Please feel free to share this free Inside the Gators feature with your friends
MORE FLORIDA FOOTBALL: A View from the Press Box: Football Tidbits | Alligator Alley: John Brantley Sunday P.M. Update | Week Five: What we learned
Here are a dozen observations from Florida's 38-10 trashing at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Included is the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Game, Surprising, Disappointing and much more.
John Brantley appeared to be well on his way was to perhaps his best outing ever as the Florida startering quarterback when he left the game at the end of the first half. The senior from Ocala was 11-for-16 on his passes in the first half, throwing for 190 yards. No call was more surprising, or pass more beautiful, than his 65-yard touchdown completion to Andre Debose on the first play from scrimmage. In Brantley's absence, the Florida offense collapsed.
It's difficult to remember Marcus Roberson is a freshman. The cornerback from Ft. Lauderdale was given the difficult task of containing UA speedster Marquis Maze, and Roberson passed with flying colors. Maze was held to two catches for 36 yards as Roberson covered him like a blanket most of the game.
Deonte Thompson did his best to shed the unreliable hands label. The senior wide out came up with two important catches for 43 yards on passes that were not easy to hang on to by any means. If true freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel is forced into action this week on the road at LSU, he will need all the help he can get, and part of that will be trusting the senior leaders such as Thompson on offense.
Chris Rainey was held to four yards on the ground - not an average of four yards per carry, but four yards total on 11 rushes. With Jeff Demps injured during the second quarter, Rainey was the only hope for the running game to get going, but that never happened. Alabama clearly prepared for Rainey and gave him nowhere to run.
ON THE RISE
When he was recruited in 2009, Debose was being compared to Percy Harvin and expected to have an impact as a true freshman. Instead, he sat out his freshman season with a hamstring injury and then struggled to get on the field the next. In 2011, Debose looks like he will finally get his chance to shine. He started Saturday's game over Quinton Dunbar and made the most of it by catching a touchdown pass on the opening play.
ON THE BUBBLE
Dunbar was hyped as one of Brantley's top targets in spring practice and fall camp, but was MIA from the passing game on Saturday. Charlie Weis was apparently unhappy with Dunbar's production and opted for Debose. After the way Debose performed, it's hard to imagine Dunbar winning back that spot any time soon.
The front seven are also collectively back in the doghouse after failing to stop the run or pressure A.J. McCarron into throwing an interception.
And then finally, sophomore linebacker Dee Finley has made headlines three times this season. Twice he has committed a penalty which negated a long return to open a game and once he was arrested and suspended for yet another game.
One of the biggest surprises of the game was the revelation that Weis' "kitchen sink" is where the UF passing attack was hiding all this time. With Rainey and Demps successfully contained by the Crimson Tide, Brantley went deep more often than not. Brantley averaged 11.6 yards per pass and was likely on his way to a night well north of 300 yards passing had he played the second half.
Even with a week to prepare, the Florida defense had no answer for Trent Richardson. The elite back lived up to his billing as a dangerous combination of speed and power, frequently dragging UF defenders an extra two to three yards forward. Between the Gators previous success stopping the run and Will Muschamp's familiarity with Richardson, fans were not expecting Richardson to turn in a career high 181-yard performance.
Without question it is Debose beating Alabama's top cornerback, Dre Kirkpatrick, en route to a 65-yard touchdown reception to open Saturday's primetime affair. There was no better way for the Gators to begin the game, as the already electric atmosphere of The Swamp was kicked up another level with the touchdown. Unfortunately for Florida, it would be the only touchdown of the night.
THE GOOD NEWS
The Gators showed everybody that they have deep passing routes in the playbook and the receivers are fully capable. Jordan Reed was another bright spot for Florida, with his five catches for 31 yards. Reed looks to be UF's most athletic and physical target.
Even Driskel's biggest supporters had to know he was unlikely to pull off a miracle comeback. It would have been easy for the Gator defense to quit at the half, but instead the response was three consecutive forced punts giving the offense a chance to claw back.
THE BAD NEWS
This is the worst possible time to be getting a true freshman ready at quarterback. The Gators spend the rest of October away from The Swamp, with back-to-back games in hostile environments.
Driskel made an impressive run and was unlucky to have a couple passes dropped, but he looks nowhere near as comfortable as Brantley running the offense and managing the game.
The Crimson Tide may have provided the blueprint on how to shutdown Rainey and Demps for LSU, Auburn, Georgia and the rest of the SEC.
A LOOK AHEAD
It doesn't get any easier for the Gators with No. 1/No. 2 LSU next on the schedule. The Tigers have the No. 9 defense in the country and will be ready to pounce on a true freshman making his first collegiate start. On the other side of the ball, Jordan Jefferson has recently been reinstated, giving LSU its starting quarterback.
Les Miles' bunch already has three wins over ranked teams (Oregon, Mississippi State, West Virginia) away from home. Though the Gators will avoid the added intensity of a night game in Baton Rouge, Driskel and the Gators can still expect a difficult time in the first big game this season at Death Valley.