in succession this season and for 150 of 180 possible minutes, Driskel and Brissett will be the primary quarterbacks. The phrase baptism by fire comes to mind, but that’s putting it far too mildly.

Brissett wasn’t bad in his debut. Yes, I just said that. He wasn’t. He was inexperienced. 8-for-14 for 94 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions isn’t a good stat line, but what did we really expect? In addition to being one of the most fundamental sound defenses in the nation, LSU’s is one of the fastest. Against an offensive line still trying to find consistency (AND THE ABILITY TO WORK AS A UNIT!), the Tigers’ front was able to apply pressure on Brissett forcing him to make quick decisions. I’d imagine a lot runs through the mind of a quarterback during a play. I’d also imagine double the typical number of thoughts were going through Brissett’s on Saturday.

If anything, it was a learning experience for the freshman. He learned how quickly you have to make decisions in the SEC and just how fast the college game is compared to the high school one. We learned that he sure does love the deep ball and he may be the best rollout quarterback on the roster. If there was a shining moment for me as a fan, it was watching Brissett use his feet to avoid the rush on several plays and get outside the pocket to give himself more time. It didn’t always result in a positive play for the Gators, but that escapability is something that can come in handy for him as his continues his development.

The running game wasn’t as dynamic as it had been over the first four games of the season, but again that all goes back to the defenses the Gators’ offense has gone up against in the last two weeks. Perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel though: against Alabama – 29 carries for 15 yards; against LSU – 32 carries for 113 yards. That isn’t a great output against the Tigers and it results in only 3.5 yards per carry, but it’s an improvement. Florida won’t face a defense like either of those two for the remainder of the regular season so we hope the run game returns.

What can’t come back are the penalties. Despite a devastating loss to the Tide, the Gators only committed four penalties for 20 yards. Against the Tigers, those numbers rose to 12 for 90 and many were momentum killers. The offensive line needs to come together as I’ve mentioned numerous times this season, but they also need to play smart. There is talent there, but there is also intelligence. They need to get back to the fundamentals of football and just play hard and play smart. Chris Rainey can be one of the most dangerous weapons in the nation, but he can’t do it alone. He’s not a bruiser. He needs lanes, but he also needs to be able to break runs without the worry of them being called back. Line play – on both sides of the ball – will be the key going forward. So will getting Jeff Demps back and giving Mike Gillislee the ball more.

This was another one of those games where the receivers were practically invisible, but they also can’t really be blamed for that. While Brissett was trying his best to avoid the rush and find anyone he could to get the ball too, the receivers weren’t always the primary option. Andre Debose is clearly the deep threat and proved for the second week that he will get a homerun shot at least once or twice each game, but his 65-yard touchdown catch was one of only two receptions by wide receivers. Six games into the season and the Gators don’t have a single wide receiver with more than nine receptions. Think about that for a second, Florida is on pace to not have a receiver reach the 20-catch mark during the regular season. By comparison, USC’s Ronald Woods has 55 receptions in five games this season, hasn’t had a game in which he had less than eight, and has a 14-catch and a 17-catch game. The receivers need to step up, but Charlie Weis needs to ensure the quarterbacks are able to run the right plays to get them the ball.

The offense has left a lot to be desired over the last 120 minutes of football. Injuries, offensive line play, and an inability to consistently sustain drives have caused the Gators to flounder. There’s time to right the ship, but not much. Auburn’s defense gives Florida the opportunity to get back to the basics and revitalize the run game, but the Gators have to do exactly that. Florida scored 7 points in the first 19 seconds against Alabama. In 119:41 since then, the Gators have put 14 on the scoreboard. That’s a far cry from the 40.3 Florida averaged over the first four games of the season. Time for the offense to get back on track.

Coming up next: the defense.

First Thoughts: LSU Tigers 41 – Florida Gators 11

We had a feeling this would be a tough one for Florida to come out of alive. A true freshman quarterback starting in a hostile environment against a top-ranked LSU team. Our feeling was spot on. The Gators had trouble moving the ball and stopping anything the Tigers put out there.


