Quick hits: Quarterbacks shine as Florida Gators rout New Mexico State 61-13 in opener

By Adam Silverstein
September 5, 2015

For a Florida Gators team still searching for effective offense since the departure of Tim Tebow, Saturday’s 61-13 win over the New Mexico State Aggies at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, showed that the Gators may very well have the talent and scheme to get things done under new head coach Jim McElwain

Though the test was not tough, Florida passed with flying colors and won its 26th consecutive season opener, the longest active streak in the nation. Here are five takeaways from the victory.

May need another week to decide: Sophomore quarterback Treon Harris got the start for the Gators, looking spiffy as he used his athleticism to lead two long drives and convert touchdowns on two of three series to open the game. But redshirt freshman Will Grier took advantage of his opportunity as well, throwing the ball with tremendous accuracy and flashing his running ability while leading Florida to three first-half touchdowns.

Harris opened the contest 7-of-7 for 119 yards, converting a four-play, 63-yard drive (37-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Brandon Powell) and eight-play, 89-yard drive (43-yard pass to junior running back Kelvin Taylor, who rumbled in from nine yards out for a rushing score).

Grier responded in kind, putting the ball in the end zone on a five play, 50-yard drive (12-yard pass to redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis) and then leading a six-play, 74-yard drive, including a 38-yard keeper up the middle and 23-yard pass to freshman WR Antonio Callaway; Grier finished the drive on his own with a four-yard scamper score. Between the two touchdowns, Grier lost a fumble on a sack, but that was merely a blip on his night. He ran the two-minute drill to end the opening half, moving 75 yards on seven plays, the last of which was a 32-yard touchdown toss to Lewis.

By the end of the contest, Grier (15 of 17, 164 yards, 2 TD, 43 rushing yards, rushing TD) was the more efficient, but Harris (14 of 19, 215 yards, 2 TD, 23 rushing yards) was right there and absolutely made his case. Florida will likely use the East Carolina game to make a final decision between these signal callers

Tight ends get it done but love gets shared: Lewis (2 receptions, 44 yards, 2 TD), redshirt freshman DeAndre Goolsby (3 receptions, 38 yards) and redshirt senior Jake McGee (two receptions, 18 yards) led the way Saturday as the Gators’ most effective pass catchers. Overall though, 12 players caught the ball including Powell (2 receptions, team-high 50 yards, TD), junior WR Demarcus Robinson (team-high 5 receptions for 32 yards), Callaway (3 receptions for 26 yards) and redshirt senior transfer Josh Grady (1 reception for 25 yards).

Though Florida’s receivers still left some to be desired, specifically junior WR Ahmad Fulwood who dropped a perfectly-placed seam pass by Grier that may have resulted in a touchdown, the Gators showed a vast improvement in the passing game.

So far, so good: Redshirt junior kicker Austin Hardin displayed a strong leg Saturday, something McElwain mentioned impressed him during fall practice. Though Hardin did not have to kick too far on his 34- and 36-yard field goal makes, he boomed multiple kickoffs deep into the end zone, including one out the back and another off the crossbar of the field goal post. The last coaching staff did not allow Hardin to kick the ball off, supposedly because he did not have a strong enough leg. That may have been the case then, but it is no longer. As long as Hardin can prove he’s accurate from beyond 45 yards, a question mark for Florida since the departure of Caleb Sturgis may finally be solved.

No problems on the ground: In addition to Grier’s 43 yards and Harris’s 23 yards, eight other plays ran the ball, including all three of Florida’s primary running backs. Taylor finished with 54 yards and a score on eight carries, Freshman Jordan Scarlett took eight touches for 34 yards and a touchdown, and freshman Jordan Cronkrite totaled 26 carries and a touchdown on five touches. By no means should New Mexico State’s defensive line be considered any sort of legitimate opposition, but it was evident from watching the rushers that they all bring talent and a solid skill set to the table.

Just a slip up: Florida’s defense will likely be great, if not one of the best in the nation, this season. However, during the second quarter, the Gators got exposed on a handful of occasions by the Aggies both up front and in the secondary. Considering Florida was missing both of its starting safeties and its top pass rusher – plus the Gators shutout their opponent over the other three quarters – it is likely much ado about nothing. Still, there will be some teachable moments to come from that second 15 minutes.


  1. Ken (CA) says:

    One of the things that I was most impressed with and have being complaining about for years now was how good their discipline was. 2 total penalties all night (one that was offsetting). An offensive line with almost no experience without a single false start and for the most part had good push.

    Granted the team they played has had 4 wins in the past 5 years or so, but McElwain has brought an element of mental toughness to this team that has been lacking even back through Meyer and Zooker years, and to some extent in Spurrier, although those tended to be aggressive penalties, not stupid mental penalties.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Have to agree. The big thing for me was the lack of penalties, hotdogging, taunting, late hits and other ridiculous personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties that have haunted us for years. Love seeing us become a clean and classy football team.

