Florida Gators Lose to Missouri; Have the Wheels Fallen Off?

In many sports, 4-3 isn’t an awful record; a win percentage like that may even get you into the playoffs. In college football, 4-3 is a disaster. With their latest loss—this time to the surging Missouri Tigers—the Florida Gators are 4-3 and in a position where all hope may seem lost. There’s still a chance for 10 wins (always a good thing), but the Gators would have to win out. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone that currently believes Florida has a chance of doing that. In order to come even close, the Gators must first find an offense.

Kelvin Taylor, Florida Gators

NCAA expert betting lines (click here for view more) will tell you Mizzou isn’t a bad team. In fact, they’ll tell you the Tigers are a very good team. Sometimes losing to a team of that respect can lessen the blow, but not when you lose the way the Gators did. While the offense I already mentioned looked for any possible way to move the ball, the defense finally gave in. Try as they might, Florida was no match for Missouri on either side of the ball. When hope was briefly restored after Solomon Patton’s kickoff return, it was quickly taken away by the Tigers’ offense.

Before the game started, I would have told you I was 50-50 on the outcome. The Gators’ defense had the talent and ability to keep Florida in any game regardless of the opponent and, if the offense could do just enough to put a few points on the board, then the orange and blue would be right in it. Add that to the fact that the Tigers would be without quarterback James Franklin and the Gators had a real shot to take down a ranked opponent. Unfortunately, it was the other side of that 50-50 that would prevail.

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Special Teams: Florida Gators 48 – Kentucky Wildcats 10

Part three of a four-part series. For the offense, click here. For the defense, here.


Caleb Sturgis, All-American. Okay, so that hasn’t happened just yet, but with a third of the regular season gone, it’s as good a pick as anyone. After making another eight kicks (two field goals and six extra points), Sturgis remained perfect on the season. Even the goal posts are on his side. Sturgis has made all 11 of his field goal attempts and all 18 of his extra point attempts for a total of 51 points. Those are good numbers for a half of a season, let alone a third.

David Lerner’s punting average continues to be lower than you’d like. He did land one of his five punts inside of the 20, but only averaged 36.0 with a long of 43 yards. Lerner has only attempted 11 total punts over his entire career, but he’s going to have to get more distance. Punting was a weapon for Florida in the past. It may need to become one again in closer games.

Kentucky punted the ball six times, but the Gators were only able to get one return out of it, so it’s not something we can really explore too much. Chris Rainey was able to scamper for 13 yards on the one return. Good, but too small off a sample size to really consider a vital part of the win.

Solomon Patton was on kick return duty against the Wildcats and we’ll go ahead and give him one plus and one minus. His nine-yard return on the opening kickoff was something that left you scratching your head. Trying to take the ball to the middle of the field allowed the Kentucky coverage team to converge on him and end the chance of a long return. In his second attempt, the 27 yards he gained was much more along the lines of what Florida is looking for.

The Gators’ coverage teams did well enough to get a positive grade in the victory. Mychel Bailey did have a 32-yard kickoff return, but only averaged 21.1 on seven returns. Randall Burden totaled just five yards on two punt returns.

There were no blocked kicks and no long returns, but the special teams didn’t make any critical mistakes either. With Sturgis providing guaranteed points, the Gators can be content with the unit for another week.

Coming tomorrow: final thoughts.

Football Recap: Florida Gators 41 – FAU Owls 3

You’ll get much, much more when the staff of The Bull Gator returns home, but for now observations are brief as we continue our attempt to conquer Chicago.

I would have to think fans are happier this time around. The 2010 season opener ended in a 22-point win, but one that was hardly pleasing to the eyes. The offense showed signs of the struggles that would continue throughout the season. But in 2011, things would be different.

