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September 3, 2012

Thumbs Up & Thumbs Down: A win is a win

Untitled After the game each week Inside the Gators will take a closer look at the football team by awarding them either a thumbs up or a thumbs down to either specific players, coaches, positions or areas of the team.


Senior running back Mike Gillislee stole the show Saturday, rumbling for a career-high 154 yards and two touchdowns in his first extended action since his days at Deland High. Florida needed every one of his 24 carries to hold off the pesky Falcons, and against the top teams in the SEC he may see as many as 30+ attempts per game.

During preseason interviews and SEC Media Days introductions in July, the senior exuded confidence and swagger heading into his first season as Florida's featured back. Saturday's performance was no different. Gators fans have griped for years about giving Gillislee a fair shot; suffice to say that won't be an issue the rest of the season.


Florida's offensive game plan was more vanilla than a Dairy Queen Blizzard, but that shouldn't be an excuse for such poor execution on third-down. The Gators were just 5-for-14 on the afternoon, but more closely, they were a pitiable 1-for-8 on conversions of two yards or less.

Coach Will Muschamp said he wanted to establish a power running game and forced coordinator Brent Pease's hand to a fault. While play action or quarterback rollouts could've been viable options, the Gators opted to run the ball against eight-man fronts instead.

It didn't work.

Muschamp refused to blame the offensive line, despite Florida's starting five out-weighing the Falcons' front-five by an average of 50.1 pounds. Gillislee did yeoman's work Saturday, but even he was stuffed on two 3rd-and-short chances.

UF's lone conversion came on a sweet fake fullback toss to Gillislee that went for 28 yards early in the fourth quarter.

. Freshman Matt Jones was 0-for-2 on his 3rd-and-short carries, including a rookie mistake trying to spring a play wide instead of cutting immediately up field. Fullback Hunter Joyer was successful on his lone attempt, but it was a fourth-down conversion on Florida first touchdown drive.


During the 2011 season, what three problems -- aside from mediocre offensive line and quarterback play -- plagued Florida the most? In a purely phony and unscientific poll, a decent faction of the Gator Nation might say a lack of turnovers, discipline issues and poor tackling.

The trio of horrors instantly reemerged Saturday. Florida did force a pair of takeaways, but "force" is a tad strong as Bowling Green muffed a punt. Marcus Roberson's interception was a great play -- and a momentum changer in that -- but the Gators dropped at least three other potential picks that hit players' hands.

The penalties have already been readily discussed, but four personal fouls and whistle in the victory formation is unacceptable.

Tackling (or lack their of) also reared it's ugly head again on Saturday. Loucheiz Purifoy, making his first career-start, failed to wrap up on multiple occasions. The big cornerback allowed two first downs and one big play that set up Bowling Green's first touchdown. Matt Elam, Dante Fowler Jr. and Josh Evans all whiffed on different occasions.


After the Falcons took an early 7-0 lead, Florida immediately answered with a strong 13-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, culminating with Gillislee's 15-yard scamper. It was the offensive line's best showing on the afternoon. While the Gators' offense soon stalled thereafter, Florida's defense buckled down until the final drive of the first half. The Gators forced three straight three-and-outs -- following the Falcons' 12-play, 89-yard TD drive -- highlighted by strong coverage (Jaylen Watkins and Roberson) and an improved pass rush (Sharrif Floyd).


Frankie Hammond Jr. made perhaps the play of the game -- 50-yard touchdown catch and run -- but Quinton Dunbar looked to be Florida's best outside weapon. The redshirt-sophomore didn't have a big day (3 catches, 32 yards), but it wasn't his fault. Of all of UF's receivers, Dunbar was the one consistently open. He flashed his after-catch skills. He showed off his improved hands and speed. He just needed chances to make more plays.

Defensively, Watkins had a notable afternoon. After Purifoy missed a pair of tackles, he was benched in favor of UF's spring star. Watkins dropped a sure-interception, but otherwise he played well. The junior tied Marcus Roberson for the game's lead in pass deflections (3).


For years the Gators have touted one of the nations top special teams units. They were far from it in the opening game in 2012. The Gators nearly had two punts blocked -- Kyle Christy must speed up his release while the protectors need to, uhh, protect.

Florida was offside's on a kickoff, had two personal fouls on punt returns, had a 28-yard field goal deflected and surrendered a fake punt.

Christy did down two balls inside the 20-yard line, but Florida opted to let Driskel pooch-punt a ball in the second quarter that resulted in a 15-yard shank. Caleb Sturgis did drill a 51-yard field goal and displayed good depth on long kickoffs. Florida's real special teams saving grace Saturday was that Bowling Green's units were atrocious.

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