SPORTS

Whitley grades the Gators

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun

Gainesville Sun sports columnist David Whitley passes out unit grades for Florida's  contest Saturday vs. Alabama, a 31-29 loss at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Gators’ Offense A-

The first-quarter lull keeps this from being an A+, but it’s a rare day when Alabama leaves a stadium with its head spinning and wondering, “Did you get the license plate of that truck that hit me?” UF’s running attack was like an 18-wheeler whistling down Saban Highway, gaining 258 yards and averaging 6.0 yards a carry. Emory Jones had 80 yards, but we always knew he could scoot. On Saturday, he also showed maturation as a passer. The offensive line was stout. There were clutch plays galore. There was also miscommunication on the do-or-die two-point conversion. But when an Alabama defense resembles a smushed love bug on the windshield of a truck, it’s been a good day.

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Gators’ Defense B

The loudest sounds in a raucous first quarter were fans yelling the ever-familiar “Fire Todd Grantham” mantra. There were missed tackles, blown assignments and Bryce Young was on track for a 12-touchdown game. Then everything settled down and the defense forced three consecutive three-and-outs to lay the foundation for the UF comeback. Alabama’s primarily a passing team, but holding the Crimson Tide to 91 yards rushing was an accomplishment. So was stuffing them twice on the goal line to force Saban to settle for a field goal in the fourth quarter. Considering the opponent, Saturday’s performance should silence the Grantham-Must-Go crowd for at least a couple of weeks.

Whitley: Florida's loss is Florida's gain

Gators’ Special Teams D

On the plus side, Jeremy Crawshaw averaged 47.0 yards on two punts and the coverage teams were adequate. Chris Howard also made a chip-shot field goal, the first 3-pointer of the year for Florida. All that was easily overshadowed by a missed extra point after UF’s first TD. Nobody knew then how crucial that would be. Then there was Ja’Markis Weston muffing a kickoff and watching it roll out of the end zone and go out of bounds at the 1-yard line. The UF offense responded with a 99-yard TD drive, but that’s the kind of play that richly deserves a failing grade.