Florida opened the Swamp in grand fashion Saturday night. Despite a slow start, the Gators offense hummed as they amassed 543 yards and 45 points. Feleipe Franks was superb, completing 25/27 for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The redshirt junior signal caller completed passes to nine different receivers, and didn’t throw an incomplete pass until the final play of the first half, a jump ball heave to the endzone. Among his favorite targets, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland each hauled in long touchdowns that displayed touch and accuracy.
It was apparent early on that Dan Mullen wanted to establish the running game, as it was mostly non-existent versus Miami in week zero. The offensive line has struggled with run blocking so far this season, but they still paved the way for Florida’s backs to rack up 231 yards.
Lamical Perine led the Gators rushing attack with 10 carries for 51 yards and a score, but it was Iverson Clement with the longest run of the evening. Late in the fourth quarter, Clement made the most of his lone touch, breaking open for 41 yards.
In all, nine Gators recorded at least one carry. Even backup quarterback Emory Jones got in on the action with four rushes for 31 yards and a touchdown. The level of attention to the rushing attack is necessary with SEC play beginning next week. The Gators offensive line was pushed out of its comfort zone and forced to grow up just a little bit.
Even with the emphasis on developing the running game, Mullen and his staff do a phenomenal job of maintaing balance. Against Miami, the Gators were dead even in their run/pass balance with 27 a piece. On Saturday night the Gators rushed 38 times while running 36 passing plays.
After handing the ball over to Miami four times in the season opener, the Gators finished with a plus one turnover ratio in Saturday’s shutout win over the Skyhawks. The lone takeaway was an interception in the endzone by freshman cornerback Kaiir Elam.
As one would expect in a shutout performance, the Gators’ defense was stifling. Not only did they allow just 194 yards, they lived in UT-Martin’s backfield. In all, Florida recorded five sacks and ten tackles for loss. Conversely, Florida’s offensive line allowed just one sack and one tackle for loss.
It wasn’t all good for the Gators, as both Kadarius Toney and CJ Henderson left the game with injuries. Both players received the coveted number one jersey that is awarded to the most outstanding playmakers, so any amount of time with them not on the field will be noticed.
It is uncertain just how severe their injuries are at this point, but Henderson was seen on the sidelines wearing a boot and using crutches. It is possible that this was just a precautionary measure though, as Henderson was able to walk off the field mostly on his own.
Although there is a great disparity in talent between the two teams, Florida played well overall and showed improvement from their first outing. With a trip to Lexington on the horizon, that improvement must continue as they prepare this week, but for now, it’s great to be a Florida Gator!