  2. Michael Jones says:

    I’ve never heard college football fans try to minimize one of their highly touted recruit’s abilities by focusing on the level of his high school competition until the Treon fan club decided to do that to Will Grier before they ever saw him play. Perhaps after last night that ridiculousness can come to an end. Will Grier is clearly as advertised.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      What a shocker that Michael “you damn kids stay off my lawn” Jones would take this stance on the QB situation. Thankfully coach Mac doesn’t subscribe to your nonsense and will take the 2 QB system into next week to form a REAL opinion like smart people do.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Do you even read the stuff you respond too? lol. I don’t know what you are ranting and raving about now, but it’s not responsive to anything I wrote. I know that you’re a Treon homer, of course, but I didn’t say anything bad about Treon or that the 2 QB system was ready to be abandoned.

        But, here I go again, wasting my time by trying to speak logically to you like you’re a normal adult. IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON!! TIME TO BREAK OUT THE BONG AND DRAFT NONSENSICAL COMMENTS!!!

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    p.s. when will Ahmad Fullwood learn to catch a pass? he had an easy TD if he had just focused on actually catching the ball. 14 folks caught a pass today, and he who is upposed to be a premier receiver had 0, drops are terrible when put right in the middle of where you should catch!

  4. Matt Burris says:

    There’s not much to glean from a game like this, however there were a few things worth noting that I thought was a good thing. As others pointed out, the lack of penalties was a refreshing thing to behold. I hope that holds up against stiffer competition.

    Also, it was nice to see the Coach use freshmen and different personnel and find more playmakers. That was something you didn’t see Muschamp do much of, especially in the early part of the season when it is safer to do so.

    The big thing that really stood up, though? Tight Ends. Catching. Balls. I cannot believe how neglected TEs were in the previous regime. A good TE can make the difference in a game.

  5. Andrew Nathanson says:

    Biggest takeaway from this game, and all the players from last year’s team drafted by NFL,……Gators have the talent and now no more square peg, round hole coaching! A toast to Coach Mac for utilizing talent appropriately and the team for executing cleanly (sans yellow on green turf)! Go Gators!!!

  6. SW Fl Joe says:

    It was great to see passes beyond the first down marker and not 2 yards short of it

  7. KB says:

    Was a good overall night regardless of the competition it was against. I was pleased by several players and their performances. Was there a few things to clean up, yeah. There was also good things to build upon as the season develops. The TE’s were as advertised in this offense as we heard in the off-season practices and WR’s were open with separation it seemed most of the night. If there was anything to garner from the QB play it seems both are capable of executing and did nothing detrimental to declare the other an outright winner in the competition in this game. I thought Grier seemed a bit quicker in getting the ball out on time more consistently than Harris as Palmer pointed out. A couple of passes by Harris in the second half were a bit late and gave defenders good chances to make a play on them. CeCe looked like a potential beast at DE as his bull rush power was on full display when he had an NMSU OL on roller skates on one play. Opposing QB pressure seemed much more intense in the second half than in the first half probably due to great adjustments. If this is a team that can continue to execute, develop, and get better as season progresses only time will tell. However, this is a good launching point and good for the player’s physique coming off last season. BTW, in other news that boy JD looked pretty good for LA Tech in his debut as I suspected he would like all other QB transfers tied to the Champ regime after leaving UF.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Ha ha! Liked your comment.

      Here are a few misconceptions borne from the Champ regime:
      1. Jeff Driskel can’t play QB. Uh, yeah, actually, he can. His problem all along was scheme, playcalling, and coaching (although you’ll never get the Driskel-bashing sickos who frequent this site to admit it).
      2. The Gators haven’t had TE talent over the past few years. Uh, yeah, actually, we did. The problem all along was scheme, playcalling, and coaching.
      3. The Gators haven’t had WR talent over the past few years. Uh, yeah, actually, we did. The problem all along was scheme, playcalling, and coaching.

      Notice a pattern here?

      But that’s over now. The world’s most incredible brilliant talented genius defensive savant has moved on!!! Hallelujah!! (btw, let’s see how well that works for Auburn. . having Mr. Genius over there . . it’s already helped one-dimensional Wisconsin set an Outback Bowl rushing record and beat favored Auburn).

    • Ken (CA) says:

      It seemed to me that Brier was more relaxed and more decisive in the pocket, whether he could see the field better because he was 3 inches taller or just better football acumen, I don’t know, but Harris seemed jumpy and unable to decide to run or pass, and just not as confident.

      Grier’s throws seemed to be on target, crisp and quickly deciding. I think they are both solid, but I would like to see more of Grier moving forward and Harris have packages for him that are run/pass option based more.

      • gatorboi352 says:

        “I don’t know, but Harris seemed jumpy and unable to decide to run or pass, and just not as confident.”

        Uh, you’re right Ken; you don’t know.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          How wonderful after so many peaceful months that our resident trash talker comes out and starts trashing all the posts. Maybe someday you will grow up. Apparently, from all of the discussion and all of the commentators, they seem to agree with me, so maybe I DO know as they observed the same things, except for you of course, but then I am sure that is why Coach Mac reached out to you and is paying you the big money to be the QB coach, right?