Jeff Driskel didn’t get the start. The “backup” quarterback didn’t even dress. An ankle injury to Driskel left him on the sidelines, giving the ball to fellow true freshman Jacoby Brissett. Nothing against Brissett, but this wasn’t the way you wanted to start your career. Alabama’s defense was fast, but he didn’t fully experience it. He watched. LSU’s defense was too. To his credit, Brissett didn’t appear rattled, but he wasn’t able to do much either. A 65-yard touchdown pass to deep threat Andre Debose was the highlight, but that was about it. Brissett’s final line: 8-for-14 for 94 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. It was rough and at times ugly. What happens at quarterback next week against Auburn remained to be seen. If the offensive line can give that quarterback time and open holes for the running backs does too.

The run game needed to be exceptional. It was pedestrian; an improvement over last week, but pedestrian all the same. Inconsistent line play coupled with a tenacious LSU defense meant the running game would never fully get going. Jeff Demps wasn’t 100% and Chris Rainey was met time after time at the line. Mike Gillislee was a bright spot, but not enough to do too much damage.

LSU did what it needed to do which was exactly what Alabama needed to do a week earlier: establish the run and stop the run. Sure, Florida ran better against LSU, but not as well at the Tigers did. LSU totaled 238 yards on 49 carries, constantly pounding away at the Gators’ defense. We knew it could happen and we all witnessed it with our own eyes. Consistently getting four, five, and six yards ended up being the death of the Gators.

Before the season started, we all had a picture of where Florida would be after six games. 4-2 with losses to Alabama and LSU was a real possibility. Losses to those two by a combined 58 points weren’t what we expected though. It had to do with injuries, areas that need consistency and improvement, and the painful fact that the Gators aren’t among the elite. A Florida fan expects a lot, even during a transition year. Is it too much? I’ll let you decide. What we now know is that there are defined areas to work on and key players to get healthy. The first half of the season is over; six games to go.

Offense: Alabama Crimson Tide 38 – Florida Gators 10

First thoughts are up. Moving on to the offense.


For a few moments, everything looked wonderful. Florida started with not only a deep attempt, but a deep completion. John Brantley hit Andre Debose in stride for a 65-yard touchdown and everything appeared to be perfect with the world for just a second. Not only was it the deep ball we’ve all been searching for, it was Brantley – the quarterback with a shaky past – to Debose – the all-world recruit with little to show for it on offense to this point. It didn’t hurt that Debose beat one of the nation’s better cornerbacks – Dre Kirkpatrick – on the play. For just a moment, the aura of the Alabama defense disappeared.

That aura stayed in the locker room a little longer as the Gators had no problem driving the field on their second drive as well. Unfortunately, it was one of those drives that needed to result in a touchdown. The Gators’ defense had held the Crimson Tide offense to a field goal at the other end of the field and Florida had done the unthinkable – drive on the Bama defense twice in two drives. The unthinkable had happened: Debose’s touchdown, Brantley to Deonte Thompson for 30 yards on third-and-six, Brantley to Thompson again for 13 yards on third-and-seven. Things were definitely falling the Gators’ way…for just a moment…

On first-and-goal from the nine, Brantley found Chris Rainey all alone, but the pass was a second late and Rainey’s momentum carried him out of bounds at the four. Had Brantley been able to make the throw just a split second earlier, Rainey would have easily walked into the end zone. On second-and-goal, Brantley made a beautiful pass to the rising hero – Debose – only to have Debose slightly lose control of the ball. Third down resulted in another incompletion and suddenly Florida was faced with a field goal.

Although the drive didn’t end as desired, the Gators were still up 10-3 and had put points on the board on their first two drives. Great, right? Well, those would be the only points Florida would manage in a game somewhat reminiscent of the 1999 SEC Championship Game. The following drives would end like this: interception, punt, punt, field goal miss, punt, punt, punt, fumble, punt, punt. Six of those seven punts were the result of three-and-outs. Part of it had to do with the injury to Brantley and the passing game disappearing; much of it had to do with the running game never showing up.

