December 27, 2010

Outback Bowl '11: Inside Florida

It's game week, and we'll start off with a look at Penn State's opponent, the Florida Gators.

Things haven't exactly gone as planned, never mind as hoped, for Florida in 2010. A 7-5 record, 2nd place finish in a terrible year for the SEC East, and the prospect of losing most of the coaching staff by the time 2011 starts; Gators fans have every right to be pissed off.

But what a win in the bowl game would do for a team that's been more and more depressing to watch as the season drew to a close? Urban Meyer could retire (again) a winner, from a place that he's brought back to the top of the elite in college football.

In this post, we'll take a quick look at the team overall, then have a game-by-game rundown.

2010 Florida Overview

Florida had a very similar season to Penn State. The Gators beat a few mediocre and bad teams to start the season. Then they lost to the few very good teams on the schedule. And to wrap up the season, the Florida offense seemed to get back on track, but was derailed against better opponents, including in the season finale.

The UF offense was able to simply overwhelm early opponents, but were scary ineffective in the first half of most the games. Though John Brantley came to Florida a very highly-touted quarterback, he has not been a good fit for the offense Urban Meyer runs in Gainesville. That, combined with a lackluster performance by the offensive line, doomed any offensive balance from the Gators this season. They averaged 29.2 points per game, but only managed 6 against Alabama, 7 against MSU, 14 against USC, and 7 against FSU. In SEC conference games, the scoring total dropped by a point to 28 per game, though the offensive yards per game were about the same.

Jeff Demps missed 3 games with injury--LSU, Vandy, and App. St.--while being nearly ineffective in a few others. Chris Rainey missed five games, suspended for an aggravated assault charge. He came back for the Georgia game, but Florida lost three of the five games he was suspended.

The defense had a ton of trouble stopping any run game with a warm body carrying the rock. But it was again similar to Penn State, in that the defense became warn down early in games when the offense continually struggled to hold onto the ball. The lowest opponent score was 10, and that was ASU, an FCS foe. THe Gators gave up 21.1 points per game, significantly higher when compared to recent years when the UF defense was among the best, if not the best in the nation. In 2010 SEC games, the defense gave up 23.2 points per game.

Safety Ahmad Black will play his final game as a Gator looking to attract the attention of NFL scouts. Though undersized, Black has been Florida's most consistent defensive player this season. Black leads the Gators with 102 tackles, including 10 for loss. Black also has forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles and intercepted three passes.

A big stat that won't usually get mentioned in the game story, but played a huge part in the Florida struggles this season, was the number of penalties. And boy, did Florida have a ton of flags thrown on them in 2010. An average of 59 yards per game were lost to penalties, 15 more yards per game than opponents.

Another stat that doesn't show up often, but is eerily similar to Penn State this season, is the red zone conversion rate. Florida scored on only 70 percent of its trips inside the red zone, scoring touchdowns 62 percent of the time. Not all of that was due to offensive breakdowns. For the season, the Gators kicking game only made 6 of 12 field goal attempts.

Then there are the coaching changes. Since the end of the regular season, Urban Meyer announced his second retirement this calendar year, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio accepted the head coaching position at Temple, and defensive line coach Dan McCarney left to be the head coach at North Texas. Meyer and Addazio will stay with the team for the bowl game, while McCarney is gone, and will be replaced temporarily by a graduate assistant in the bowl game.

Florida is 1-2 overall in Outback Bowl appearances, with all games being against Big Ten teams.

2010 Schedule/Results

Here is a rundown of all 12 regular season contests. The descriptions of the games were taken from AP wire stories and

19/4#4 FloridaMiami(OH)W, 34-12
The Gators used four interceptions, several red-zone stops and Jeff Demps' long touchdown run to beat heavy underdog Miami (Ohio) 34-12 Saturday. But the real story was Florida's anemic offense, the one quarterback John Brantley had hoped to "keep rolling'' after waiting three years behind Tebow.

Instead, Brantley and the Gators spent most of the season opener in reverse. There were fumbles, bad snaps, poor throws, several penalties and a whole lot of frustration in The Swamp.

