Grading the Florida vs. Alabama game (+ FSU)

By Adam Silverstein
December 6, 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 Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2009 SEC Championship in Atlanta, GA. Following those grades, OGGOA has provided its overlooked grades (without explanations) for the Florida State Seminoles game.

Florida seemingly decided to put the entire offense on senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s shoulders. How else could you explain the 35 passing attempts and team-high 10 carries? On the ground, Tebow rushed for 63 yards. Through the air, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw a costly interception into the end zone and came up short on numerous occasions. Like the strategy or not, Tebow was responsible for almost every offensive snap of an offense that failed to get the job done against a stout Alabama defense.

Inexplicably, Florida’s running backs touched the ball a total of three times on Saturday. Three. In the Gators’ first 12 games, sophomore Jeff Demps averaged eight carries (7.7 yards), redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey averaged seven touches (6.4 yards) and redshirt junior transfer Emmanuel Moody averaged five rushes (7.3 yards). That is a total of 20 running plays and well over 100 yards of rushing that were not part of Florida’s offensive game plan. The only possible grade for this unit is “incomplete.”

Read the rest of Florida’s grades from the SEC Championship after the jump…

The Gators’ three top receivers – seniors Riley Cooper and David Nelson and redshirt sophomore Deonte Thompson – were inconsistent at best. Cooper and Nelson had a few nice grabs, and Thompson had a solid first down reception. Nevertheless, the entire unit dropped numerous catchable passes where prior Florida receivers would have brought them in. These include multiple must-catch third- and fourth-down conversions that halted the Gators’ offense in its tracks.

Junior Aaron Hernandez failed to pull in a few balls, too, but overall he continued to be Florida’s most dominant pass catcher. Hernandez hauled in eight balls for 85 yards including a sold 38-yard reception. In a night of offensive failures, he proved how important he was to the Gators’ offense and why he could very well be a first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Tebow was hurried a few times during the game, but the dominating Crimson Tide front seven did not record a single sack on him. For a unit that was much maligned throughout the season, it really stepped up over the last few games as freshman left tackle Xavier Nixon took over on the end. When Tebow ran the ball, the offensive line blocked well, though they did not have the opportunity to do the same for the RBs. However, numerous costly penalties dropped them an entire letter grade.

No hurries, no sacks, no pass rush, no impact and one shared tackle for loss. The absence of junior defensive end Carlos Dunlap was felt mightily throughout the game. In addition to all of these shortcomings, the line was also responsible as the first line of defense against RB Mark Ingram and failed in that assignment. It even recorded big-time penalties just like its offensive counterpart. And like the OL, the DL’s grade was dropped a full letter grade because of those miscues.

Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes was quite obviously hampered all game by his season-long Achilles tendonitis that must have flared up early on. Even so, he accounted for nine tackles (one for a loss) and two hurries. Junior Brandon Hicks, filling in for redshirt junior A.J. Jones, had a hurry, tackle for loss and six tackles overall. Redshirt senior Ryan Stamper had five tackles but was overall held silent. More important to divulge, however, is the fact that the unit as a whole missed dozens of key tackles throughout the game and was manhandled all day long. For supposedly one of the best groups in the country, that is simply unacceptable.

Allowing a first-year starter to complete 66 percent of his passes for 239 yards is not good. What’s worse is consistently blowing coverage and allowing him to pick apart your unit like it is made out of Swiss cheese (sorry for the standard line, but it is true). Junior cornerback Joe Haden was charged with covering Alabama’s star receiver Julio Jones. He held Jones to two receptions and 28 yards. On the other side, however, Marquis Maze torched sophomore CB Janoris Jenkins and the safeties for five receptions and 96 yards. Even tight end Colin Peek was left wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. And still, this was the best defensive unit on the field on Saturday.