468 yards of total offense, a starting quarterback that would go 21-30 for 229 yards, and a dynamic runningback duo would help Florida defeat FAU 41-3. John Brantley was intercepted twice (though one was tipped), but was more confident running Charlie Weis’ offense than he ever appeared under Urban Meyer. Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps showed exactly why fans have been drooling over their abilities for years now. And then there was the defense. Although the Gators didn’t force a turnover, Florida held the Owls to only 107 yards. Even special teams got in on the action when Solomon Patton blocked a punt that bounced to Rainey who picked up the ball and ran it in for another Gator touchdown.

So there you have the briefest of brief recaps, but typing on my iPhone can only be tolerated for so long. Solid first effort. The offense showed us plenty we’d like to see continue and the defense had to have pleased Will Muschamp and Dan Quinn. All around, we’ll take it. More to come when TBG returns to the Sunshine State. As always, go Gators!

Breaking Down the Florida Gators’ 2010 Recruiting Class – Part 3

Previous breakdowns: Part 1, Part 2
Jordan Haden
DB – 6’0″, 198 lbs. – Fort Washington, MD – Friendly
With the bevy of talent coming in at defensive back, Haden almost seems forgotten at times.  For the last few months everyone has wanted to talk about Matt Elam, Joshua Shaw, Jonathan Dowling, Cody Riggs, and ever Demar Dorsey.  Many tend to forget Haden is already enrolled and adjusting to life at Florida.  Don’t sleep on the latest Haden to suit up for the Gators.  He could make a big impact sooner than many think.  And hopefully the Haden-to-Florida line doesn’t stop with him.
Darrin Kitchens
LB – 6’3″, 215 lbs. – Homestead, FL – Homestead
Along with Adrian Coxson and Chaz Green, Kitchens was one of the Signing Day commits.  Take a look at his rankings and you might not be all that impressed, but Kitchens in an extremely athletic linebacker that could see time at a few other positions as well.  He’s one of those never stop going guys that is every coach’s dream.  A redshirt is most likely in his immediate future, but he should provide solid play for years after that.
Michael McFarland
TE – 6’6″, 230 lbs. – Tampa, FL – Blake
McFarland was headed toward a grayshirt season before Dorsey dropped/was dropped.  It also didn’t hurt that Auburn started to put the full-court press on the Tampa tight end.  McFarland’s grayshirt future lasted only a few short days and he will instead now join his fellow classmates as a freshman in the fall.  McFarland is a project who won’t see the field for a while, but should be more than ready when he does.
Tyler Murphy
QB – 6’2″, 190 lbs. – Wethersfield, CT – Wethersfield
Murphy is the question mark of the class.  Rivals.com rates him as a two-star dual-threat quarterback and the tenth-best prospect from the state of Connecticut.  To many that doesn’t sound like Florida Gator material, but Murphy is a QB who can run effectively with the ball and may have a better arm than you think.  Having run a spread offense in high school helps his transition to Florida.  Murphy may not end up spending his entire career at quarterback, but is an intriguing prospect nonetheless.
Leon Orr
DT – 6’4″, 300 lbs. – New Port Richey, FL – Gulf
Orr gets a little lost in the shuffle behind those other defensive linemen ranked near the top of most recruiting lists, but he shouldn’t.  A great overall talent for someone his size, Orr will most likely play defensive tackle for the Gators.  He should make the adjustment well given his strength.  Orr may also be used to provide depth along the offensive line.  Think of him as the Matt Patchan type that could be used a variety of different ways.
Solomon Patton
WR – 5’10”, 175 lbs. – Mobile, AL – Murphy
Although Chris Dunkley is the one everyone mentions, Patton may be a step ahead of the other receivers because he enrolled early.  Patton possesses above average speed, but his biggest strength may be his field vision.  He has that ability to find open space similar to what Percy Harvin had.  Not that I’m comparing Patton to Harvin, but he does have a great ability to know where to run and how to get into the open field.  Patton could see time early depending on how the depth chart shapes up.
Ronald Powell
DE – 6’4″, 230 lbs. – Moreno Valley, CA – Rancho Verde
The star of the class, Powell gives Florida the top prospect in the nation.  Whether it’s at defensive end, outside linebacker, or tight end, Powell will make an immediate impact.  He has all the tools to star at any position and according to coaches could play multiple.  Although that’s said much more often than it actually happens.  Expect Powell to be one of the top contributing players for years.  And expect Florida coaches to use his success to pluck a few more future Gators out of California.
Come back tomorrow for the final part.