Only one week earlier, the Gators ran the ball 46 times for 405 yards. It’s been said many times, but was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt on Saturday night: Kentucky isn’t Alabama. Against the Tide, the Gators ran the ball 29 times for 15 yards. That’s an average of less than half a yard per carry. The long of the night came from backup-but-could-be-the-new-starting-quarterback Jeff Driskel. Driskel scrambled for 31 yards on a play that reminded many of Tim Tebow. That was all that reminded anyone of no. 15. It was the high point for the Florida run game all night. There’s a theme here and that theme is four yards. Rainey: 11 carries, four yards. Jeff Demps: three carries, four yards. Mike Gillislee: three carries, four yards.

On passing plays, the offensive line looked like a different unit entirely. They formed pockets around Brantley and although he was pressured, the line did their job early he was able to complete 11 passes on 16 attempts for 190 yards (until Bama’s defense woke up, that’s an entirely different story). On running plays, things were incredibly different. When Florida attempted to run up the middle, every hole was closed immediately. Going to the outside, ball carriers were met by what seemed like 50 defenders in Alabama uniforms. Even on plays when the blocking came together, the Tide defense was too quick. Other than Driskel’s scramble, Rainey had the long run of the night of only seven yards and that didn’t come until almost halfway through the fourth quarter.

The loss comes especially hard because we finally saw what the passing game can do. In the first quarter, Brantley attempted seven passes and completed five of them. His first quarter yardage total was 110 with three of his completions going to wide receivers for 103 of those yards. It looked like Charlie Weis had opened up the playbook and the passing game could be as dangerous as we all hoped. Then Bama’s defense woke up.

A “what just happened?!?” interception took the wind out of the Gators’ sails. Florida would go three-and-out twice after the turnover, allowing Alabama to extend their lead to 14 before the half. But then hope was restored and Brantley caught fire again. Four straight completions and suddenly the Gators were at the Tide 13. Then the unthinkable happened. Courtney Upshaw – who had an outstanding all-around night – sacked Brantley and the quarterback went down awkwardly on his leg. Brantley was helped off the field and the offensive surge was officially over.

Florida would only get into Alabama territory once during the second half – and that was only to the 49. Driskel was force-fed the keys to the offense against possibly the nation’s best defense. It wasn’t a night to remember for the true freshman and one he needs to forget quickly. In less than one week, the Gators travel to LSU and he may be the new starter.

A rough night for the Gators’ offense definitely, but if you had any doubts about the Tide defense, they’re now gone. Alabama looks every bit a contender on both sides of the ball, while Florida still has work to do. One team couldn’t run and the other stopped the run consistently. That was predicted to be the key to winning this game and ended up being right on the money.

Up next: the Gators’ defensive performance.

The Rest: Florida Gators 39 – UAB Blazers 0

Offense, done.Defense, completed. We now move on to the special teams and some final thoughtson Florida’s 39-0 win over UAB.
Special Teams
Jeff Dempsreturned kickoffs in the season opener against FAU. While I won’t say anything bad about a longtime TBG favorite,30 yards on two returns with a long of 18 just isn’t going to cut it. AgainstUAB, in came last year’s kick return surprise Andre Debose. Because of the shutout, Debose only got one chance toshine in the return game, and shine he did. No. 4 took the opening kickoff 50yards, setting up the Gators first score of the game. More Debose please. Thankyou.
Although UAB punted six times, none were returned. After twogames, this is yet another aspect of the game where we don’t know what we havejust yet. There are plenty of options, but none are sure things. There isalways the possibility of a block though, and that’s something to smile about.
Caleb Sturgis continuedhis perfect season with three made field goals on three attempts and a 4-4night on extra points. The more important thing for Sturgis at this point isjust staying healthy. With five field goals already in two games, he’ll beneeded in a number of critical situations this season.
It took Florida a while, but the Gators finally punted. David Lerner’s average looks downrightawful, but you have to ignore it. Lerner finished with a 29.0 average and along of 32, but both punts ended inside the 20. Lerner did his job and that’sall you can ask for.
Final Thoughts
The Gators may not continue to score 40 points per game andthey definitely won’t keep up their 1.5 points allowed per game average, butthere’s plenty to be pleased with. The run game looks like it will be Florida’sstrength and the pass game appears to be coming along little by little. If theoffensive line can up its consistency, the entire offense will become a fearedunit.
On the defensive side of the ball, keeping teams out of theend zone is the goal and the Gators have done just that so far. They’ll facebetter offenses as the season continues, but for now, so far, so good. The lineshould come together better once it’s whole again and the secondary needs a fewmore players to step up. Once the unit is rolling, it – like the offense – couldbe exactly what the Gators need.
It’s an exciting time to be a Gators’ fan. Will Muschamp has brought a fire to theprogram that just wasn’t seen in 2010. Just go back and listen to what he saidat the half when Florida was up 25-0. He won’t take average and he won’t eventake good. Muschamp strives for perfect and that is just fine with me. This maynot be a national championship contender, but it’s a team on the way back upwith a bright future ahead.