Brantley completed 17 of 25 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 10-yarder to Omarius Hines that was the offense's longest play of the day until Demps' got loose for a 72-yarder in the fourth. Brantley also threw a 25-yard TD pass to Chris Rainey with 1:21 remaining. That fourth-down pass bounced off a teammate before Rainey hauled it in. The Gators managed a measly 25 yards, including minus-16 rushing, through three quarters. Nonetheless, they led 21-12 thanks to interceptions by Jon Bostic, Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black. Jenkins returned his 67 yards for a touchdown that put Florida ahead 7-3 in the second quarter. Miami (Ohio) and Florida each finished with 212 yards.
29/11#8 FloridaS. FloridaW, 38-14
Demps ran for a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown, finished with 255 all-purpose yards, and No. 8 Florida bounced back from a lackluster opener to beat South Florida. The Bulls kept it close early and even led 7-0 for most of the first half. They drove 96 yards on their opening possession, gashing Florida with long runs and converting all four third-down plays. They scored on a 2-yard pass from Daniels to Andrew Ketchel. The 17-play drive was the team's biggest highlight, though.

Turnovers plagued USF the rest of the way.

Defensively, the Gators intercepted four passes, finished with five turnovers and helped extend the team's home winning streak to 13 games.

John Brantley completed 18 of 31 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Deonte Thompson rebounded from another drop early and finished with six receptions for 83 yards. The offensive line allowed a sack, but paved the way for 244 yards rushing. Big plays were key. Brantley's first TD pass came after an interception. Demps' long TD run followed a fumble. Mike Gillislee scored after another turnover. And defensive end Justin Trattou picked off a pass and rumbled 35 yards to the end zone.
39/18Tennessee#10 FloridaW, 31-17
There was a different quarterback taking snaps for Florida and a new coach on Tennessee's sideline. The result was still the same. Before halftime, Florida looked like the team that struggled against Miami (Ohio) and in the first half against South Florida.

Mike Pouncey mishandled several snaps. One overshot Brantley in the shotgun and resulted in fourth-and-28 after Brantley fell on the ball 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Florida was twice flagged for illegal formation.

The 10th-ranked Gators beat the Volunteers 31-17 on Saturday for their sixth consecutive win in the 40-game series between bitter Southeastern Conference rivals. It's the first time they've won three straight in Knoxville after having chances to do so in 1990, 1998 and 2004.They played sluggishly early as they've done all season and had only 94 yards of offense at halftime.

Tennessee tied the game at 10 with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Matt Simms to Denarius Moore with 8:59 in the third quarter. Simms completed 19 of 31 for two touchdowns and a pair of turnovers. Florida appeared beat on the next drive until Meyer called for a fake punt on fourth-and-6. Omarius Hines ran 36 yards to keep the drive alive, and John Brantley eventually connected with Frankie Hammond on a 7-yard touchdown pass.
49/25#9 FloridaKentuckyW, 48-14
John Brantley threw for a career high 248 yards, connecting on 24-of-35 passes to eight different Florida receivers.

Leading the Florida receiving corps was redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson with 5 receptions for 86 yards. Freshman Andre Debose made his first appearance, catching four passes for 36 yards, while senior Carl Moore also had four catches for 72 yards.

Trey Burton scored six touchdowns, breaking former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow's school record, and No. 9 Florida beat Kentucky for the 24th consecutive time, 48-14 Saturday night. Burton became the fourth player in Southeastern Conference history to score six times in a single game and first since Auburn's Cadillac Williams in 2003.

His big night helped Florida end its first-quarter slump and gave coach Urban Meyer a memorable milestone. Meyer became the sixth fastest coach in NCAA history to reach 100 career wins. He improved to 100-18 at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green, hitting the century mark faster than anyone except Gil Dobie (108 games), George Woodruff (109), Bud Wilkinson (111), Fielding Yost (114) and Knute Rockne (117).
510/2#1 Alabama#7 FloridaL, 31-6
Mark Ingram scored two touchdowns, C.J. Mosley returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown and the top-ranked Crimson Tide overwhelmed No. 7 Florida 31-6. In front of a 101,821 at a blaring Bryant-Denny Stadium, coach Nick Saban's Tide rolled to a 24-0 lead in the second quarter, behind Ingram's two short TD runs and a defense that was buzzing around the ball. After the Gators chipped it down to 24-6, Mosley picked off a short pass in the middle of the field by a hurried John Brantley, racing to the end zone for a score that all but wrapped up Alabama's 19th straight victory with 6:10 left in the third quarter.

