Florida Gators freshman quarterback DJ Lagway (2) throws the ball during the second half at the Orange & Blue spring football game at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Pat Dooley Grades The Gators: Bright Spots In Orange & Blue Game

Pat Dooley Grades the Gators after Florida’s Blue team beat the Orange 19-17 Saturday (at least that’s what the scoreboard said):

OFFENSE B

First half: It helps when one offense – in this case the Orange – gets to start the game with three free points because it won Thursday’s practice. Florida’s offense could have been a little better in the red zone, but it was clear early this was not going to be like last year’s 10-7 game.

Second half: The offense definitely bogged down in the second half in part because of two interceptions thrown by Graham Mertz and DJ Lagway and a missed field goal. Florida is still trying to find some legit wide receivers behind Trey Wilson and certainly that is an area that needs to get better in the upcoming portal opening.

For the game: Other than the interception, Mertz looked like Mertz. Lagway is clearly going to be somebody to force defenses to prepare for the package of plays they will give him. The running back room looks like it will be fine.

DEFENSE B-

First half: This team will only be as good as its defense allows it to be and there were spots in the game when the Billy Napier promise of a better tackling team looked real. The secondary had too many guys running wide open, conjuring up some bad memories.

Second half: The defense picked it up in the second half. I know it was just a practice game, but Florida had two interceptions and they were both the kind of plays we didn’t see a year ago (when they had three picks the entire year).

For the game: There were certainly some good things from the defense, especially what looked like improved tackling. Even with three possible starting linebackers out with injuries, the Gators looked salty in the second half. Of course, we thought that a year ago.

SPECIAL TEAMS C

First half: Trey Smack looked to be in midseason form with his two makes, but the punting was shaky and Hunter Smith missed a chip shot field goal.

Second half: You had to feel bad for Smith, who ended up missing three field goals in the game, one that hit the upright and another from 52 yards. The Blue team did get two somewhat big punts from Jeremy Crawshaw late in the game.

For the game: You know, it’s hard to tell because it looked like Aidan Mizell might have been on the verge of breaking a couple of kickoff returns that were blown dead. Certainly, the Gators need to keep Smack and Crawshaw healthy. That was Smack’s second year in a row winning the spring game with a field goal, so he has that going for him.

OVERALL B-

The 48,000 who showed up at The Swamp on a perfect day seemed to have a good time, but they also could have used some more offense. The good news is there was only one penalty in the first half. The better news was the defense dominated the second half. But, of course, it’s all to be forgotten by the end of August.

WRUF.com sports columnist Pat Dooley can be heard on “The Tailgate” along with Jeff Cardozo from 4-6 p.m. Monday-Friday on 98.1-FM/AM-850 WRUF.

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