Grading the No. 1 Florida Gators game at LSU

By Adam Silverstein
October 11, 2009

Each week following the conclusion of a Florida Gators game, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive will grade the team position-by-position on how it performed in that match-up. This week, we look at how the Gators fared against the LSU Tigers in Death Valley.

Tim Tebow was asked to tone it down and be a game manager, something that is not necessarily in his nature. Nevertheless, knowing the significance of the injury he came back from and the wishes of the coaching and medical staff, he did exactly that. An inexplicable interception late was Tebow’s only flaw on the night, and the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback made good throws when they were called.

No huge game-breaking runs from the Gators attack Saturday, but that is not something you can expect against the Tigers. Running back Jeff Demps was a madman, gaining 86 tough yards on 16 carries while Emmanuel Moody took some of the power rushing load off Tebow with six carries for 42 yards of his own. Moody showed up when he was needed the most, and that is what counts.

They were not called on much this game with Tebow only begin given 16 passing attempts, but aside from a touchdown by wide receiver Riley Cooper, Florida’s receiving core was silent. Cooper led a group that used to be the Gators’ strength with 33 yards, and Deonte Thompson only hauled in two receptions for 11 yards. The receivers were up against an athletic secondary but needed to get better separation and help move the offense down the field. Too many stalled drives.

Aaron Hernandez cleaned up what the rest of the offense couldn’t, getting tough yards both on the ground on pitches and through the air. Finishing with 70 yards on the evening, Hernandez powered his way to first downs and extra yardage while dragging defenders with him just like a pro would.

Florida’s offensive line was integral to the team’s success this week. Having to both open up lanes for the running game while giving extra attention to protecting Tebow, the line came through with flying colors. Sure, Tebow was hurried a few times and didn’t have his normal success on the ground, but the offensive line played like warriors at LSU.

There is no doubt that defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was hammering one thing into his defense’s mind this week: pressure. LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson felt it all night long, but more so in the second half where an athletic Gators defensive line collapsed the pocket around him. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap played like a beast, though the stats may not exactly show it. A+ effort in the second half, B play in the first half earns them this grade.

Probably only an A if middle linebacker Brandon Spikes played a normal game – but he didn’t. Still hampered by Achilles tendonitis, Spikes played like an animal, recording a team-high 11 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Spikes was all over the place, playing inside, outside and at defensive end. Some big hits came from Ryan Stamper and A.J. Jones, and the unit achieved the pressure coach Strong was surely looking for while simultaneously stifling LSU’s running game.

Let’s not get it twisted – the secondary played well Saturday night. And with only 17 passes thrown, Jefferson didn’t give them much opportunity to make plays. And yes, cornerback Joe Haden did take in a nice interception. Nevertheless, LSU’s wide receivers were open in the secondary throughout the night, and more plays would have easily been made if the team had a better quarterback. The defensive front seven shined Saturday night, and while UF held LSU to only three points, it was mostly because of the guys in the trenches.

Kick returner Brandon James was not given an opportunity to do anything with punts being angled out of bounds and one of two kickoffs going through the back of the end zone. In his one return, he was stifled at the 15 yard line. And let’s be honest – kicker Caleb Sturgis looked awful. Shanking a 25-yard field goal is one thing, putting through an ugly extra point and even uglier 32-yard field goal is almost worse.

If you believe the Gators went into Saturday night with a game plan of controlling the clock, keeping the ball on the ground, limiting mistakes, quieting the crowd and winning on defense (which I do), then it worked to a T. If you are of the belief that they were forced into this game plan by the way the night started, then you would be sure to disagree with my grade here. Either way, head coach Urban Meyer did what was right – protected his quarterback and relied on a National Championship two-deep defense run by the best defensive coordinator in the game to control tempo and pull out a victory.

To play like the Gators did against the Tigers – in Death Valley – at night – with a raucous record crowd – and the situation surrounding Tebow – was impressive. Games do not need to be blow-outs for a team to have played well. A double digit victory with a defensive performance like the Gators had earns them an easy A this week.


  1. Max says:

    I think you made a lot of good points here. I totally agree with your assessment of most of the personnel groups However, I think you were a little too tough on the secondary’s grade. They consistently covered LSU’s first and second options, which allowed the defensive line time to get to the QB. In the few instances when LSU completed a pass, they tackled well and didn’t let up anything even resembling a big play. Haden and Janoris also helped out a lot in run support. In short, they did everything they were asked. IMO the group deserves an A.

  2. Gatormiami says:

    Addazio turned what should have been an easy victory into a nail-biter. At minimum the Gators should have scored 28 points, but failed to score in the red zone and failed with James on 4th down. They also inexcusably settled for 3 when they should have scored with ease, with a first & goal on the 5 yd line.

    Again the Gators waste downs with inside runs by Demps, especially Rainey & James. Yet again, Moody is very effective , but only caries 6 times (42 yds). I’m sick of watching the little guys running to no gain or loss from the inside, while Moody sits and watches with the ability to succeed running inside or outside… When will Addazio & Meyer wake up?

    This team can likely be successful against the remainder of the schedule with the mediocre performances of the offense. A test from Alabama or a foe like Texas could result in a negative result if we don’t solve the problems on offense and become much more productive. As we stand now, it’s unlikely that we’ll achieve the goals we accomplished last season….Right now, this team cannot do what last years team did! But there is time & I’m judging this team on last year’s performance at the end of the season, not the first half.

    I say, Let’s go Gators!

