2011 Florida Gators Football: Grading the UAB Game
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With the second of two tune-ups out of the way, Florida can start looking ahead to its Southeastern Conference opener next weekend against rival Tennessee (2-0) in The Swamp.
Those are the Gators. We can look back one final time at last Saturday's 39-0 victory against Alabama-Birmingham that moved UF to 2-0.
But before we do that, I wanted to throw out a stat that shows how good of a start Florida is off to on the defensive end: this is the first season since 1933 the Gators have allowed only three points combined in the first two games.
On to the grades...
John Brantley (12-of-19 for 195 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions) and Jeff Driskel (1-for-1 for 17 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions) weren't asked to do a lot against the Blazers (0-1), but the QBs played sound, if not spectacular games.
They did what they were asked, and Brantley again looked comfortable running the offense. He did underthrow Quinton Dunbar on the first pass of the night—a deep ball off of a flea-flicker—but, for the most part, Brantley did just fine.
What grade do the Gators deserve for their performance against UAB?
One oddity is that UF has scored 80 points total in its first two games but has just one touchdown pass.
This very well may be the position where Florida has been the strongest in this young season.
In Game 1, it was The Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps Show, but the contest against UAB saw the Gators get serious contributions from five different backs.
Rainey (16 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown; three receptions for 43 yards) led the way, but Trey Burton returned from injury to post six carries for 46 yards and a touchdown and freshman fullback Hunter Joyer added three carries for nine yards and a score. And when the game got out of hand, Mike Gillislee (11 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown) and Mack Brown (10 carries for 36 yards) each made a case to earn more meaningful snaps.
In all, UF rushed 55 times for 300 yards with no lost fumbles, and it didn't seem to matter that Demps (two carries for 10 yards) had a quiet night.
Who was UF's player of the game against UAB?
Like with the quarterbacks, there were no knock-your-socks-off stats, but the play was steady.
Dunbar, Andre Debose, Deonte Thompson and Jordan Reed each had two catches, and as mentioned earlier, had the pass not been underthrown, Dunbar would have had a touchdown, instead of just an early 40-yard reception.
The receivers and tight ends also continued to block well for the backs, providing value that may not come with numbers but do get noticed by the coaching staff.
It was the second straight superior effort by the big guys up front.
As noted, Florida rushed for 300 yards (on 5.5 ypc), and once again, the line also gave up no sacks. Brantley also wasn't even pressured much.
With UAB doing a lot of quick-drop passes, Florida's front four didn't record any sacks, but it did disrupt the Blazers' offense most of the night.
No one stood out individually like Jaye Howard did a week earlier when he recorded four tackles and a sack, but the collective effort was good.
There were a couple of offsides penalties and neutral-zone infractions that knock the grade down slightly.
This unit played well, and Jon Bostic delivered one of his best games as a Gator, collecting five tackles (including one for a 13-yard loss).
Once again, Lerentee McCray was active, making two tackles (one for-loss) and a quarterback hurry while sharing time.
Meanwhile, Jelani Jenkins had a relatively quiet evening, recording just one solo tackle and dropping an interception for the second straight week. That said, Jenkins has done a nice job putting himself in position to force turnovers, and those will come.
After the spring dismissal of All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins, there were concerns that UF's inexperienced set of defensive backs could be a weakness in 2011.
That certainly wasn't the case against Alabama-Birmingham.
Sophomore safety Matt Elam may have played his best game as a Gator, collecting a team-best seven tackles with a forced fumble. Josh Shaw also was very active, recording four tackles—the third-best total on the team.
Safety Jabari Gorman (two tackles, forced fumble) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (fumble recovery) also made plays, while Cody Riggs, Jaylen Watkins and Josh Shaw had two tackles each while competing as part of what is becoming a pretty deep rotation.
The DBs didn't snag any interceptions, but they did do a good job of limiting UAB's dink-and-dunk offense, evidenced by the so-so numbers posted by Blazers' quarterback Bryan Ellis (15-of-28 for 141 yards).
Kicker Caleb Sturgis remained perfect on the season with field goals of 24, 35 and 28 yards, though the 28-yarder did go through after hitting the left upright.
The coverage units didn't allow a kickoff return of more than 27 yards, and Debose brought his only try of the contest 50 yards. And after not getting on the field against Florida Atlantic, David Lerner punted twice with both being downed inside the 20.
For the second straight week, we'll go with an overall grade of A-. Give Rainey and Elam co-players-of-the-game nods.
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