Grading the Gators: Florida vs. Auburn Tigers
This was one of the ugliest games I’ve seen, not because it was a blowout, but because both offenses just struggled so mightily. And the team that made the most mistakes lost. Florida was on the losing end for the third straight game, 17-6. The Gators are now 0-for-the-SEC-West this season and have lost the last six games they’ve played against foes from the SEC West. The Gators surely had their chances in this game, but opportunities were missed, second chances were given, and now Florida has to regroup heading in to a bye week before they play East rival Georgia.
Memo to the coaching staff: pick a quarterback and stick with him. At least you didn’t switch back and forth between Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel every single series, but you have to have confidence in your signal caller to get a win on the road in the SEC. Brissett started the first half and played with poise. He made freshman mistakes. He threw an interception. He has three interceptions on the year and all three were thrown on deep balls. But he led Florida to their only points in the game with a pair of field goals in the second half. Driskel never really looked comfortable and made some pretty awful passes. The person who took the snap that looked the best was Trey Burton. The Gators gained most of their yards when he was back in the wildcat formation. With Brissett and Driskel being so inexperienced, Burton might be the best option when Florida needs to gain yardage. But he really needs to be a threat to throw the ball when he’s back there and his throwing motion is more awkward than Tim Tebow’s was. RB Chris Rainey was ineffective for the third straight game, gaining only 33 yards. And Jeff Demps didn’t play because of an ankle injury. Florida gained 194 total yards against the SEC’s worst defense. All of those people hoping to have Driskel lead the Gators this season instead of John Brantley have to be eating their words. Florida was incredibly effective with Brantley at the helm and have very sorely missed him the past three weeks. Word is his target date is the October 29th game against Georgia. For the sake of the Gators season, let’s hope he can make it back.
I think Florida’s defense played pretty well. They need to create turnovers. But even with one of their best pass rushers out, Ronald Powell, the Gators got pressure on whoever the Auburn quarterback was. Safety Matt Elam showed why he should be considered All-SEC with his ability to tackle and make plays from the safety position. Florida allowed 278 yards, but kept the Tigers running backs Michael Dyer and Onterrio McCalebb in check, holding both under 75 yards. The defense did their best when special teams miscues and turnovers gave Auburn their opportunities to score. Once again, this defense needs to create turnovers and take advantage when balls are thrown in their hands. LB Jelani Jenkins dropped his 10th should-be interception of the year. He really needs to train with the wide receivers part of this week so he can catch those opportunities thrown at him.
Special Teams: D
I would give them an F, but kicker Caleb Sturgis was two-for-two in the field goal department with a long of 47 yards before leaving the game with an injury and punter Kyle Christy, in his collegiate debut, had a 46.1 average with a long of 67 yards. But this is where the damage was done for Florida. Chris Rainey could not handle punts. Every single punt he tried to field went through his hands and touched the turf, with one being turned over to the Tigers which led to one of their touchdowns. Robert Clark eventually went back to field punts and he muffed a punt, which Auburn recovered. It was one of the worst performances I have ever seen in the special teams department fielding balls. Rainey even dropped a kickoff in the endzone. The Gators didn’t have any impact returns and, in fact, hurt themselves terribly, in the return game. Christy and Sturgis save this unit from receiving a failing grade.
The offense couldn’t move the ball at all. The special teams most likely cost the Gators the game. But the defense played well with their only glaring flaw being no turnovers. Overall, Florida can’t wait to get John Brantley back on the field so they can get back to the really great way they were playing before he got injured. The Gators and banged up and the bye week couldn’t come at a better time. Get the Gators healthy before their game with Georgia in Jacksonville.
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