One week later than initially scheduled, the Florida Gators (1-0) kicked off their 2014 season on Saturday with a 65-0 trouncing of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
Florida extended its winning streak in season-opening contests to 25 games while starting the campaign with the exact type of blowout victory that fans hoped for all offseason. OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:
Deciding drive: Starting on its own 23-yard line after receiving an Eagles punt late in the first quarter, the Gators traveled 77 yards in 10 plays to take a 24-0 lead and put the game out of reach early for Eastern Michigan. Florida entered the red zone on a 42-yard deep vertical throw from redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel to redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and crossed the goal line two plays later when freshman running back Brandon Powell rumbled into the end zone from 12 yards out. Driskel went 31-for-45 for 248 yards with a touchdown on the afternoon, while Dunbar hauled in five receptions for 81 yards. Powell had three catches for 24 yards including his score.
Important injuries: Midway through the second quarter, redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee got his left leg rolled up on by senior right guard Trenton Brown. McGee had his left ankle placed in an air cast before a stretcher cart was brought out to drive him off the field. Earlier in the first quarter, junior left tackle D.J. Humphries was brought to the locker room after injuring his ankle following UF’s first touchdown of the game. He did not return. In a post-game interview on SEC Network, head coach Will Muschamp noted that the team has lost McGee “probably for the season.”
Check out the second half of The Quick Slant…after the break.
First half focus: Florida drove up the score on Eastern Michigan, complimenting three rushing touchdowns with as many field goals off the leg of redshirt senior Frankie Velez. The Gators got on the board with their first field goal at the end of a 16-play, 63-yard drive, which included two fourth-down conversions. UF scored on its next drive via a 31-yard scamper by sophomore RB Kelvin Taylor, who ran untouched up the middle of the field following a fumble recovery by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Caleb Brantley. Junior RB Matt Jones followed with a 40-yard rushing touchdown to put Florida up 17-0 in the first quarter, and Powell tacked his score on early in the second quarter. Velez added two more field goals, both from inside 40 yards out, to give UF its 30-0 halftime advantage.
Five turnovers: In addition to Brantley’s fumble recovery, which occurred after EMU QB Reginald Bell bobbled a bad snap and dropped the ball on the field, redshirt senior linebacker Neiron Ball stripped a ball in the first half that was recovered by junior LB Antonio Morrison. The most impressive turnover occurred at the end of the third quarter, however, as freshman defensive back Duke Dawson returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown that pushed the Gators lead to 51-0 at the time. UF added two more in the fourth quarter, the first when Brantley stripped the ball and redshirt freshman LB Daniel McMillian fell on it. Later, redshirt senior WR Michael McNeely fell on a muffed punt, putting the Gators deep in Eagles territory late in the contest.
Perfect plays: In addition to Dunbar’s 42-yard reception and Dawson’s pick-six, redshirt senior WR Andre Debose turned a no-gain punt return into an incredible 55-yard run late in the third quarter. Debose looked to be headed for a touchdown but was taken down just short of the end zone at the five-yard line. Following a 15-yard penalty for sideline interference, Taylor rumbled into the end zone for his second score, this one from six yards out, to put Florida ahead 44-0. Taylor carried the ball eight times for 68 yards.
In the first play of the fourth quarter, sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson made sure to put his stamp on the game by hauling in a reception from freshman QB Treon Harris, shoving off a would-be tackler and charging 70 yards into the end zone to push Florida ahead 58-0. Harris doubled up with a similar strike at the start of his next series, hitting junior RB Mark Herndon for 78 yards over the middle for his second touchdown pass in as many tosses. Harris finished 2-for-2 with 148 yards and two touchdowns on the day, while Robinson had six receptions for a team-high 123 yards.
Standout stat: The 65 points scored by the Gators single-handedly crushed the over-under of 55.5 and covered the spread of 40.5 by 24.5 points. It is the most points scored in a single game for Florida since Nov. 21, 2009 when UF posted 62 against FIU. The Gators’ previous high in a game under Muschamp was 54 against Furman on Nov. 19, 2011. Florida also scored 60+ while holding a team scoreless for the first time since Nov. 18, 2006, when it topped Western Carolina 62-0.
What it means: The Gators did their job – showing off a new offense while dominating an overmatched opponent. Florida made a case to be placed in the second regular-season edition of the top 25 on Sunday while gaining a ton of confidence entering its exceptionally difficult league schedule.
Next up: UF will host Kentucky (2-0) next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in The Swamp. Florida will be the host for the SEC Network’s pre-game show, SEC Nation, with former Gators QB Tim Tebow returning to campus as an analyst for the program. UF has won 27-straight games against UK dating back to 1987.