Gainesville, Fla.—Sound the alarm. Everyone panic. Is the rule of the Florida Gators in the SEC East finally over? Not by a long shot. However, there are multiple concerns.
It was routine as usual as thousands of Gator fans poured into Gainesville. Students and alumni pitched tents filled with tailgate food and cocktails. Florida fans filled with excitement, hope, and high expectations waited for the opening game of the 2010 college football season, and dreaming of a possible championship. While the scoreboard displayed a decisive win at the final whistle, the Gators did not execute at a championship level.
The Gators pulled out a sloppy, poorly executed 34-12 win over five touchdown underdog Miami (OH), a MAC team that managed just one win in 2009. From the first offensive drive, Urban Meyer’s Gators struggled with about every facet of their game.
Though the offense was less than spectacular (or adequate), the defense gave Gator fans something to be excited about, allowing a total of 212 yards, and only 9 rushing yards.
While the team struggled at times, each side of the ball showed flashes of brilliance, but the Gator offense had major implications.
Where to start? The Gators first three offensive drives ended in turnovers. The offensive line struggled with blocking assignments, and quarterback John Brantley threw for a measly 113 and two touchdowns, one of those touchdowns coming off a fluke throw on 4th and 21 that bounced off a couple players’ hands before Chris Rainey brought it in. The Gators finished the day with 212 total yards (tying Miami’s total yardage). Up until the fourth quarter, the Gators offense managed to gain a mere 27 yards.
"I didn't imagine the offense's incompetence that we experienced today," Meyer said after the game. “We need to get a lot better.”
Preseason All American center Mike Pouncey could not even snap the ball to quarter back John Brantley. Pouncey snapped three balls on the ground and numerous other snaps were not where they should have been, making it nearly impossible for Brantley to execute plays out of the shotgun.
"It was my fault," Pouncey said. "I'm going to get in here in the morning to fix it. The ball kept slipping out."
One play that can ease Gator fans’ worries came in the third quarter, when junior running back Jeff Demps took the ball for a 72 yard rushing touchdown that put the Gators up by 16. Demps finished the day with 98 yards on 8 carries. Redshirt sophomore Omarius Hines is proving himself to be Brantley’s most reliable target, catching three balls for 49 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown reception.
The defense, loaded with new faces in starting positions, was outstanding in its first outing as a unit. Four different Gator players- Ahmad Black, Jenoris Jenkins, Jeremy Brown, and Jon Bostic- had an interception. Junior shutdown cornerback Jenoris Jenkins had a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter, coming at a time in the game when the Gators trailed 3-0. The Gators finished the day with 106-interception yards. Junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard, recorded 2 sacks and 5 tackles, subsequently receiving the SEC Defensive Linemen of the week award.
Do not expect next week’s game against USF to go the same way. Make no mistake, Urban Meyer will have the snap problems fixed this week. The Defense will only improve. The return of sophomore offensive tackle Xavier Nixon (knee injury) and redshirt senior offensive guard Carl Johnson (suspension) will revamp the offensive line. John Brantley will have time to throw and will improve vastly. The Gators will come out ready to play, and will start to look like the top ten team they are.