This is one of the most interesting games I have seen in a while. While the game probably caught many college football fans off guard, If you knew all of the facts, then the way that the game went shouldn't have been that surprising at all. I will break this article into 3 main sections:
1. What we knew coming into the game
2. What happened
3. What we learned
So what did we know going into this game?
Here is what we knew about Miami:
- Miami struggled offensively last year, but were a pretty good team defensively last year.
- Miami had a great recruiting class, but it was considerably better on the defensive side of the ball. The amount of talent that they brought in on defense is unprecedented.
- Miami was starting a QB who had not played in a real game in almost 2 years, and his first game was going to be in the swamp.
- Miami has a bunch of great RB's. Cooper and James are considered by many to be one of the best RB duos in the nation. James was hurt, though.
- Miami had been preparing for this game all off season. They saw this game as a measuring stick to see how far Miami was from being back to its glory days.
- Miami is not scared of Florida, and they do not respect Florida.
Here is what we knew about Florida:
- Tebow's #1 goal has been to develop as a pocket passer. Tebow has been working on looking to his primary options, then his secondary options, then as a last resort running the football.
- Florida struggled running the ball last year, and they do not have a featured RB without Moody. They have an abundance of speed, but now need some power to compliment that speed.
- The Florida coaches have been very cautious with Percy Harvin. He had not played contact football since the Capital One Bowl loss to Michigan.
- Florida struggled defending the pass last year, but were pretty outstanding against the run ranking #1 in the SEC in rush defense.
- Louis Murphy is a great WR. At a height of 6'-3" with supposed sub 4.3 speed, could there be another WR with as much potential as this guy. Don't take my word for it, though. Just ask Todd McShay, who said that Louis Murphy is the #2 overall NFL WR prospect for the Class of 2009.
- Aaron Hernandez was one of the best TE's in the nation coming out of high school, and he would need to live up to the hype after Cornelius Ingram went down with an ACL injury.
- Florida was missing starting RB Emmanuel Moody, starting OL Jim Tartt, and two others in the 2-deep on the offensive line.
So what happened, and why?
1. Robert Marve played well, though, completing over 50% of his passes, not making any critical mistakes. The Gators did not have a single turnover against the Miami offense.
Miami's offensive gameplan was designed to take as much pressure off of Robert Marve as a possible decision maker and QB. Miami knew how tough it was going to be coming into the swamp with a freshman and first time starter at QB. Miami's offensive gameplan did not give Robert Marve any chances to make critical mistakes, and thus gave the Gators no chance for any turnovers. Marve's longest completion was 14 yards. The strategy was to give Robert Marve easy throws, and then let him loose to scramble in the event that he did not have any options. Thus he had a high completion percentage, an abysmal 3.8 yards per attempt or 6.9 yards per completion, and 9 rushes for 6 yards or a 0.7 average.
2. The Miami offense averaged 1.6 yards per carry, and only scored 3 points.
Miami has been a very good team running the ball on the ground, and so the credit here has to go to Florida. As I stated, we knew that Florida was good against the run, and they were #1 against the run in the SEC last year. Florida knew that Miami had a young QB, and a good running game. Florida dared Miami to beat their defense through the air, and Miami refused to put that much pressure on Marve. Thus Florida stacked it up against the run, and Miami paid for it. Cooper was held to 2.1 yards per carry, and James was held to 2.0 yards per carry. The best rusher was Derron Thomas who averaged 3.1 yards per carry.
3. The Florida offense struggled the entire game up until the 4th quarter.
-Miami had been planning for this game all offseason. They played an FCS team that had a record of 5-7. They could easily be overlooked. Florida was the first real game of the season, and Randy Shannon and his coaching staff spent most of the offseason preparing for the Gators, and it showed. Anything less than a brilliant gameplan would have been a disappointment with all of the time they had to prepare for this game. They had the game film from the Auburn, Georgia, and Michigan games last year to use as preparation for the Gators.
-Miami had a solid defense. They were good last year, and then added players like Marcus Forston, Arthur Brown, Brandon Harris, and Sean Spence. They are very fast on defense and they were able to eliminate or limit a lot of the things that Florida wanted to do offensively with guys like Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, and Percy Harvin.
-The Gators had addressed many of these issues from those games during the offseason, but they hinged around world class athlete Cornelius Ingram, and what he was able to do. The ACL injury to his knee forced the Gators to scrap much of the time they spent working on the problem because without Cornelius they did not have the depth or personnel to do what they would have liked against the schemes that they saw against Miami, and other teams dating back to Auburn last year.
-Injuries also affected the Gators a good bit on offense. Emmanuel Moody was out for this game, and that was huge because that is the Gators only true all around RB. He is the complete package, and Florida needs Moody to establish a presence other than Harvin and Tebow in the running game. Florida was also missing a former 2nd team All-SEC lineman in Jim Tartt, and two others in the two deep. Florida was not able to wear down Miami's defensive line like they really wanted to by constantly rotating men in and out the game.
4. Louis Murphy, Aaron Hernandez, and Brandon James all were able to step up and make plays.
-This game showed a lot of maturity from Tim Tebow. This is the first time that Tebow has ever distributed the ball to 8 different receivers in one game. That shows that he is now checking down to more options. The only problem is that the offensive line was not reliable and you could tell that Tebow did not have much confidence standing in the pocket. A healthy offensive line and Emmanuel Moody could fix a lot of problems that the Gators had against Miami. It is also the first time that 6 receivers have ever had multiple receptions from Tebow, and it is the first time that 6 WR's other than Percy Harvin have ever had multiple receptions from Tebow. The Gators could not afford to have Demps or Rainey in the game with the offensive line struggling like they did. That means that Kestaun Moore had to play more because he is the best blocking back that the Gators have.
-The Gators finally started to effectively pick up the blitz in the 4th quarter. When that happened, everything fell into place and the Gators started to roll.
What did we learn from this game?
1. Miami is a good team defensively. They were able to keep up with the Gators high powered offense and match them very well.
2. Florida may have issues on the offensive line, and they need to earn Tebow's trust.
3. Tebow is learning how to be a pure pocket passer, but he never looked comfortable sitting back in the pocket. Tebow needs to gain confidence and trust in his offensive line. Tebow can find more of his weapons than before and can get all of them the ball, if he has adequate protection.
4. Florida needs Emmanuel Moody to get better and play. They need a back that can compliment Florida's speed with some power.
5. Miami is solid defensively, but still has quite a ways to go offensively. They will be a very good team in the future.