The Offense: Florida Gators 39 – UAB Blazers 0

The longer this recapbecame, the more I realized I needed to split it up. So here’s the offense. Twomore parts – the defense and special teams/other – to come today as well.
Game two has come and gone and as expected, Florida is 2-0. That’s not a surprise,but what might be is the Gators play so far. It hasn’t been spectacular justyet, but it has been very good in areas, good in others, and improved in thefinal few. Fans will keep pointing to 2010 and say “it has been better so far this season,” but maybe it’s time tomove on. After two games it has been better, but 2010 no longer matters. 2011does. The SEC schedule begins in six days when Florida hosts Tennessee. Another win has fansconfident and ready to attack the rest of the schedule. For now we do look back,but less than 24 hours back at the 39-0 win over UAB.
The offense is still a work inprogress, but one we’re all excited to see grow. The playbook hasn’t beenentirely opened just yet and that’s just fine. Charlie Weis is known to play to his opponent. After the win over FAU, the use of screens and dump offswere excessive, but they worked. Against UAB, they were used again, but theyworked. The first thought is that they won’t work against bigger, faster,stronger SEC defenses, and that’s true for the most part, but what we don’t knowis what we don’t know. Yes, that makes sense. There’s more to Weis’ playbookthan screens. He’ll use what he needs when he needs it. So far he’s had littleneed for much more than the basics.
John Brantley wasn’t asked to throw the ball as much against UAB ashe did against FAU, but he was more efficient and got the ball down the fieldmore. The game’s first offensive play was exciting even if it didn’t run assmoothly as you’d like (trickeration isn’t always perfect). A 40-yard gain is a40-yard gain I guess. Overall, Brantley passed for 195 yards on only 12completions, compared to 229 on 21 in the first game of the season. Whenworking the middle of the field, he looked more confident and on several playsstood in the pocket, surveyed the field, and fired the ball to his receivers. Brantleyhasn’t been great yet, but he hasn’t needed to be. What he has been isconfident and that should mean something heading into the Tennessee game. Onthe season, Brantley is completing over 67% of his passes, but that 1-2touchdown-to-interception ratio is still a little bit cringe-worthy. Thepassing game needs to be a threat to opposing defenses moving forward and itneeds to not only create scoring opportunities, but actually score.
While the Gators only attempted 20passes against the Blazers, they were pounding the ball away while establishingthe run game. On the night, Florida running backs carried the ball 49 times andBrantley and backup quarterback JeffDriskel added three additional carries. The goal was to keep the focalpoint on the run game and it worked. ChrisRainey was his dynamic self totaling 119 yards on 16 carries. Jeff Demps only carried the ball twicebefore going out with what looked like a minor injury. We’ll definitely behoping it remains minor. The plus of the night was the backups. Against FAU, Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown totaled five carries and 19 yards (all were Gillislee’s),but against UAB, they combined for 115 yards on 21 runs. It was very importantto get the backups more carries especially in situations where Demps was unableto go. We’re now a little more confident in what Gillislee and Brown offergoing forward. Trey Burton and Hunter Joyer got into the action aswell. Those two along with Rainey and Gillislee all had rushing touchdowns. Twogames in and five different Gators have scored on the ground.
With only 12 completions, you’regoing to come away with low numbers among the wide receivers, but we still needto know who’s going to step up. Rainey led the way again with three receptions –only half of his total against FAU. Next up were receivers Andre Debose, Quinton Dunbar,and Deonte Thompson with two each.The main reason was the use of screens, but we still have to wonder what we’llsee going forward. After two games, the leading receivers that are actually WRsare Debose and Thompson with five catches and Dunbar with 82 yards. This goesback to the “if you don’t need it, don’topen it up yet” theory, but what happens when Florida needs to rely on adeeper passing game? We just don’t know yet. Brantley looked good hittingreceivers over the middle of the field for good gains, but it was limited.Tennessee will tell us much more and hopefully tell us who the top receiverswill be.
Finally, the offensive line. Ah,the offensive line. The line has talent; we’ve said that for a while now.Plenty of talent across all positions, but also uncertainty. The main reason isa lack of consistency so far. There were a handful of plays where the linelooked phenomenal. The times Brantley worked the middle of the field were goodexamples, but the prime one was the hole they opened for Rainey on histouchdown run. The line parted and took the entire UAB defense with it. It wasa relatively short touchdown run, but if that same play had happened furtherback down the field, it could have been a huge gain. Those are the types ofplays we need to see more of. The line was improved over week one, but stillhas some work to do. The screens were designed, but many of the dump offs werebecause of the quick pressure Brantley faced. This line can be good (and in2012, possibly great), but they need to do so play after play after play. Andthe penalties have to go.
There’s the offense. Defense to come.