Florida returned to the game in the second half with a 23-yard kickoff return by sophomore Andre Debose. The Gators drove down the field with four first downs in nine plays and Henry recorded his second-career field-goal to make the score 6-24. Against Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and the Tide, and with leading rusher Jeff Demps playing with a sore foot, the Gators couldn't get into the end zone and committed four turnovers. Brantley passed for 202 yards with two interceptions, and while he was only sacked once, he took several hard shots.
610/9#14 Florida#9 LSUL, 33-29
Jarrett Lee tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Tolliver with 6 seconds left after LSU kept its final drive alive with a successful fake field goal, and the 12th-ranked Tigers pulled out another wild victory, 33-29 against No. 14 Florida on Saturday night. With 35 seconds remaining, LSU lined up for a game-tying, 52-yard field goal, but holder Drew Alleman threw a no-look pitch over his head to place-kicker Josh Jasper. The ball bounced, Jasper scooped it up on a hop and ran for the first down. The play was reviewed to determine if it was a forward pass, which would have been incomplete and ended LSU's hopes, but the ruling on the field stood.

Lett hit Tolliver for a 28-yard gain on the next play to get down to the 3 and on the second fade to the corner, Tolliver grabbed the game-winner. Florida's John Brantley threw for 154 yards and went 16-for-24 with one interception. Brantley connected with six different receivers.

Leading Florida's receiving corps was redshirt senior wide receiver Carl Moore, who caught four receptions for 95 yards. It was redshirt freshman wide receiver Andre Debose who stepped up for Florida with five returns for 154 yards. Debose returned one 88-yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to start the Gator comeback.
710/16#22 FloridaMiss. StateL, 10-7
The Bulldogs ran early, ran late and ended up running out of the Swamp with a signature win for their second-year coach. Thanks to Vick Ballard, Chris Relf and a blitzing defense, they handed No. 22 Florida a third consecutive loss, 10-7. Mississippi State controlled the clock, dictated the tempo and kept Florida's mostly inept offense on the sideline. The Gators lost consecutive home games for the first time since 2003 and dropped three in a row for the first time since the Steve Spurrier era. Yep, coach Urban Meyer has accomplished something that former coach Ron Zook never did.

In the second quarter, Brantley connected with four different receivers on a 15-play drive to get the Gators to the 21-yard line. However, Henry was wide left on a missed field goal from 38 yards to leave UF's deficit at 10-0.

The defense couldn't stop the run even though everyone knew it was coming, and most of Florida's 361 yards on offense came late. Ahmad Black had 10 tackles and senior Justin Trattou had nine. UF held a 361-245 advantage in total offense. The offense was plagued by two turnovers, three sacks and several dropped passes. Mississippi State used a steady variety of blitzes to disrupt Brantley, who was 24 of 39 passing for 210 yards, and keep the running game in check.
810/30FloridaGeorgiaW, 34-31
Chas Henry, a punter thrust into kicking duties, drilled a 37-yard field goal in overtime to lift Florida to a 34-31 victory over rival Georgia. Aaron Murray's third interception - his fourth turnover of the game - nearly ended it four plays earlier. Jelani Jenkins tipped Murray's pass over the middle. Will Hill intercepted it and nearly returned it for the winning score. The Gators did little with their turn and settled for Henry's winner.

Georgia had been moving the ball at will in the second half and scored on four straight possessions, the last one a 15-yard strike from Murray to A.J. Green in triple coverage. That evened the score with 4:36 remaining after Trey Burton's 51-yard TD scamper. The Gators had a final chance in regulation, but instead of attempting a long field goal, coach Urban Meyer settled for the extra frame. A Murray pass was tipped, then picked. Henry delivered the game-winner a few moments later.

Rainey, suspended the last five games after he was arrested and charged with aggravated stalking, jump-started Florida's attack. He ran for 84 yards and a touchdown and finished with 241 all-purpose yards. His long kickoff return early in the fourth set up Henry's 34-yarder that put Florida ahead 24-16. The Bulldogs answered quickly, with Murray completing four consecutive passes for 74 yards. His crossing pass to Orson Charles went for a 29-yard score. Murray then ran for the 2-point conversion.

