Florida closed out it’s 2018 season with a resounding 41-15 beatdown of Michigan in Atlanta. What a turnaround from 2017 – props to Dan Mullen, his coaching staff, and the players for starting the rebuild/rehabilitation of the Gator brand with a 10-win season and providing much-needed momentum going into the February recruiting period and off-season.
After a slow start, the offense found it’s footing by establishing a solid running game that included some chunk plays by Franks on read-options that forced the Wolverine front seven to stay honest. Perine and Scarlett wore down the Michigan defenders in the second half, with Perine’s long TD run on a 3rd-and-20 draw play effectively ending the competitive phase of the game. Other key plays were Toney’s 30-yard burst on 4th-and 1 to set up a score, and the tunnel-screen throw to Perine for the TD that put Florida in the lead for good (a play that hadn’t been run all season).
The defense bent some in the first half, but once they were able to control the LOS and slow Michigan’s running game, that allowed the pass rushers and secondary to take over. The DT rotation held it’s own against a strong Wolverine O-line, while Polite and Zuniga disrupted the pocket for Shea Patterson on quite a few pass plays. CGJ closed out his Gator career with 2 critical interceptions – the first ending a Michigan scoring chance at the goal line followed by a long return that set up a Gator score, and then capping off the scoring with a pick six that started the celebration early.
After suffering 2 embarrassing losses to Michigan under the Swamp Donkey, this result showed the rest of the country that Florida is beginning it’s return to elite status with a head coach that actually works as hard as he demands from his staff and players along with becoming tougher both physically and mentally.
Dan Mullen and the staff can now use this exclamation point to further their case on the recruiting trail, while the retuning players can look back and see the fruits of their hard work and buy-in to the new regime, including Nick Savage’s S&C program. While F$U and scUM struggle, Florida can step into the vacuum and re-establish itself as the premier program in the state while starting to put space between itself and it’s in-state rivals. If the Gators can close on a handful of recruits at positions of need and continue to grind in off-season workouts and then spring practice, they will be in good shape in advance of another challenging season ahead.
The light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an oncoming train of bad coaching and lazy, misguided recruiting……it’s one of better days ahead for Gator football and for the Gator Nation.