Last-Minute Thoughts: UAB Blazers @ Florida Gators

When I have the opportunity to do this an hour before Florida games, I will. When I don’t, I won’t. Seems simple enough. These are a few last minute thoughts that may have been covered in the preview, or they may have been missed entirely. Those of you not tailgating like a champion today can add any of your own. Then again, those of you that are out there enjoying all the glory of the tailgate can as well.

1. John Brantley and the deep ball. Okay, I don’t even need the deep ball. I’d even like the intermediate ball. Either way, let’s see more of it. Florida needs it in the arsenal before the SEC schedule.

2. The Chris Rainey Show with The Jeff Demps Band. Stay healthy gentlemen; you are the keys to the offense. This is your year.

3. A superstar at wide receiver. Deonte Thompson? Quinton Dunbar? Andre Debose? A star is out there. One will eventually have to step up and we’re all waiting to find out who it will be.

4. Offensive line consistency. It’s needed, for an entire 60 minutes. Protect Brantley and open lanes up the middle for the running backs.

5. Sharrif Floyd. So he won’t play, but fans will chant. Whether it’s “Sharrif Floyd” or “Free Sharrif,” it’ll happen and it’ll be glorious.

6. Lerentee McCray’s coming out party. McCray was better than many expected against FAU. The position is his to lose now. This is his second test.

7. In the stolen-from-the-preview department: love Marcus Roberson, have an unhealthy man-crush on Matt Elam, like Jaylen Watkins more and more every day.

8. From Eric Wilbur to Chas Henry to ??? The Gators haven’t punted yet, but sooner or later they will have to. Don’t be worried; history says it’ll be simply amazing.

9. Will Muschamp, Game 2. The new head coach has an excellent win percentage so far. He’ll keep it up there a little while longer. Game two should be as smooth as game one. Not a step back, but another step forward.

10. No looking ahead. The SEC schedule starts NEXT WEEK with Tennessee. Not this week; NEXT WEEK.

BONUS. Go Gators!

Football Preview: UAB Blazers @ Florida Gators – Saturday, September 10, 2011 – 7:00pm

