Grading the Gators: Boardingham’s breakout game

Florida 41 - South Carolina 39

by Mark Wheeler

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Inside the Gators takes a look back on the Florida-South Carolina game and hands out positional grades based on the performance of UF’s players and coaches, by the numbers, hot and not, and the bottom line.


QBLast week in this very space I said there was nothing wrong with referring to Graham Mertz as a game manager, but not a game changer. Up until that point, that was a fitting description of his play. However, Florida opened it against South Carolina, throwing the ball an incredible 48 times and probably took more shots down the field than they had all season combined. Going forward, the defenses are going to be better than what UF saw on Saturday, but being able to stretch the field should help yield better results underneath.A+
RBTrevor Etienne (9 carries, 49 yards, 1 touchdown) and Montrell Johnson Jr. (11 carries, 50 yards) had quietly solid days. B
WRA couple of weeks ago I tweeted that yes, Ricky Pearsall has to have his fair share of touches, but Mertz can’t lock in on just him. This game showed that Pearsall can be the go-to guy, but he doesn’t need to be the only one targeted. Kahleil Jackson, whose two catches resulted in the longest play of the day and a short touchdown, is money when targeted. Eugene Wilson added over 100 yards through the air and on the ground. Marcus Burke caught 1 pass – and deserves to be a bigger part going forward, but who do you take touches away from in order to do that?A+
TEI am as anti-12 personnel as anyone on the planet. Not because I dislike the grouping, but because Florida doesn’t have enough talent at the position to justify having two tight ends on the field as often as they do. That, however, wasn’t the case on Saturday. Arlis Boardingham has become a revelation in the passing game. Simply put, Florida wouldn’t have won this game without his performance. He personally willed a 4th and 11 conversion when he caught the ball behind the line and then ran for 14 yards. Haden Hansen is still better suited as an inline blocker, but he had a couple of catches as wellA
OLYet another disappointing outing from this unit. South Carolina was officially credited with 4 sacks and 7 quarterback hurries, but even those ridiculous stats don’t truly paint a picture of how badly the line was at protecting Mertz. If Florida is going to build on Saturday’s offensive performance, the Gators are going to have to find a solution to their protection problem. Does that mean having to keep a back or tight end, or both, in each play to help preserve Mertz’s health? D
DLFlorida’s defensive line was actually more active than the stat sheet would suggest. Yes, Mario Anderson gained almost 100 yards, but considering what he did early on, it was actually an overall quiet game from him. The defensive line recorded 2 sacks and multiple pressures. It wasn’t a great game, but after a rocky start, they settled in to play a decent game. C
LBShemar James again led Florida in tackles, but it wasn’t an impactful game from the sophomore linebacker. He doesn’t get as many snaps, but Teradja Mitchell had a couple of stops at or near the line of scrimmage as well as a hit on the quarterback rushing the passer.C-
DBAs impressive as Mertz was, South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler put up even better stats, going 23-of-30 for 313 yards, 4 touchdowns, and an interception despite being under siege most of the game. For as much pressure as Florida’s front seven brought, the secondary was as equally inept going the other way. Jalen Kimber might have had his worst game as a Gator, while Jordan Castell definitely had his. F
STConsidering this game was played with a ‘Beamer’ on the opposite sideline, Florida actually would have done extremely well in just avoiding giving up a big play on special teams. To have played the Gamecocks at least even on ST is a big win. Then add in what Trey Smack brought to the game, and for two weeks in a row now the Game Changers have looked exactly like they are just that.A
COBilly Napier effectively managed the clock at the end of the first half to be in a position to make a field goal to go up by 3 at the half. No one is perfect, some of the play calling was baffling (not keeping in a tight end or back to block on Boardingham’s fourth down conversion) was a peculiar call considering it left Florida’s 5 linemen to block 5 Gamecock defenders. What has the line shown this year that would make him comfortable in doing that? That was one play though out of over 100. Overall, I thought Napier and the staff had the team ready to play and outcoached Shane Beamer and Company. It may have been against a bad team, but this was a come-from-behind SEC road game win. A


The five most memorable performances

Graham Mertz – At this point, it feels like I should have a plaque made (or at least put it on a tee-shirt) that I was wrong about Mertz. I took what he did at Wisconsin and figured it would be more of the same at Florida. To show you that completion percentage isn’t the end all, be all, though he had his second-worst completion percentage of the season, he had his best game. Not only was he on point Saturday, actually, if you factor in the constant pressure he was under and the beating he took, he was spectacular.

