Posted: 1:17 am Sunday, September 5th, 2010
By Jason Lieser
One of the funniest moments of Florida’s 34-12 win over Miami (Ohio) in the opener was coach Urban Meyer opening his press conference with a straight face and saying, “Thanks for coming.”
I’ve covered a lot of losses and this felt like one of them. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and his players seemed pleased after the game, but the Meyer and the offensive players sounded like they were dissecting a defeat.
It was bad. Someone can look at the score on the ESPN ticker and see 34-12 for a rebuilding Florida team over a mid-major and think it sounds like a good win, but it wasn’t. There was some good, but this was mostly bad and the Gators know it.
Here are five fast thoughts about the game:
1. Everyone likes to talk quarterbacks, so let’s get right to John Brantley. He was fine. Not bad, not great. Brantley completed 17 of 25 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. That linewould look better if an open Deonte Thompson had caught a well-placed pass for a 44-yard touchdown, but if you want to play the if game, you have to deduct a lucky, ricocheted 25-yard touchdown pass from Brantley to Chris Rainey with 1:21 left in the game. The coaches only let Brantley go deep twice: Thompson’s drop and ball down the middle to Carl Moore that was well covered by the Miami defense. Brantley’s completions averaged 6.6 yards. Last year’s offense with last year’s quarterback picked up 13.3 yards per reception. Brantley needs to play better and the coaches need to unshackle him unless he shows he is a liability on medium- and long-range passes.
2. Man, the Gators missed their previous quarterback in short-yardage situations. Wildcat QB Trey Burton looked good running behind the left side of the offensive line on his two-yardtouchdown run, but there were a pair of 4th-and-short calls that definitely would’ve been QB keepers a year ago. Instead, they went to Emmanuel Moody and he went nowhere. First quarter, 4th-and-inches from the 50-yard line, Moody runs behind the right guard, but is stopped at the line and pushed back for a two-yard loss. Fortunately, Miami is flagged for off-sides and the drive continues long enough for Chris Rainey to fumble the ball away. On the next drive, 4th-and-1 from Miami’s 36, Florida calls a pitch right to Moody and he is stopped in the backfield for another two-yard loss. Short-yardage was a major concern for the Gators in training camp. It just became majorer. 3. What happened to K Caleb Sturgis and how long will it last? Was he hitting the ball with my 7-iron? The trajectory looked identical. He was wide right on a 44-yarder in the fourth quarter. Didn’t seem like a big deal until he missed an extra point the next time he stepped on the field. This is scary because when kickers get something in their head, sometimes it takes a while to get it out.
4. The linebackers and secondary looked good (great games by A.J. Jones, Jon Bostic, Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black), but the defensive front was quiet. Florida got two sacks, both from DT Jaye Howard. Credit one of those to the Gators’ secondary blanketing Miami’s receivers for about a half-hour. Meyer said he was disappointed in the pass rush and he should be. Did Duke Lemmens play? Never heard his name. He assisted on one tackle. It’s hard to say what Meyer will do the next three weeks (South Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky) because the Gators are far more talented than those teams and don’t have to play their best to win. But Meyer will play the best 11 on defense Oct. 2 in Tuscaloosa. It won’t matter if you’re a senior. The fans already want to see more of Ronald Powell. Give it a month and they might get their wish.
5. The worst part about Florida’s offense failing was that it seemed like the Gators had great field position all day. Florida had eight drives that began at its own 40 or better. The results: three lost fumbles, three touchdowns, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal. The field goal was a 44-yard attempt, so the offense didn’t get the job done on that one. That was the most maddening drive. Florida got the ball at Miami’s 31-yard line and netted four yards on eight snaps before Sturgis went wide right. The three touchdowns: a 21-yard drive set up by Miami’s botched fake punt deep in its own end of the field, a 2-yard drive that only happened because Ahmad Black came up just short on an interception return and Brantley’s fourth-down heave into traffic that somehow bounced to Chris Rainey. Florida’s average starting field position was its own 49.
I guess you want me to mix in some positives. Someone asked Meyer to do that in the press conference and he answered, “We won. There you go.”
This is a one-time deal: five extra-points, all of which should be encouraging:
1. Jeff Demps averaged 12.3 yards per carry after a slow start. Florida will take that every time.
2. There are no stats to show it, but it seemed like Matt Elam did pretty well in coverage. Miami should have taken advantage of him on a fake punt, but a bad throw let him off the hook. Other than that, he looked like he was in the right spot most of the day.
3. The offensive line will get better quickly. Pouncey will end his crazy snaps and the return of Carl Johnson and Xavier Nixon will restore the starting five to what most people thought it would be.
4. Not sure if Omarius Hines is a good fit at tight end, but he is a playmaker: three catches for 49 yards and a touchdown.
5. Mike Gillislee had a nice game other than losing a fumble. Miami kicked short all day to avoid Demps and Gillislee made the RedHawks pay with a 50-yard return in the third quarter. Gillislee also averaged 9.2 yards per carry on six tries.