Florida ended 5 years of misery with a 41-14 beatdown of Florida $t., a result made even sweeter as it came in Taliban City. The game was won because the Gators controlled the game at the LOS from the outset and imposed their will all afternoon. As the game wore on, it was obvious how poorly coached and undisciplined F$U is – multiple illegal formation penalties, late personnel changes, and stupid personal fouls. Anyone watching the game (including recruits) could easily see the vast difference between the two teams, including teamwork..
Florida’s offense piled up over 500 yards for the 3rd straight game, showing balance with over 250 yards each rushing and passing. The O-Line was able to create holes despite the Criminoles stacking the box all day, and Perine and Scarlett wore down the front 7 and eventually broke some long runs. This domination allowed Franks to have a relatively clean pocket in order to pick out his WRs. It was good to see the WRs finally exploit the intermediate zones and middle of the field, as both Grimes and Jefferson had some big plays and TDs. The offense had the ball for almost 37 minutes, which allowed the defense to rest and eventually force F$U to abandon the running game in the second half. The only complaint was the play-calling in the red zone in the first half, which kept the halftime score at 13-7 for Florida instead of a 20-7 or 23-7 lead. Mullen said it himself in his television show that he could have called a better red zone game. All the Gators had to do inside the 10-yard line was continue to pound the rock, but instead Mullen tried to get too cute with QB runs or passes into a crowded end zone. All’s well that ends well – especially having a head coach secure enough in himself to acknowledge his mistakes publicly – unlike Slick Wille Taggart and F$U.
On defense, the Gators essentially shut down Florida $t. the entire game except for 2 drives kept alive by 3rd-and-long and 4th-and-long scrambles by Deondre Francois. Each time there were defenders that whiffed on the tackle, or else this could have been close to a shutout. The one player I was most worried about showed why – RB Cam Akers scored the first F$U TD on a one-handed catch, and had a long catch-and-run for a TD called back due to one of those stupid penalties I mentioned. He was the only consistent threat. The passing game was never a real threat due to constant pressure applied by Florida’s DEs against the F$U turnstiles. The Gator secondary did a nice job of defending the long passes that F$U relied upon all season – once that was taken away the Criminoles simply weren’t going to put together long drives. Props to Polite, Jefferson, and CGJ in their last regular season game as Gators.
Florida’s special teams were again solid. McPherson capped off a great freshman season with 2 FGs and long kickoffs. Getting McPherson to switch his commitment from Mississippi St. to Florida was one of the most important recruiting wins for Mullen. Townsend had some long punts to flip the field, even a few of the rugby-style that I really don’t like. The coverage units tackled well and never cracked. Mullen takes it upon himself to put a lot of emphasis on special teams, including getting some starters on the coverage units, and the difference from last season was striking.
This was a statement win for Coach Mullen and entire the football program. He has been playing catchup in recruiting since he arrived, especially with being out of the state for so long. Now he has results to back up his pitch to recruits, along with proof that Florida is a better-coached and more stable program than F$U or scUM. He and the staff are still behind in establishing the long-term relationships needed not just with kids but with coaching staffs around the state, and that has hampered efforts putting together the 2019 class so far. This win could swing a few kids Florida’s way this season, but will pay long-term dividends for the 2020 and 2021 classes, of which the Gators have a much better start on.
Florida will learn it’s bowl fate in a week. The Gators likely will finish in the top 12 of the CFP rankings and receive a New Year’s 6 bowl invitation. That would be a better result than most expected before the season started, and especially after losing to Kentucky early in the season at home. The extra practices will benefit all of the younger players that are redshirting, including QB Emory Jones. There are a lot of positives to take away from the 2018 season, and hopefully that momentum continues through to Early National Signing Day in late December, the bowl game, and National Signing day in February.
I’ll be back with a bowl preview in December. Until then – It’s Great To Be A Florida Gator!