Grading the Florida Gators vs. Arkansas game

By Adam Silverstein
October 18, 2009

Each week following a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position based on each unit’s performance. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the Arkansas Razorbacks in The Swamp.

It is tough to evaluate Tim Tebow week-in and week-out, because you feel tempted to grade him an A every time. In looking at Saturday’s game, you see Tebow led the Gators on a 14-play, 69-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter that resulted in a 27-yard, game-winning field goal by Caleb Sturgis. You also see that he went 17-for-26 for 255 yards passing, one touchdown (the longest of his career) and added 69 more yards on the ground. But that would be looking over the two fumbles he had in the first half, the fact that it took him 27 carries to get those 69 yards and the six sacks he suffered – a handful of which he could have avoided by throwing the ball out of bounds when he was outside the pocket.

For most of the game, the entire Florida rushing attack was averaging 1.2 yards per carry. For a unit that led the nation most of the year in rushing, that is simply unacceptable. Arkansas game-planned for the dive play, and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio kept calling it – so it is hard to put all the fault on the backs. Even so, 3.5 yards per carry on 19 attempts is just not acceptable. Jeff Demps saved the unit from complete failure with his run and touchdown in the fourth quarter.

For a group that has been lackluster all year…well…it continued to be this week. Three awful drops by Riley Cooper were simply inexcusable. David Nelson seemingly had his first important catch of the season and Deonte Thompson added the longest touchdown reception of his and Tebow’s Florida career on blown coverage. C- performance overall, but Thompson’s TD and Cooper’s fourth quarter heroics gain them a bit more clout.

It is hard not to love what Aaron Hernandez is doing for this team. He literally kept the Gators in drives and in the game on numerous occasions Saturday. With career highs in receptions (seven) and yards (92), Hernandez was the lone bright spot and continues to be the most reliable player on the field. And he would have been graded higher if not for a costly red zone fumble.

While it played respectable all game long, the offensive line didn’t open holes for the running backs and failed to keep the Arkansas defensive front seven away from Tebow, making him rush throws and out of the pocket often.

Frequently rushing only three or four players, the defensive line consistently got pressure on Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett, who only completed 12 of 27 passing attempts. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham led the unit with four tackles for loss and two sacks while Justin Trattou and Carlos Dunlap kept the pressure on. All of this without starting tackles Lawrence Marsh and Jaye Howard, too.

For a unit that played the entire game without its leader, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, I was pleased with their contributions. A lot of missed tackles and space for Arkansas running back Dennis Johnson were certainly failures, but A.J. Jones grabbed a sack and the unit played decently overall.

Sure, cornerback Joe Haden had a great game – even after being injured early in the third quarter on kickoff coverage. But Janoris Jenkins was pitiful, allowing the 75-yard touchdown and another long reception to Razorbacks WR Greg Childs. Safeties Ahmad Black, Will Hill and Major Wright played adequately, but all three missed key tackles throughout the course of the game. Overall, Mallett was silenced for the majority of the time – but allowing a few big plays to squeak through is unacceptable.

On kickoff and punt returns, Brandon James continued to be nonexistent. On kickoff coverage, Florida allowed 145 yards – ouch. At least the kicking game prevailed. Punter Chas Henry continued to leave his recipients without the ability to return the ball, averaging 43 yards on three punts. Sturgis did miss his first field goal, but rebounded with three consecutive strikes including a 51-yarder and a 27-yard game-winner. Overall, Sturgis and Henry were two of the best players on the field Saturday night.

There was obviously something wrong this week at practice. Whether the team was too complacent coming off a victory over then-No. 4 LSU Tigers in Death Valley or there were just that many miscues in one half, the numerous fumbles and missed tackles throughout the game were haunting. Addazio never seemed to adjust to the Arkansas defense, which kept stopping the dive play and getting to Tebow quickly. He should have been calling screens and tosses, figuring out ways to get Florida’s playmakers the ball in space. The famous Banzai package simply did not work, and it took the Gators too long to switch away from it. A poor coaching job overall; head coach Urban Meyer and company are lucky their talented players bailed them out.