Senior kick returner Brandon James did nothing special and left the game at halftime. Junior punter Chas Henry was, once again, his spectacular self, punting four times for 195 yards with a long of 57 and one returned for only eight yards. Sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis made the most out of his two opportunities, nailing a 48-yard and 32-yard field goal. Easily the best unit on the field Saturday for Florida.

The Gators were not prepared. Period. The offense handed the ball to an RB three times…which may have been some type of “strategy,” but even if it was – it failed miserably. The defense looked weak and had no chance of stopping Ingram let alone QB Greg McElroy. While the players must execute, they did not look like they were ready for the intensity of the game or put in any type of position to succeed. Looking across the sideline, Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban had his team raring to go and had been building the game up for a full year. Head coach Urban Meyer, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong were out-coached.

Florida’s offense may have been given a bit of a break in these grades, but some excuses can be made. They were playing from behind all game, not allowed to run the football (didn’t everyone claim the Gators were a run-first team all season?) and charged with making up for the shortcomings of the defense. Even when Florida put together a great offensive drive, such as when the score was narrowed to 12-10, the defense gave up a huge play (69-yard Ingram reception) to negate all of the positive work done on the other side of the ball. However, the game was not all about what the Gators did wrong – Alabama also did a lot right. Florida did not just lose the game, the Crimson Tide were in it to win it. And for that reason and that reason alone, I allowed the Gators to avoid a lower grade. Even so, this is their lowest of the season – and deservingly so.




  1. Sarasota 'cane says:

    You hit the coaching grade spot on Adam! The UF coaches seemed unable to answer anything Alabama threw at them. Better luck next year.

  2. Brittany says:

    I agree with your grades, as always. The team just looked unprepared and it’s almost as if they expected Tebow to just go in there and beat Alabama by himself. I’m not sure what was going on but here’s hoping that we get it together for the Sugar Bowl.

  3. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    QB a B….are you serious….I love Tebow to death but that wasn’t even close to a B performance….probably the worst game he has ever had as a Gator and I am not hanging the loss on him by any means….there is plently of blame to go around but he missed some wide open WR’s…did anyone see DT 20 yards behind the defense in the first half on one play….perfect pocket and Tebow dumped off a short pass underneath…that is just one example there was a few other plays…that being said I saw other plays where no one was open and Tebow did what he could to avoid the sack or throwing an int.

  4. The worst game he has ever had as a Gator? Not even close. Tebow was not put in a position by the offensive game plan to win. He also had a lot of well-thrown passes dropped by his receivers. The whole time I was doing the grades, I had him at a B-, but I increased it to a B when I wrote the line that he was tasked with the entire load and put in a position where he had to throw the ball much more than he was accustomed to. Tebow did not have his best game by any means, but had the defense done its job, his receivers caught some easy balls thrown their way and Addazio actually used the running game, it would have been a perfectly fine job. Also, I have to take into account every grade Tebow has received this season and see how this performance stacks up. He’s played much worse than this before – much worse. But, you know what, grades are meant to be debated. It is my interpretation of the game – not a hard line that everyone has to agree with. 🙂

  5. Drew 4 Orange and Blue says:

    Of course we all have our opinions and I am sure if I saw game tape I would have a more educated opinion….I agree Addozio deserves an F and should be demoted…..I guess I can’t get over the interception which would have been a touchdown if he threw the ball to the back of the endzone….him missing DT running wide open for about a 50 yard TD and then the throw to Hernandez that everyone wants to blame Hernandez for dropping…the pass was way too high…in that case you would have preferred a lower ball anyways to allow the TE to protect the ball when he got hit….that’s another TD lost….last year Tebow made those throws when it counted…not this year

  6. Two hands on the ball and you are supposed to catch it – ask any receiver that question. Everyone made mistakes on Saturday. Tebow’s interception was inexcusable, especially when he had a wide open receiver. But even when Tebow engineered a great scoring drive (as I mentioned, when the lead was closed to 12-10), the defense just gave a touchdown back. Alabama could have scored again at the end of the game.

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