DAVID WHITLEY

Grading the Florida Gators on performance vs. Tennessee: Only the offense gets a gold star

David Whitley
Gator Sports
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Gainesville Sun sports columnist David Whitley hands out unit grades for the No. 22 Florida Gators' Southeastern Conference loss Saturday at No. 12 Tennessee, a 38-33 loss.

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Offense: A minus

The running back committee of Montrell Johnson, Nay’Quan Wright and Trevor Etienne was held to 79 yards, which wasn’t all that surprising. The Vols took the standard approach of trying to make Anthony Richardson beat them with his arm. Lo and behold, he almost did.

Nobody foresaw 453 yards passing, not the way Richardson struggled since the Utah opener. The Gators got him rolling early with shorter passes, but what really helped was giving him more carries. He gained a so-so 62 yards on 17 carries, but running relaxes Richardson and get him into a better passing groove. He even showed Tom Brady-like touch on a few passes.

It wasn’t as if he consistently made Brady-like reads. But it was by far the best passing game of the season, with Ricky Pearsall and Justin Shorter both going more than 100 yards receiving. And a hat tip to any offense that converts five of six 4th-down attempts. You’d think that and 594 yards total offense would be good enough.

Defense: D minus

It would be an F if not for Ventrell Miller, who shed his walking boot and played like a demon. The defensive staff should have tried to clone Miller at halftime, because nothing else was working. UF allowed 337 yards in the first half alone, lowlighted by a 99-yard drive in the final three minutes. If featured all the bugaboos that plagued the Gators all day.

Blown assignments, open receivers, no pass rush, missed tackles, running lanes you could drive the Beverly Hillbillies’ old pickup truck through. And the Vols were missing their best receiver, Cedric Tillman. Whenever UF needed a stop, Tennessee got a big play. Ten of Hendon Hooker’s completions were for 15 yards or longer.

We knew they’d still rack up points, but the Gators helped make them unstoppable. Anybody got a cloning machine?

Special Teams: D

The plusses were a recovered onside kick and a 49-yard punt getting downed at the 1-yard-line. The Vols promptly went on a 99-yard TD drive, but the special teams weren’t to blame for that.

You can hold that group responsible for a season-long dearth of big plays, which continued Saturday. UF averaged only 15 yards on three kickoff returns. The Vols returned two kicks for 62 yards. And for the fourth straight week, UF’s kick return team drew a flag. An illegal block penalty pinned the offense back at its 3-yard line. Throw in a missed 50-yard field goal from Adam Mihalek, and it was not a day the special teams will cherish.

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