  3. Max-

    Great comments. I agree that I was very tough on the secondary. It mostly comes from my belief that it is the best in the NCAA and has yet to play like it so far this season. I happen to think the pressure of the front seven helped the secondary more than the other way around. And should LSU have had a better QB, I think there were plenty of occasions where he could have completed wide open passes that the front seven stifled by making him run around.

  4. Gatormiami-

    I agree with you, Addazio made some bad play calls last night. I disagree in your thinking that the Gators should have had “at the minimum 28 points.” We should have had 3 more on EITHER the missed field goal or the poor 4th and 2 play and perhaps one additional touchdown instead of one of those field goals. That would be 7 more points total. So perhaps 20-3. In the same respect, two personal foul penalties seemingly back-to-back cost the defense a shutout.

    Moody is very impressive back there, but he has not been reliable either in practice or on the field (fumbles). The Gators need to begin feeding him the rock and take some of the power rushes away from Tebow, but more of an issue is the lack of a passing offense. Don’t forget how much Tebow aired it out last year to Harvin and Murphy. Florida needs to go VERTICAL!

  5. Gatormiami says:

    I should have noted the incredible performance of the Gator defense. (They just have to learn to turn it off when the play is over….) I fear that one day we may run into an opponent with an offense that even a tremendous defensive effort will not be able to overcome due to an anemic Gator offensive effort… Let’s hope that a reinvigorated Tim Tebow, along with an offensive awakening, will result in a Gator team playing to its potential & repeating as National Champion

    P.S. Unlike the many Sabanites in the media who contend that Alabama should be #1, I find that their onfield efforts shouldn’t lead one to that conclusion. They’ve been erratic in every game I’ve watched and could only score 1 TD vs Ole Miss despite the five turnovers and great field position they enjoyed. They settled for 5 FGs, but their defense was effective…. Go Gators

  6. Gatormiami says:

    I can excuse the lackluster passing attack due to the various injuries & sicknees to WRs. It looks like Thompson is still not ready to go. And while it seems no one is talking about Moore, I lament his absence. Without him, we will have a maximum of 3 capable WRs & another injury could be devastating. Moore could make a big difference if he could come back in the near future, but it doesn’t look good. I believe Meyer should consider converting someone??? into a wide receiver for at least limited action… maybe a defensive back.

    I haven’t seen practices and it’s true that Moody could have problems hanging on to the ball in practice. However, I only remember 1 game fumble, which was caused by a fine defensive strip & TT fumbled in that same game and wasn’t jerked out, never to return. Just saying! Good for the goose, good for the gander! And Moody hasn’t fumbled in recent games… is running great, while others are crumbling when they hit the defensive line. Also, James should not be running out of the backfield…. It takes a feather to knock him over!

  7. Aligator says:

    Addazio is doing some terrible play calling, I do understand though, that we have had some sick and injured people on offense so far this season. Let’s hope that from this week forward we can stop playing not to lose on offense and praying our defense and special teams carry us through the victory.

    Alabama I can see beating as their offense can be stopped by us, as they are not that good. Texas on the other hand has the ability to air it out on us if we do not start attacking teams with what offense we do have. I do not understand why we try to run the scat backs up the middle when they get tackled almost immediately, especially James who should be playing a slot receiver position at most.

    Time and time again it has been proven that Rainey and Demps off tackle or to the outside, they can outrun so many people to the corner. As far as Moody is concerned, he has not fumbled in forever and he can go just about anywhere and gain those yards.

    With those adjustments and Tim running with the first team full speed for a week, hopefully he will be clicking with all of his receivers again. If not, we will be in for a long, boring, “hardfought” and “thank God we have a good defense” season.

  8. I would have much rather had Billy Gonzalez as our offensive coordinator. Addazio just seems too…simple…I guess would be the word.

    Aligator – running the scatbacks up the middle does work. Demps made a few really nice plays up the middle last night. Yes, in open space Demps and Rainey are better – no question about it. But you can’t do that every play.

  9. Daniel M. says:

    Here’s what you guys are missing about the play calling, namely the interior runs that so often go for 1 yard. These plays set up the outside stuff. No they are not particularly sexy and it just makes you wonder with the speed we have why we don’t keep running outside option stuff. Make no mistake about it, running the interior plays with lightning fast Demps FORCES defenses to remain honest and opens up the edge. Also, how many times have we seen Demps on interior runs dart through an unimaginably small hole, make a cut and gash a team for 25 yards. When the players know their blocking schemes and execute them like they so often do, if a defense is out of position just a bit, hand the ball to Demps and it’s lights out. Last I checked Demps averaged somewhere in the nine yards per carry range. Something is going very right with that average.

    Iv’e been banging the drum for months to let Moody pound the middle but I’m just not sure he has the ability to do what Demps does. Demps is a turbocharged “scat back.”

    Further, the passing threat isn’t what we would like it to be presently. Last year we had the Demps inside stuff and the receiving outside stuff. I don’t think any team in college football ever spread the field as effectively as that team did.

    So while the interior runs look unattractive, they are very effective. I commented to a friend last night that those are “set-up throw-away plays.” I honestly believe that the coaches know these plays aren’t going to produce every time. But they also know that combined with the Gators outstanding blocking they often blow up a defense. The Urban Meyer show showed a Demps inside run that featured beautiful blocking by the twins and an additional block five yards down by Riley Cooper. Result? Jeff snapped off 25 yards.

    Maybe they could run those plays a little less and make blowout hungry Gator fans less anxious. That would be my only criticism.

    And hopefully everyone saw Bubba Caldwell catch the winning touchdown catch today in the Bengals come from behind win. The boys from ole Florida are doing it big in the league these days.

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