Florida put together it’s most complete game since 2012 in declawing the Mildcats for the 30th straight time. The Gators dominated all 3 phases of the game, and certainly played with much more intensity and focus after it’s lackluster effort in the opener.
The offense set the tone with it’s initial drive, an efficient, clock-consuming possession that, even thought it ended with a missed FG, showed that the O-Line was ready to prove it could win the LOS and establish a consistent running game. After that, the offense didn’t let up, wearing down Kentucky with a solid running game, and keeping their defense on the field all afternoon due to converting 10 of 14 3rd downs. Luke Del Rio improved from game one, spreading the ball around to many receivers, and displaying nice touch both on his deep strike to Antonio Callaway in the 1st quarter and then on his swing pass to LaMichael Perine in the 4th quarter. The stable of quality RBs contributed with over 200 yards rushing including Perine’s 105 yards, and some better pass blocking. Brandon Powell was able to exploit openings in the underneath zones including his own TD reception, but more guys have to contribute at WR to balance the attack. It was good to see so many backup OL in the game in the second half, gaining experience for what will be a much tougher schedule to come.
The Gator defense completely shut down Kentucky, allowing only 3 completions to one of the better WR units in the SEC, and never allowing the Mildcat QBs to establish any rhythm. Jalen Tabor announced he was back from suspension, making a great read and interception on a WR screen, but was upstaged by Quincy Wilson’s acrobatic, one-handed pick. The D-Line was in the backfield the entire game, disrupting the pocket, and made a solid adjustment when Kentucky changed QBs to more of a read-option look. The DT rotation of Caleb Brantley, Joey Ivie, Ce Ce Jefferson, and Khairi Clark controlled the LOS all day, allowing the LBs and secondary to shine. If Alex Anzalone can stay healthy all season at LB, that will allow Jarrad Davis that much more opportunity to make big plays of his own. Many of the young secondary guys received extended snaps as well, and held their own.
Special teams were solid (when needed) – good kick coverage, and a 54 yard FG by Eddy Pineiro to excite the crowd and players. The only negative were two missed FGs, one simply pulled a little left, and the other a rushed attempt when a time out could have been called. He will improve with experience, but already has the backing of his teammates and really makes a huge difference in how the coaches can call the offense.
Next up is the Mean Green of North Texas coming into the Swamp. They will go home with some memories of a big-time SEC visit, a big paycheck, and a beatdown. This team is very young, including a true freshman starting at QB, and that’s a disaster waiting to happen in this environment. Mean Joe Greene ain’t coming through the door to help the current UNT team out. This should be a chance for the Gators to come out fast, then let the young guys have some more fun while protecting the health of the starters for a huge game the following week.
It will be interesting to see how the team responds to all of the positive talk this week, and if they can play with an edge (at least early on) and focus on a clean game. Hopefully the coaches can keep their attention in practice – this team hasn’t proven anything yet, but will have it’s chance in the next 6 weeks to show if it can stack up nationally. Again……no injuries!
Prediction: Florida 41 UNT 7