The Florida Gators nearly pulled off the upset of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. For those keeping score at home, the Gators were literally a missed extra point and a botched two-point conversion attempt from being even with Nick Saban and company.
Here are a few takeaways from Saturday’s game:
1. Emory Jones can manage a game. There has been a lot of talk about quarterback play in Gainesville over the first three weeks and while not setting the statline ablaze, Jones proved on Saturday that he can manage the game and give his team an opportunity to win, even against the best competition. That doesn’t mean there weren’t mistakes, there certainly were, but most fans thought that if Anthony Richardson didn’t play, the Gators didn’t have a chance. Jones proved them wrong.
2. The rushing offense is legit. Florida entered the game with the nation’s number one ranked rushing attack, but many scoffed at that ranking because it came against FAU and USF. The Gators gathered 258 yards on the ground, led by Malik Davis’ 96 yards.
3. Todd Grantham deserves a lot of credit. After allowing 21 points and three consecutive scores to open the game, the Florida defense made adjustments and limited the Tide to just ten points the rest of the way. This wasn’t a fluke, either. The Tide didn’t turn the ball over a single time, but the constant pressure in Bryce Young’s face kept the ball errant all too often. Additionally, Florida held Bama to just 91 rushing yards despite 27 attempts. Oh, and they did it without star linebacker Ventrell Miller.
4. The offensive line is the team’s MVP, so far. How can you not be impressed with what the offensive line has done so far in 2021? In addition to getting push in the running game, Jones was oftentimes allowed to sit in the pocket and wait for someone to come open. Against a dynamic front seven from Alabama, the Tide managed just one sack that resulted in a loss of only two yards.
5. Maybe Florida is good? Entering Saturday, we received many comments on our Staff Predictions article stating, “Florida has to play it’s perfect game AND Alabama has to make mistakes” for the Gators to get a W. In no way, shape, or form did Florida play a perfect game. There was a missed kick, missed reads, poor tackling at times, and let’s not even talk about what happened on that kickoff (until the next point) where the Gators had to start the drive at their own 1-yard line (result: touchdown). Yet, as the clock dwindled, Florida was still in this game and had a chance to, at least, tie it up. Maybe we are seeing a defense that is settling in and the momentum from this game will carry the team forward.
6. Attention to detail matters. Do you know why Nick Saban is as good a head coach as he is? It’s because he pays attention to the details. While I’m not trying to criticize Dan Mullen after a really good game, this has been frustrating since day one. The botched kickoff could have been a death sentence and is something that doesn’t happen to teams that pay attention to the details.
Florida could rise in the rankings despite losing, and they should. They pushed Alabama to their limits for the second time since December. Unfortunately, a few mistakes resulted in the loss, but the season is far from over and this Florida team still has everything in front of them. Win out and Florida will play in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, perhaps against this Alabama team.