Grading the Gators: Florida vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

The game opened up so positively for the Gators. Their passing game was shredding the Alabama secondary. They were moving the ball with ease against one of the toughest defenses in the nation. But throughout the game, something because abundantly clear. If these two teams are mirror images of each other, then why was the score so lopsided at 38-10. In short, the Tide’s defense is more experienced, so give the Gators some time on that front. But the real glaring issue is Florida does not have that every down, big back that they’ve been seeking ever since Urban Meyer came to town. Alabama does and he, in the form of Trent Richardson, was the difference in this game.

Offense: D+
Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps were completely invisible in the Florida offense. They could get nothing going. If you ran them up the middle, they’d get swallowed up by Alabama’s enormous, strong lineman. If you tried to get them in space with sweeps, the Tide’s speedy linebackers and secondary made sure they were stopped before they could get to the second level. The strength of the Gators became a glaring weakness. It’s pretty telling of how your running game is going when your backup quarterback Jeff Driskel rushes for the longest gain all night (32 yards). Rainey and Demps both finished with four yards rushing. Meanwhile, quarterback John Brantley was playing one of the best plays of his career. The first play of the game was a 65-yard strike to Andre Debose. Things looked to be good for the Gators and Brantley because the passing game has been their weakness. But that quickly ended when Brantley left the game towards the end of the second quarter with a leg injury. UF hasn’t released anything on his status but in my opinion, he broke his leg. Brantley was hitting wide receivers with great accuracy and making pretty good decisions. He was 11-of-16 for 190 yards, one touchdown, and one interception that went for a touchdown. UF’s offense struggled after that, not scoring a point after Brantley left the game. Not good news for Gator fans, unless you’re one of the many who were clamoring to see Driskel be the starting QB from the get-go this season. Driskel’s not ready, but it’ll be a baptism by fire when he starts his first game in the last place you’d ever want to start your first collegiate game: Death Valley against number one LSU.  Overall, the offense put up 222 yards, most of which was in the first quarter and a half. Not a great effort, but much can be attributed to having your starting quarterback knocked out of the game.

Defense: C-
The defense did a pretty good job of limiting the Crimson Tide through the air. But everyone knows Alabama isn’t going to beat you by throwing the ball. The line got pressure at times and forced some bad throws, but overall, the secondary played pretty well.  The Gators did give up some big third down conversions through the air which takes away form all-in-all a performance where they held Tide QB A.J. McCarron to 140 yards and no touchdowns. But it’s clear that there is no depth on the defensive line and front seven. Trent Richardson is a beast. In the first quarter, Florida was missing tackles. But they got that rectified. Throughout the game, Richardson would get hit initially and drag the Florida defender for three to four extra yards. As a defense, you need to swarm around Richardson to get him down. Richardson’s numbers on the night: 29 carries, 181 yards and two touchdowns rushing. He also caught two for 27 yards. The rush defense let Florida down and that’s why they deserve the grade they got.

Special Teams: B
Special teams had some pretty good returns off of kickoffs but not much else. They also didn’t allow many good kickoff or punt returns from the dangerous Alabama return man. Punter David Lerner had a good night, not allowing many return yards with his “rugby style” punts and the rolls the ball took brought his average up to a solid 43.3 yards per punt. Kicker Caleb Sturgis nailed kickoffs all night and did well in that department. But the streak is over. Sturgis missed a 52-yard field goal, but made a 21 yarder. Nothing really special about this performance, but nothing really hurt them either.

Overall: C
This is a tough game to gauge the Gators on. They were without their starting quarterback for the entire second half. A true freshman who really has no meaningful experience was thrust into a huge game against basically an NFL defense. Florida looked good throwing with Brantley, but Rainey and Demps had zero effect on the game. You’re not going to win unless they make a difference in the game. The worst part is, Florida goes into next week against possibly a tougher defense in LSU. And it’s an away game. Alabama gave Will Muschamp his first loss as a head coach, but there’s no shame in losing to one of the top three teams in the nation. Florida needs to build off these next two games. They can’t let a couple losses dissolve their confidence. At the end of the day, they still have a chance of going to the SEC Championship game. They just need to keep that goal in sight.

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