Florida finished with 450 yards; Georgia had 439.
911/6VanderbiltFloridaW, 55-14
Chris Rainey blocked two punts and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass from John Brantley as Florida routed Vanderbilt 55-14. The Commodores trailed 41-0 when Ryan van Rensberg blocked a punt Javon Marshall recovered and ran in for a touchdown. The Gators had season highs with 88 plays for 480 yards. The defense had four sacks and forced three turnovers in holding Vandy to 109 yards. Terron Saunders returned a fumble 45 yards for a TD and Solomon Patton returned a blocked punt 42 yards for another score. Mike Gillislee also had two TD runs of 3 and 43 yards.

Rainey, in his second game back after a five-game suspension, went untouched in blocking a punt recovered at the Vanderbilt 3, and Gillislee ran in two plays later to start the scoring. Trey Burton took a handoff and flipped it back to Brantley who threw downfield to Rainey, who caught the underthrown ball for a TD and a 21-0 lead.

The junior wasn't done. He also blocked a second punt that Solomon Patton picked up and ran 39 yards for a TD and a 34-0 lead with 5:43 left in the first half. That tied Rainey for the career lead with four blocked punts, the last Carlos Dunlap who also had two blocks against Vanderbilt.
1011/13#24 Florida#22 South CarolinaL, 36-14
Marcus Lattimore ran 40 times for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns, Stephen Garcia played turnover-free and the 22nd-ranked Gamecocks upset No. 24 Florida 36-14. The Gators lost to a division opponent for the first time in 17 games, dropped their third consecutive home game and proved they didn't deserve to play for a championship. It's the program's first three-game losing streak at home since 1989.

South Carolina started celebrating after Garcia's 8-yard TD run early in the fourth that put the Gamecocks ahead 29-7. Players and fans got even more raucous after Lattimore's 11-yard scoring run with 2:43 remaining. The first quarter was all anyone needed to watch to see how the game would unfold: The Gators ran 18 plays for 51 yards, failed to convert a third down, punted five times and had five penalties. John Brantley took most of the snaps for Florida and completed 16 of 31 passes for 130 yards, with an interception. Trey Burton and Jordan Reed played sparingly. Reed threw a 26-yard TD pass to Chris Rainey late, but was stopped short on a fourth-down run near midfield earlier.

The Gamecocks had to settle for three field goals from Spencer Lanning, who hit from 49, 47 and 41 yards. He also banged an extra point off the left upright following Lattimore's 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
1111/20FloridaAppalachian St.W, 48-10
Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley went 16-for-22 with 222 yards passing and one interception. Brantley connected with eight different receivers including redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson who had six receptions for 100 yards, becoming the first Gator all season to have a 100-yard receiving game. Leading the Gators on the ground was redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey who rushed for 87 yards on six carries and one touchdown. Close behind was redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed with 71 yards on 11 carries and three touchdowns.
1211/27#22 Florida St.FloridaL, 31-7
The Gators led 7-3 early in the second quarter, but were unable to overcome four turnovers as the Seminoles scored 28 unanswered points to take control. Florida's Andre Debose led the Gators with 125 all-purpose yards, including a 62-yard kickoff return that served as the catalyst for Florida’s first quarter touchdown. And while there was no Bowden on Florida State's sideline Saturday, there was also no Tim Tebow for Florida. Tebow had put up prolific performances against Florida State but his successors - all three of them - were ineffective with Brantley managing to throw for 52 of Florida's paltry 64 passing yards.

Florida was unable to overcome its mistakes and couldn't get its offense untracked, totaling just 276 yards with Jordan Reed's 74 yards on 13 carries leading the way. The Gators drove deep into Seminoles territory just before half, but the drive ended with 55 seconds left when Florida State's Mike Harris cut in front of the intended receiver for an interception at the 7. Nothing worked for the Gators, who had three turnovers in the first half and were stopped short on a fake punt. Meyer gambled on fourth-and-5 from his own 36 early in the second quarter when Chas Henry was tackled a yard short of a first down.

Stay tuned either tomorrow or Wednesday for a similar look at Penn State's 2010 regular season.

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