Dunkley and Easley Pick Florida; Two Huge Gets for the Gators

For most of the recruiting cycle Pahokee (Pahokee, FL) wide receiver Chris Dunkley was thought to be a Florida lock, so his commitment during the Under Armour All-American Game was no real surprise.  Despite some rumors he may be leaning elsewhere, Dunkley did what was expected all along and became a Gator.  But for those who enjoy a little shock and awe, they got it on Saturday in the form on Dominique Easley.  The Staten Island, NY (Curtis) defensive end was expected to choose between Miami, Oregon, and Penn State, but when it came down to it, Easley shocked everyone following his recruitment and put on a Gator hat.
Starting with the offensive side of the ball, wipe of the drool.  The thought of Dunkley and Andre Debose in the Gator offense will do that to you (if possible, please refrain from nicknaming them the Double Ds).  Measuring in at 5’10”, 165 lbs., Dunkley is small in stature, but plays big on the field.  He’s quick, fast, speedy, acceleratory, agile, fluid, swift, fleet of foot, and oh yeah, not slow.  When he has the ball, good luck trying to actually tackle Dunkley.  He possesses a variety a moves sure to make defenses nauseous.  Although he may be worked into the passing game a little slower (as most true freshmen not named Percy Harvin are), Dunkley could get an early chance to return kicks, especially punts.  Everything about his game points to him being a dangerous punt returner.  Then again, if Friday night is any indication of the future of the Gator pass offense, Florida will need each and every receiver on the roster to contribute.
Across the line of scrimmage, Easley is one of the best surprises for Florida in quite some time.  Before the Under Armour game started, he was talked about as one of the most impressive prospects during the week of preparation.  During the game, he didn’t disappoint.  He ended the day with a sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery.  Add those numbers to too many hurries to count and you could see why he was the topic of conversation.  At 6’3”, 258 lbs. Easley is already a good size for the college game and should be able to continue right where he left off in the UA game.  No one had any idea Easley would end up a Gator so feel free to boast about this one for the foreseeable future.  He will contribute early and often and could continue a strong line of recent Florida pass rushers.
Saturday definitely brought some momentum heading toward National Signing Day.  In addition to the commitments of Dunkley and Easley, other future Gators had big days.  Jonathan Dowling and Solomon Patton both scored and Dowling, Demar Dorsey, and Joshua Shaw combined for four interceptions.  It was a great display of future Florida talent.
 

Stephen Alli, Solomon Patton, and Travon Van Become Gators

While I was gone the Florida recruiting train kept rolling. The Gators picked up three more commitments – all from out of state – in the form of two wide receivers and an athlete.

Proctor Academy (Andover, NH) receiver Stephen Alli chose Florida over Boston College, UConn, and yes, Harvard (he hopes to go to med school one day). Alli felt the combination of academics and athletics was best for him at Florida. The 6’5”, 210 lb. receiver will likely be asked to add some weight to his frame and could become a red-zone threat for the Gators.

Although smaller in stature, the 5’10”, 175 lb. Solomon Patton makes up for his lack of size with his speed. Patton ran a 10.3 100-meter dash in high school. For comparison purposes, Reggie Bush ran a 10.42 and Adrian Peterson ran a 10.42. The Rivals.com four-star receiver from Mobile, AL also had offers from Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, FSU, Ole Miss, and Tennessee.

Travon Van was originally a part of the class of 2009, but always knew he would be spending a semester in prep school. Van will spend the fall at Milford Academy after finishing his high school career at Helix (San Diego, CA). The same Helix that produced Bush and Alex Smith. Miami and USC had also offered Van, but primarily as a defensive back.