Florida Gators Open Big: Plenty of Promise on the Horizon

Michael ThomasContributor ISeptember 6, 2009

The 2009 college football season is in full swing, and the Florida Gators started just as well as expected against an overmatched Charleston Southern on Saturday night. After a 62-3 thrashing, there were plenty of things this game will give you to think about. Streaks were continued. A special team’s drought was ended.

And the much-praised defense, which returned all 11 starters, was surprisingly sluggish and unimaginative.

In this rout, returning Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow didn’t even play two full quarters, yet still managed to extend his streak of 29 straight games with at least one passing touchdown. He also brought in his 44th career rushing touchdown from one yard out.

This ties him for fourth place in SEC history for his career, just five behind the Hall-of-Famer Herschel Walker record. Expect this record to be broken at the game formerly known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” Just one more bit of salt to throw in the wound on those dastardly Dawgs.

Tebow finished the night completing 10 of 15 passes for 188 yards, with a passing and a rushing touchdown in just seven minutes and 13 seconds of offensive possession.

Florida did well to spread the ball tonight. Rushing saw 8 different players tuck the ball throughout the game, having four of them (Chris Rainey, Jeffrey Demps, Tim Tebow, and Mike Gillislee) score on the ground.

Also, through the air, eight different receivers brought in catches from both Tebow and his heir-apparent John Brantley. Riley Cooper led that pack of talent with 5 catches for 105 yards while obviously battling the flu. He was seen vomiting several times during the evening.

The offense was impressive under new Offensive Coordinator Steve Addazio. Look for him to push the passing game out to Cooper and Tight End Aaron Hernandez all season as both of these players will have break out years with Tebow’s even further improved accuracy.

Another streak continued was thanks to Major Wright’s first interception of the season. This marked the 13th straight game the Gators defense has forced a turnover. This also brings Florida to 116 total turnovers since Urban Meyer took the reins.

Unfortunately, this is very likely the only highlight of the defensive effort from a highly talented and experienced squad. Defensive play calling and execution was sluggish and unimaginative at best. Let’s hope this was due to the non-threat that was presented by this middle of the pack FCS offense.

Earlier this week, special teams’ standout Brandon James made a vow to break a drought that had plagued Florida for 10 years. With all of the talent, and all of the speed that has come through this SEC powerhouse program, no returner has brought a kickoff back for a touchdown penalty free since Bo Carroll ran one back for 100 yards against LSU—in 1999.

Well, after the Buccaneers scored their lone points on a 38 yard field goal in the second quarter, James made true on his promise and took the kick back un-touched 85 yards thanks in large part to a special teams squad that was just unbelievable on both sides.

Downfield blocking was flawless as Riley Cooper showed his ability on that aspect of the game and kept it clear for James to almost casually drop into the end zone. Kickoff coverage was dominating and showed Florida’s blazing speed by getting in the returners’ faces before they hit the 20 on almost every kick, longest returns allowed were a pair of 24 yarders.

On offense, the Gators showed their versatility and talent with some severe strikes to the end zone. Special teams showed why Urban Meyer puts so much work and faith into it. While the defense was unimpressive, I believe this will help them get some preseason jitters out of their system and, hopefully have a humbling effect and remind them what happened last year when they looked past an opponent.

I know Coach Meyer will have no problem bringing them down to reality and getting them ready for one more weekend of non-conference play before we welcome Tennessee into the Swamp and educate Lane Kiffin on how much you really don’t want to mess with the best.

Go Gators