One down; 11, 12, or 13 to go. They may not be thetraditional type of preview you’re used to, but there is football coverageinvolved. You also get to learn a little something about Florida’s opponent. You really couldn’t ask for more, so don’t.Seriously, don’t. But if you insist on asking and you do want more, TBG is onTwitter and Facebook. I’ll be frequenting both throughout the day as collegefootball comes to life.
The Facts
Opponent: UABBlazers
When: Saturday,September 10, 2011 – 7:00pm
Broadcasting: FSN,Sirius 220, XM 199
Records: Florida:1-0, UAB: Nada
Point Spread forWagerin’ Folk: Florida -23
Over/Under for ThoseMentioned Above: 53
Betting Score ThatWould Calculate To: Florida 38-15
Our Gators’ WinFactor (See Here): TBG: 99, OEW: 99
Where We’ll BeWatching: TBG headquarters; multiple TVs a blazin’.
10 Things About UABFrom The World’s Greatest Source – Wikipedia
Do you think at one time it was called “The Wikipedia?” These are the types of things I think about.Football below for those not interested in learning more about our finenation’s higher educational institutions. See how I made you feel a littleguilty about skipping ahead?
1. The Universityof Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) wasestablished in 1936 and today is part of the University of Alabama System. Youknow one of the others, but do you know the third? It’s the University ofAlabama at Huntsville, home of the Chargers. (Mini UAH note: TheChargers’ ice hockey team has quite the history and in 2012 will host the NCAAHockey Frozen Four Championship in…drum roll…Tampa, FL.)
2. UAB is smallerthan the Gators’ first opponent. The school counts somewhere around 17,000undergrad and graduate students.
3. Last week, youlearned the Owlsey the Burrowing Owl is FAU’s mascot. This week, the Blazerswill be supported in mascot form by Blaze the Dragon. Not that an alligatornamed Albert is the freshest thing you’ve ever heard, but originality is takinga serious beating.
4. U.S. News andWorld Report named UAB the no. 1 up-and-coming university in 1992.
5. UniversityBoulevard is the main axis of the rectangle of land UAB sits on. Does everyschool have a “University” street ofsome kind?
6. Plans for anon-campus stadium are underway. Applause.
7. The studentbody is made up of 60% women. Well hello ladies!
8. The Mock Trialteam has experienced a history of overwhelming success. In 2006, they won anational title defeating Harvard.Well hello Blazers!
9. Sand (notbeach) volleyball and bowling have been added to the athletic program for the2011-2012 academic year.
10. Notable alumni:Roddy White – you know who he is, Deidre Downs – Miss American 2005.
When The Gators HaveThe Ball
The Gators’ offense excited us all during the 41-3 victoryover FAU. Or did it? The run gamewas dynamic…to the outside. And the pass game was effective…on short plays.Immediately after watching the game, we were all pleased. Going back and trulyreviewing the game, we were less so. But in all seriousness, we should be happywith our first glimpse at Charlie Weis’genius in Gainesville and here’s why: he plays to what the defense gives him.Unlike former Florida offensive mastermind SteveSpurrier, Weis doesn’t need to bring out the entire playbook to destroyevery opponent in his way. Weis brings a package of plays to each game and ifthey work, he sticks with them. Why call every play and use every weapon inyour arsenal when you only need a few? It’s a wise move even if it can be afrustrating one to fans. Expect to see more against UAB, but not much more ifthings go well enough early.
Where we would all like to see some change is in theintermediate and deep ball. The longest pass of the night against the Owls wentfor 20 yards; the longest John Brantleypass for 19. Fans like yours truly who grew up during the Spurrier era dig thelong ball. We don’t need a 70-yard touchdown strike every game, but we like thebig play. With Tennessee only a weekaway, I’d imagine will see more of a deeper passing game against UAB, but ifthe Gators don’t need it, we may not see it much.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you The Chris Rainey Show. What’s that, there’sanother dynamic running back on the roster?!? Really? Then why am I hearingvirtually nothing about him? No really, why are we hearing virtually nothingabout Jeff Demps? All Demps didagainst FAU was rush for 105 yards on only 12 carries (that’s 8.8 per), scoretwo touchdowns, and add 21 yards on three receptions. Yeah, let’s not show anyhighlights of him Worldwide Leader. Rainey was spectacular, but so was Demps.Don’t sleep on him this season. These two are quite the combo. That’s right, Isaid the TWO.
