Fall Sports

Grading the Gators: Reese ambushes Auburn running game

Photo by Roy K. Miller / Getty Images

David Reese is the Mighty Putty of college football, if you’re defensive front has a whole or a leak, he’ll plug it up. The do-it-all linebacker contributed another gritty performance against Auburn and is on his way to All-SEC accolades.

Here’s how Reese, the Florida defense and all UF’s units graded against Auburn.

Offense: C+
Freddie Swain is fast. Really fast. He’s not just a possession receiver.
The senior wide receiver weaved through the Auburn secondary after catching a nine-yard slant on Florida’s second offensive play of the game, and UF never trailed after his 64-yard, tone-setting touchdown.
The Gators’ offensive production relied heavily on big plays, starting with Swain and ending with Lamical Perine’s 88-yard scamper.
Those two plays alone accounted for over 38 percent of UF’s total offense and half of its points. Florida punted seven times, fumbled four times and turned the ball over on downs twice on 17 drives.
Quarterback Kyle Trask had an average day (19 for 31, 234 yards, two touchdowns), but he didn’t march the Gators down the field very often. If we hypothetically eliminate Swain and Perine’s touchdowns, Trask only led three drives that started in UF territory and ended in Auburn territory (all of which occurred in the fourth quarter and didn’t end in points).
In fact, redshirt freshman Emory Jones led the best drive of the day when he came in for Trask in the second quarter. Jones picked up three first downs before a field goal conversion.
Trask’s biggest issue was his pocket awareness (as it has been since he took over for Franks). He was sacked four times and fumbled three of those times, and two of those fumbles he could have avoided.
Yes, Derrick Brown put Brett Heggie on skates for a big sack-fumble in the fourth quarter, but let’s look at Trask’s second fumble caused by K.J. Britt. Britt beat Stone Forsythe on the left side, but Trask had enough time to get rid of the football. The quarterback took two short hops in place rather than stepping up, which would have bought him the necessary time to escape and throw. And on his first fumble of the game, Trask simply didn’t recognize the outside-linebacker blitz and was clobbered.
However, Trask also didn’t really have the aid of a running game.
Perine’s distant sprint made up two-thirds of UF’s rushing production. If you take away that ridiculous run, the senior gained only 42 yards on 13 carries.
Florida’s young offensive line was definitely the main reason for mediocre rushing, as the unit allowed seven tackles for loss.
With no run game and a quarterback who is still developing his pocket senses, the offense will have an extremely difficult time going on the road to LSU.

Defense: A
If there was any debate about who Florida’s best defensive player is, it’s over now.
Reese is currently the SEC’s leading tackler (49 tackles) after a 13-tackle performance on Saturday. His sure tackling and ability to plug rushing lanes helped hold Auburn to a season-low 124 yards on the ground.
Reese and the UF defense were at their best on third down, as they stonewalled the Tigers to a measly 2 for 14 on third down (1 for 5 on third and short). Auburn’s lowest mark entering the game was 4 for 12 against Texas A&M.
The Gators also cemented themselves atop the SEC in turnovers forced (17) by adding three interceptions. Shawn Davis is tied for the SEC lead in interceptions with three, as his return into Auburn territory led to a UF touchdown by Josh Hammond on the next offensive drive.
Donovan Stiner’s huge interception in the end zone stifled Auburn’s best offensive sequence of the game, as the Tigers took the ball from their own five yard line only to come away empty.
AU only had two red zone appearances the entire game, as the UF defense forced six three-and-outs.
This defense has to be one of the SEC’s best, if not one of the country’s best, as the unit continues to fly around the field and make plays.

Special Teams: B+
A week ago, Evan McPherson was having difficulty kicking the ball for touchbacks on kickoffs. Those issues subsided on Saturday, as Auburn only returned one kick for 22 yards.
McPherson also proved his reliability on field goals, nailing his only attempt from 41 yards. He is now 7 for 8 on the season and is tied for fourth in the SEC with an 87.5 make percentage.
Another big help in the field-position game was punter Tommy Townsend, who averaged a solid 47 yards per punt. Townsend was called upon seven and boomed three over 50 yards, including a 62 yarder. However, the punter made a critical mistake when he tried to run for a first down on a fake punt, but was tackled well short of the line to gain.
Florida’s coverage team was great on Townsend’s punts as well, as only one kick was returned for negative yardage.
The Gators didn’t return any kicks or punts themselves, but Swain’s secure hands were reassuring after a muffed punt by Auburn in the first quarter.

Coaching: B+
Florida had a significant challenge in facing an Auburn team that played old-fashioned, SEC football with a strong defense and a power running game.
One of the biggest reasons for the Gators’ success was mitigating penalties. UF had zero penalties on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive penalties are caused by being undisciplined or out of position, and UF was neither. It stayed disciplined in its zone coverages and was gifted three interceptions as a result.
The offense drew all of the penalties (five for 40 yards) with the exception of an unsportsmanlike conduct on special teams, but the flags were mostly caused by Auburn’s superior defensive front. Sometimes as on O-lineman, you have to hold to keep your already-injured quarterback from certain demise.
Finally, while the play calling lacked any frills (with the exception of that Lucas Krull pass that looked doomed but somehow worked out), the Gators stayed patient and took their opportunities. Auburn is a good team, and it’s defense is tough, especially for a UF team handicapped by an inexperienced offensive line. So for the Gators to keep calm and execute when it matters (I’m looking at you, Emory Jones), it showed they were coached for the moment.

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