November 29, 2011

Upon Further Review: Another bad loss


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Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 21-7 loss to instate rival Florida State. Included is the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, Surprising, Disappointing and much more.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER-OF-THE-GAME
A.C. Leonard was one of the few Gators on offense who looked like he actually showed up on Saturday night. The freshman tight end has been asked to carry the load while Jordan Reed has battled injury, and has performed up to the task. In a game where the passing attack struggled mightily, Leonard was one of few bright spots, with three receptions for 65 yards.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER-OF-THE-GAME
Some people might say that the Gators look like they have regressed as the season has gone on. However, that's not the case with Matt Elam. The sophomore safety has stepped into a leadership role and has a bright future at Florida. Elam had eight tackles, one forced fumble and two pass breakups in the regular season finale.

UNSUNG HERO-OF-THE-GAME
When Dominique Easley went down, the defensive line had big shoes to fill. Jaye Howard stepped up his game on senior night to make sure the defense did not skip a beat without the big man in the middle. Howard provided five tackles, including two for a loss of six yards, and recovered a fumble.

STAT LINE-OF-THE-GAME
This might be the easiest one of the year to identify as Florida's three interceptions resulted in three touchdowns for Florida State. The FSU offense had to do very little - and did it ever - when two interceptions by John Brantley put the Seminoles in the red zone. Jacoby Brissett's interception was returned for a touchdown, putting the Noles up 21-0 on a night their offense struggled to move the ball.

ON THE RISE
Leonard might be rising to the point that he could be on top of the depth chart even when Reed returns. Reed was one of Brantley's top receivers, but it would be difficult to bench Leonard with the way he is playing right now.

At some point, Hunter Joyer's play should convince the coaches to get him more carries. Even though he is playing fullback for Florida, Joyer was a natural tailback in high school where he carried the load. No, he isn't a threat to take it to the house, but he is one of UF's few power runners. Joyer carried the ball three times for 30 yards against FSU.

ON THE BUBBLE
The end of Trey Burton's role as a jack-of-all-trades cannot come soon enough for Florida. His failed fourth-and-inches play that lost 14 yards demonstrates that he is out of place in those situations. That play alone should be enough to put an end to his Wildcat days.

Jacoby Brissett's performance against Florida State had most Gator fans wondering one thing: when will Jeff Driskel get another chance? With Brissett, Florida's biggest threat on offense seemed to be drawing a flag for pass interference on FSU. One has to expect that if Brantley is not healthy enough to start the bowl game, there will be open competition for the starting quarterback spot.

SURPRISING
Ten yards were all that separated the Seminoles offensive production from their penalty yardage. It's not often a team can produce only 95 yards of offense and win by two touchdowns, but FSU pulled it off. The Gators were given plenty of extra chances as Florida State was flagged for 85 yards. The fact that the Florida defense had the Noles shut down makes a two-touchdown loss frustrating beyond words for most UF fans.

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DISAPPOINTING
If Brantley had not been injured, he was likely about to be benched in his last home game in The Swamp. One would expect the x-factors of senior night and playing arch rival Florida State at home to give him a boost and have him on the top of his game. Instead, the quarterback that Charlie Weis says has evolved looked as lost as the true freshman backing him up. Brantley telegraphed multiple throws and made numerous bad decisions that put UF in a 14-0 hole, which proved to be too much to overcome.

Perhaps the only player with a senior day more disappointing than Brantley was Jeff Demps who went for minus-eight yards on four carries.

PLAY-OF-THE-GAME
Florida State did not get the satisfaction of handing the Gators their first shutout loss since 1988. Late in the fourth quarter, a Seminole fumble put the Gators in striking distance. Brissett found Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone, and the shutout fears were put to bed.

THE GOOD NEWS
For all intents and purposes, Florida's miserable 2011 season is over. The extra practices provided by the bowl game will be treated like a bonus spring camp.

THE BAD NEWS
This Florida team is unlikely to be favored in any bowl game. Beyond the issue of who will play quarterback, the Gators have an inconsistent offensive line, receivers that struggle to get separation and a power running game that leaves much to be desired. Those issues have held the team back all year, it is unlikely they get fixed in the month of December.

A LOOK AHEAD
For the 21st season in a row, the Gators will play in a bowl game. The streak is second to only FSU, who has made 30 consecutive bowl appearances. The opponent is officially unknown at this point, but most speculation has the Gators playing Ohio State in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. The match up could lead to a potential media circus with Ohio State having reportedly hired former Florida coach Urban Meyer.

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