Grading the Florida vs. Vanderbilt game

By Adam Silverstein
November 8, 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 Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday night at home in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

After two consecutive weeks of below-average play, Tim Tebow came back big against the Georgia Bulldogs last week in Jacksonville, FL. Back in The Swamp, Tebow still contributed to the victory but struggled mightily in the process. His numbers of 15-for-20 for 208 yards and a touchdown are misleading, considering 64 yards came on a meaningless late catch-and-run by tight end Aaron Hernandez, and his sole score through the air was on a tipped pass that wound up in the hands of wide receiver David Nelson. Sacked four times mostly because of his inability to get rid of the ball when under pressure, Tebow also struggled on the ground averaging 1.7 yards per carry on 16 attempts (27 yards). In mop-up duty, back-up John Brantley went 3-for-3 for 19 yards. For his two touchdowns (he also punched one in on the ground), Tebow gets a plus, but his performance was extremely average.

Last week, I mentioned that “it is tough to expect this unit to make an impact when the three main players combined for 16 total attempts.” This week, Jeff Demps, Emmanuel Moody and Chris Rainey combined for 19 carries, though their averages were much better. Gaining 8.1, 4.3 and 3.0 yards per carry, respectively, the trio combined for 103 yards on the ground. In other words, they did the best they could with the limited attempts provided to them. For avoiding mistakes and contributing when given the opportunity, these guys played just fine.

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the Vanderbilt game after the jump…

Riley Cooper dominated last week’s game, grabbing four balls for 78 yards and two touchdowns. This time around, Cooper was silent. So were the rest of the receivers. Brandon James was the best of the bunch with four receptions for 44 yards, and Nelson was in the right place at the right time for his touchdown. Some reports state Deonte Thompson was wide open all night long, including multiple times in the end zone with no defenders around him. If Tebow is having problems getting the ball to wide open receivers, you cannot blame them for not catching what isn’t being thrown.

His big play may have come late, but Hernandez continues to prove most weeks why he is the most consistent player on the Gators offense. Hauling in seven balls for a career-high 120 yards, Hernandez grabbed a short pass in the fourth quarter and turned it upfield for a 64-yard gain before running out of gas. Seemingly strong of mind and body, he must continue his outstanding play in order for the offense to move, especially if the receivers aren’t getting looks.

Tebow has suffered a career-high in sacks and Florida is only nine games into the season. He has himself to blame on some occasions, holding on to the ball too long. But plenty of other times he is being forced out of the pocket and given no time to get rid of the ball because defensive lines are getting through this unit. There were some injuries and inconsistencies throughout the game, but when push comes to shove this unit is not getting it done the way it did last season. No more making excuses for the offensive line; just play better and protect your Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

Expecting defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham to terrorize the Commodores’ offense was completely fair. The entire front seven not coming up with a single quarterback sack is surprising, though the interior of the line is still a work in progress health-wise. In the end, the entire defense only allowed Vanderbilt to put up 199 yards on the day, 77 in the second half. Not an A performance this week, but nevertheless a strong one.

Even without starting middle linebacker Brandon Spikes, this unit continued to play well. Ryan Stamper, playing in Spikes’ stead, grabbed his second career interception (and did so in back-to-back games). Dustin Doe chimed in with 11 tackles on the evening. Solid both against the run and passing game, you have to give this group credit for continuing to play so effectively without their leader.

Vanderbilt quarterback Mackenzie Adams threw for 100 yards…in the game…on 13-of-29 passing. There may not have been any A.J. Green-like receiving threats on the field this week, but the entire defense held the Commodores without a touchdown. Week-in and week-out there does not seem to be a weak spot on this side of the ball. The “weakest” link last week (and it is ridiculous to call any part of the defense “weak” at this point), the secondary was one of the strongest on Saturday.

Did I mention yet that kicker Caleb Sturgis is going to play in the NFL? I didn’t? Sturgis is going to play in the NFL. And that’s saying a lot for a sophomore kicker. Listen, he made two makeable kicks (27, 45) – but he nailed them. And though he may experience a hiccup here and there, his booming leg has saved Florida on more than one occasion and given them much needed points throughout the evening. Punter Chas Henry was outstanding as usual, punting four times for a total of 211 yards with a long of 58. Vanderbilt returner Alex Washington was the first player to gain any yards against the punt coverage unit all season, though 13 is really miniscule when you think about it. I remain unhappy with the contributions of James in the return game, and his lack of explosion consistently holds this unit back from the allusive plus.

Were expectations too high? Did the Commodores play better than the Gators may have expected? Maybe. 27 points is a solid output for an offense, but against (by far) the worst team in the Southeastern Conference? There were plenty of distractions surrounding the team this week, from Spikes’ eye gouge to head coach Urban Meyer‘s comments and subsequent $30,000 fine. None of those should have had any impact and probably didn’t, but something has to change in regard to the stale offensive play calling. It is predictable, uninventive and lacking explosion – three things I never thought I would say about one of Meyer’s offenses. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio may be one-and-done, though you have to admire the consistency that defensive coordinator Charlie Strong‘s unit plays with. 9-0 is 9-0, but South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier always has his sights set on Florida and Meyer better be ready for what I expect to be a tough defensive battle next week.

After literally exploding last week against the Bulldogs, the Gators came back down to Earth against a seemingly weaker team. Less points, fewer turnovers and, suffice to say, the most boring game played all season. “Boring” should have no impact on anything, especially when it results in a 27-3 victory. So let me throw that out. In his post-game press conference, Meyer rejected the notion that the team was “ho-hum” on Saturday. Well, it kind of was. Maybe it was coming off of a huge win against a bitter rival, or the fact that the team knew for sure they would beat Vanderbilt no matter what happened. If either is the case, that is a bad mentality to have going into next week. I have no doubt Meyer and Strong will get this team up for a trip to Columbia, SC, but I also cannot say the team played their “A” game this week.


  1. Aligator says:

    honestly, addozio will be back t the oline and tebow, god bless his ball hoggin self, will be in the pros. watch brantley hit thompson’s wide open self all game long next year …

  2. ReptilesRule says:

    Need to find a way to move Carl Johnson back to guard where he was a devastating blocker last year. Or maybe move Burgess in as an fullback/”H” Back where he can run or pass block. O Line has no chemistry right now..

Join The

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux