Gainesville, FL – Tom Flacco and the Towson Tigers came to Gainesville this Saturday and earned a $500,000 payday for their athletic department. Florida gave them their check and a 38-0 shutout. Even though it was a lopsided score, Towson provided the Gators with a fight.
Florida’s defense drew the ire of head coach, Dan Mullen during the first half, as they were incapable of ending Towson’s offensive possessions. Towson quarterback and younger brother of the Baltimore Ravens’ Joe Flacco fumbled a snap to bring the Tigers first drive to an end. The second possession ended with a missed field goal.
Indeed, Florida’s defensive success in the first half had more to do with Towson’s inability to finish drives. As expected, Flacco was able to create problems for the Gators defense with his ability to extend plays by scrambling and buying time for his receivers to get open.
Mullen was stopped as he entered the locker room at the half and said, “We’re pretty pathetic on defense right now.” Whatever message he took into the locker room yielded positive results in the second half. Florida forced a couple of turnovers following the break.
One of the highlights on the defense has been the play of Louisville transfer, Jonathan Greenard. Since his arrival, he has become a leader and an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. He always seemed to be in on the play as he recorded five tackles, a sack assist, one tackle for loss, three quarterback hurrie, an interception, and a partridge in a pear tree.
As we’ve seen several times this season, the defense just seemed lethargic until turning it on later in the game. It was the same story in the fourth quarter versus Kentucky, which allowed Trask to lead the comeback. In fact, the only game that has resembled a complete defensive performance up to now was last week’s win over Tennessee, and even then, the poor play of Jarrett Guarantano had quite a lot to do with their ineptitude.
With that said, the Gators have still managed two shutouts in five wins. They still lead the nation in sacks and they still are among the best in forcing turnovers. And then there’s the fact that they’ve accomplished this – for the most part – without a few of their key starters.
This may seem like nitpicking but Florida’s about to leave the shallow waters that they’ve been wading in so far this season. Three of the next four games are against top ten opponents and the margin for error will be razor thin.
The good news is that Kyle Trask has been mostly phenomenal in his new role. He has shown the ability to stand tall in the pocket and carve defenses apart. In fact, in just his second career start, Trask has set the school record for consecutive completions with 18 straight, including the end of the Tennessee game.
He finished the day completing 18/20 for 188 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The redshirt junior also found the endzone with his feet before backup, Emory Jones checked in to complete the Gators rout of Towson.
Jones showed some touch as he completed 75% of his passes for 74 yards and a touchdown throw of his own. Jones seems to improve the Gators fledgling rushing game just by way of being in the game. Opposing defenses are forced to account for Jones as a mobile threat. He ripped off 29 yards in his only rush of the night on Saturday, very nearly crossing the goal line.
In all, eleven different Gators recorded carries with Dameon Pierce appearing to be the strongest of the Gators’ backs at this moment. Pierce put together an 84 yard performance on his six carries. He had two carries of 30 yards or more and found the endzone on one of them.
One of the bright spots of this season has been the gradual emergence of the tight ends, especially Kyle Pitts. Pitts has recorded 4 catches and at least one touchdown in each of the last two games. The group has also performed better in protections.
Florida eclipsed 400 yards of offense once again this season, totaling 422 yards of total offense. On the opposite side of the ball, the Gators defense held the Tigers to just 248 yards. They struggled to stop Towson on third down, making it feel like a worse defensive showing than it actually was.
Florida needs to lock in and focus on Auburn starting right now. Things are about to get real for the Gators and how they perform against Auburn will have a huge impact on how they weather this month long murderer’s row.
At least for tonight, Gator Nation can enjoy being 5-0 and 9 games deep into the SEC’s longest active winning streak.