The next question is which wide receiver will be the firstto truly step up and have an “OH MY”game. Rainey led the team with six receptions against the Owls. The receiverswith the most catches were Andre Deboseand Deonte Thompson with only threea piece. Against FAU, Weis spread the ball around, but will he continue to doso? If so, and it works, count me onboard, but if the Gators get to a pointwhere they need a go-to receiver, we aren’t sure who it will be. Someone willbreak out during one of these early games. It’s anyone’s guess who.
As I mentioned last week, the offensive line is still thekey. Brantley needs confidence in knowing that he won’t get planted into theground the moment he releases the ball. That’s the offensive line’s job. Theywere okay against FAU, but not great. Protecting Brantley and opening up themiddle of the field for the run game are key. Defenses will only get tougher asthe schedule progresses. Today is a test for the line.
When The Blazers HaveThe Ball
137 total yards allowed with only 30 rushing; no touchdownsallowed; only allowing two third-down conversions on 13 attempts; only threepoints out of two red-zone attempts. I like it. Oh I like it. Will Muschamp, if this is your defense,we all applaud you.
I’ll start with LerenteeMcCray, who had a little bit of a coming out party. We didn’t know what wewould get out of McCray, but he played well, finished tackles, and was always aroundthe ball. The third linebacker spot is his now and we should all be comfortablewith that. If I were going in order, the defensive line would be first, but thelinebackers get the top spot because of what we saw, or didn’t see, lastseason. We know the talent and potential JonBostic and Jelani Jenkinspossess, and now we know they have a third member of their group they can relyon. Their numbers from the FAU game won’t jump out at you, but that mostly hasto do with the amount of players that saw the field. Expect the three to getmore time against UAB as coaches prepare for the SEC portion of the schedule.
We already know we won’t see Sharrif Floyd against UAB and it really is a disgrace. What isgreat about it though is motivation. If Floyd wasn’t a fan favorite already(and he should have been, he’s going to be phenomenal), he is now. Rumors of “Sharrif Floyd” and “Free Sharrif” chants throughout the game have come up, but whatwill truly be special is when he steps foot on the field in a week againstTennessee. For now, the Gators are in good shape because they don’t need Floydjust yet. Led by Jaye Howard (onesack against FAU), Dominique Easley(very glad he never left), and RonaldPowell (a sack as well against the Owls), Florida will be just fine untilFloyd returns. UAB is a more accomplished passing team than FAU, so the linewill need to get pressure early and often.
On to the secondary and the “not sure what we have just yet” unit. Love Marcus Roberson, have a serious man-crush on Matt Elam, and like JaylenWatkins more and more every day. Roberson and Elam have solidified theirhold on their positions, but everyone has expected that for quite some time. It’sthe other two positions that we’re unsure about. UAB will be more of a test,but a test the Gators need and we should all be happy to watch. A starting fourneed to be etched in stone before Tennessee.
And now to turnovers. Turnovers aren’t necessary against theFAUs and UABs of the world. Florida can win without them. Okay, so a program likeFlorida can theoretically beat anyone without them, but they sure are nice. Ifthe defense is going to be the strength, they need to force turnovers. We haven’tseen any yet, but expect them to start to come.
Special Teams
Caleb Sturgis wassolid in his first game of the season, connecting on all seven kicks heattempted. Expect him to continue to be the kicker the Gators thought they weregetting when they recruited him. The punting game has been non-existent thisseason and it’s a disgrace! No, no it’s not. Florida didn’t punt against FAUand you should be fine with that. While you’d like to see the punter get someexperience, not having to use him is a good thing. Kick returns? Eh. A 15-yardaverage with a long of 18 isn’t great. Punt returns? Eh. A 28-yarder by Solomon Patton highlighted things, butthat’s about it. Punt block? YES! Against UAB, the Gators need to get more outof their return game, but continue to pressure opposing kickers and punters.The block teams could be a strong point all season.
Outcome
I don’t see the Gators’ offense letting up in terms ofpoints scored. We could very easily see 41 points again (yes, I know specialteams contributed a score). On the defensive side of the ball, I don’t see theunit breaking, but UAB is a better offensive team then FAU. It wouldn’tsurprise me if the Blazers put one in the end zone or even two. The game shouldbe out of reach early, but 41-10 or 45-14 are possible scores. With the Gatorscontinuing to use a large amount of the roster, UAB could sneak one in.All-in-all, nothing to worry about Gator fans.