Arlis Boardingham – For the second week in a row Boardingham makes the list here. He was the go-to at the start of the game, and went invisible for the middle 2/3 portion before coming on late. The touchdown catch that he tipped to himself before securing brought Florida back to within 3 points and gave the Gators new life.

Princely Umanmielen – A lot of times Umanmielen’s value to the defense doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet. This time though they did, as he contributed 4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, and 1 quarterback hurry.

Trey Smack – I hope he kept his leg iced down on the plane ride back home. He attempted 5 field goals (hitting 4), was 3-for-3 on extra points, and put 6 of 9 kickoffs into the endzone. Having a kicker who is this consistently automatic changes for the better the way Napier manages a game..

Ricky Pearsall – He could just as easily be No. 2 on this list, but he has had such a special season that even when he has a special game, it can sort of get lost in the shuffle to an extent. His ability to win 1-on-1 battles opens up the offense for everyone else. The over-the-head catch was a thing of beauty.

The five (only three this week) most forgettable performances

Jordan Castell/Jalen Kimber – There’s no need to go into great detail here. Anyone who watched the game saw for themselves the performance of these two.

Jeremy Crawshaw – Talk about an anomaly. Florida’s most consistent performer regardless of position, showed Saturday that he is indeed human. He punted the ball twice for a pittling 37-yard average. It wasn’t a case of short punting for ball placement since neither of his punts were downed inside the 20.


3 – While UF was a substandard 4-for-15 on third down conversions, the Gators went 3-of-4 on fourth downs.

5 – The Gators went 5-for-5 in the redzone, scoring 4 touchdowns and kicking a field goal.

10 – Florida overcame a 10-point deficit, on the road, in one of the more hostile atmospheres in the SEC.

48 – Mertz’s 48 pass attempts are the most the Gators have attempted in Napier’s 20 games as the Florida head coach.


After going down by 10 points, 37-27, Florida received the ball with 9:11 remaining. Things weren’t going their way while playing in a hostile environment. We shouldn’t lose sight of how easy it would have been to just wave the white flag at that point, play out the remainder of the game, and get on a plane to head back home. Instead, Florida embarked on a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in which it was forced to convert twice on fourth down. That means something. It speaks to the resiliency of the team, and what their mindset is not only in the moment but going forward. Florida isn’t a CFP contender this year and has a rough road ahead of it. So, in this instance, as a player, you really aren’t playing for yourself, you are playing for your teammates and coaches. If they keep that mindset going forward, they might have a surprise or two in store as other programs run out of gas as they realize their seasons could be falling short. That is when you can steal a win or two that you might not have the talent to win otherwise.


A win is a win in the standings. In most cases, you wouldn’t want to play up beating a South Carolina squad with a losing record as though it was a monster accomplishment. In this instance though, there’s more than meets the eye. Florida, more importantly, Billy Napier, had to have this. Another road loss would continue the narrative that Napier’s teams struggle away from the Swamp. Even more importantly, it would have been two weeks of misery leading into the bye week. It isn’t so much what this win brings, as it is what it does away with had they lost. If UF had dropped that game, it may have put Napier on a pair of skates heading into the meat of the schedule. Instead, there’s a renewed sense of optimism with Georgia looming. Now, no one expects to win that game, but a serious showing will help extend the momentum going forward.

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  1. You have to give the offensive line a higher grade.

    We don't score 41 points up there if they are that bad.
    Out of curiosity, what grade would you give them? I wouldn't call that performance average.
  2. I know that it is highly unlikely, but did anyone ever imagine that going into the Georgia game that we are in control of our own destiny to win the East? Crazy times in the SEC this year.
  3. We did great against the Chickens but I want to see us be able to keep it up. They were saying on the radio that Georgia has a lot better pass defense than South Carolina.

    We can't count on Mertz doing that great against the Pups. We have to have Etienne and Johnson bring it.

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