What is there left to say? A win in the SEC is a win in the SEC – even if it is by three points at home, in a game in which you were favored by more than 24 to a team that was 3-2 coming into the game. Saturday’s contest resembled the 2008 Ole Miss Rebels game in so many ways that it was scary. The difference between last year and this year is that the Gators pulled out the victory, even if it lost the respect of the AP voters.


  1. @themrantonio says:

    Before reading this i honestly have to say is that I was expecting some home team can do no wrong grading, but i have to say that I am very satisfied with the grades.

    Not that it matters, but here are my grades.

    QB- B+(dealt with pressure better than most college qbs could have)

    RB- C- (playcalling not their fault, but fumbles are)

    WR-(sans Riley Cooper) B (for the reasons you gave)

    Riley Cooper- D- (would’ve been an F but I LOVED THAT BLOCK. He definitetly cheated himself out of a TD and 100+ yards receiving)

    TE-B-(you just cannot fumble in Red Zone…that was 7 points we gave away)

    OL-C+( but if this is the type of protection they’re going to give Double T, then we can’t expect a Championship. SEC or BCS)

    DL- A (good job-no complaints)

    LB- C (looked terrible without Spikes and his 10 tackles….in my eyes thats only reason ARK had confidence to run in my

    DB- D+ ( and the plus is only because of Mr. Haden. I really hate bad coverage and poor tackling)

    ST- A (GW field goal and no punt returns allowed…no complaints here)

    Coaching- C (I hate the dive being called over and over and over…..and over, but in the 2nd half they changed their tune a little bit so they get points for adjustment. But like you said talent bailed em out)

    OVERALL- F, maybe D- for winning (this type of game or win i can accept against an Alabama, a top 5 team or a team that would be considered a Gator rival, but not ARK. I understand its the SEC and every game in the SEC is going to be tough. But sometimes that’s just BS. Arkansas is not on our level, but yesterday they actually looked better. Its possible we were suffering from it being Homecoming Weekend, all i know is that our “pro” defense looked very sub par against ARK. I was not happy with it at all. The tackling, the coverage, the fumbles, the drops….i’m about to be sick. Anyways, i hope we take this as a wake up call, come out next week in Starkville and end that game early. Then make sure we carry that over to the WORLDS LARGEST COCKTAIL PARTY)

    Anyways, I Love the site! Very helpful and very useful for a Memphis Gator fan like myself.
    Sorry for the long reply.
    GO GATORS!!!

  2. Definitely a long reply, but I appreciate the passion. Glad you enjoy the site, and I hope you continue to read and comment from this point forward. Have a great one.

  3. ReptilesRule says:

    Agree 100% about the coaching. They seem to be coaching “scared”.

  4. Gatormiami says:

    Coaching failed again…. Dive play after dive play with little or no gain & often losses. Don’t believe it improved in 2nd half. Demps TD (the only one of all trips to red zone) was a called dive (according to Demps post game comments) which he had sense enough to avoid. And once again…. Where was Moody with 3 carries (I only remember 2). Hasn’t James proven that he’s worthless in the backfield? Am I the only one who sees that?

    This offense cannot win another BCS Title as it stands, despite improvement in passing…Thank heavens!

  5. Gatormiami says:

    By the way, I give the coaches a D on the offense. The Gators can’t be successful with that kind of play calling. But I don’t worry about voting by sports writers. They’re looking for an excuse to vote vs UF. They obviously didn’t watch Alabama -South Carolina & their 1 offensive TD.

  6. Adam Silverstein says:

    The biggest loss to this team may not have been Harvin or Murphy, but perhaps Dan Mullen.

  7. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    I agree the loss of Mullen appears huge but do we know how much he was aided by Harvin being the difference maker?

    Let’s hope this was the main bullet we had to dodge. Part of the story being lost is the defense getting no take aways which really made our turnovers so impactful. We had a pick in like 17 games in a row and that gets snapped the same week we cough it up 4 times!!!!

    On a positive note it was good to see #6 make a huge play and I am hoping that gives him some confidence. Cooper dropping that pass really changed the outlook of the first half but he has been money all year so he get a pass from me.

  8. SC_Gator says:

    Addazio might shape up to be a good play caller, only time will tell… keep in mind that Mullen’s first outing in command, the 2005 season, didn’t exactly sparkle. It’s damn painful to watch though.

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