Florida cruised to 45-0 victory over FCS opponent UT Martin on Saturday.
The grades for the Gators were strong, as they improved from their mistake-prone performance against Miami two weeks ago.
Florida featured a balanced attack against the Skyhawks Saturday night.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks (25 for 27, 270 yards, two touchdowns) shined, starting 15 for 15 through the air. It was his decision making that led to his success.
Franks took what the defense gave him and didn’t force passes through UT Martin’s zone coverage. Instead, he took his check downs and went to deep and intermediate distances when his receivers were open on well-timed routes.
Perhaps his best example of poise was on third-down conversion to Josh Hammond midway through the second quarter. The Skyhawks brought a corner blitz from Franks’ right side, and the redshirt junior felt the pressure despite looking left. He escaped left and found Hammond underneath the zone coverage for the first down.
It was also nice to see a touchdown toss from backup quarterback Kyle Trask (4 for 5 passing, 40 yards) to redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland.
Backup quarterback Emory Jones (1 for 4 passing, two yards) found the end zone on the ground as well. He had four carries for 31 yards.
The only knock on the Gators was their lack of complete dominance in the run game (38 rushes for 231 yards), but that’s knit-picking. The unit consistently got decent push but not to the effect of letting its running backs break off huge runs.
Redshirt freshman Iverson Clement busted off a 41-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, but the play developed behind the blocks of the second unit.
Any time a defense allows 0 points and less than 200 total yards, it grades positively.
Florida gave up only 194 yards, and it disrupted the Skyhawks’ offense for 10 negative plays.
Once again, edge rusher Jabari Zuniga led the front line with 1.5 sacks. Fellow pass rusher Jeremiah Moon proved disruptive early and often, logging 1.5 tackles for loss.
The defensive play of the night came from defensive back Kaiir Elam. The true freshman was playing man coverage against his receiver on a fade route when he intercepted quarterback John Bachus on a pass to the end zone.
The Gators incurred a minus because it gave up the big play a little too often against its FCS opponent. Over 57 percent of UT Martin’s yards came on three plays: a 34-yard pass in the second quarter, a 29-yard pass in the fourth quarter and a 48-yard scramble by Bachus in the fourth quarter.
Even though the chunk plays were few and ultimately insignificant, three big plays would prove much more costly against a quality opponent (namely next week’s opponent, Kentucky).
Special Teams: C+
Nothing too special happened on special teams, so we won’t dwell on it.
Evan McPherson made a 32-yard field goal to score the contest’s first points. Yay.
Tyrie Cleveland had a nice 38-yard kickoff return, Florida’s only of the night.
Tommy Townsend booted a 50-yard punt. Not bad.
And that’s pretty much it.
Perhaps the best indication of coaching was that mistakes from Week 0 against Miami didn’t carry over to Florida’s home opener.
UF had no turnovers after four against the Hurricanes. It committed only three penalties for 30 yards on Saturday compared to nine for 100 yards in Orlando. Finally, tackling was much improved from Week 0 (for the most part… and partly because of the lack of athletes on UT Martin, but I digress).
Franks took a step forward this week from his more erratic showing against the Canes, which can be partially credited to the coaching efforts of Dan Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson. Franks’ reads were near perfect, and the backup quarterbacks were also well prepared as each led a touchdown drive.
It’s easy to praise the coaching in all areas against an FCS team, but we won’t know the true progress of this Florida team until it travels north to Lexington, Kentucky, to take on the Wildcats.
The emotion of a rivalry seemed to play into the psyche of the Gators against Miami, so an attempt at another rival in Kentucky will be a strong barometer for Mullen’s team.