Image Credit: ESPNI
It was never a contest on Saturday inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The Florida Gators (3-0) remained steady following a breakout performance in Week 2 and put together a 32-0 shutout of the North Texas Mean Green (1-2) in Gainesville, Florida.
While the score looks clean, it did not come without some dirt.
Here are four things we learned from Florida’s big victory.
1. Well, shit: The elephant in the room is obvious. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio went down with a left knee injury in the middle of the third quarter — and it appears to be serious. Head coach Jim McElwain commented after the game that Del Rio is expected out for Tennessee, which would lead one to believe he’ll likely miss more games than that. Considering senior Austin Appleby‘s history as a starter at Purdue, that’s far from great news for the Gators. Before getting any deeper on this, though, let’s see what McElwain has to say following the results of Del Rio’s MRI and X-ray.
Del Rio was the eighth quarterback to start for Florida since the departure of Tim Tebow in 2009. He is the fifth to miss at least one game due to injury (John Brantley, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Treon Harris), the sixth to suffer an injury (Skyler Mornhinweg) and the sixth to miss a game for any reason (Will Grier). The only quarterback that did not fit any of those categories was Jacoby Brissett.
2. At least the Gators can run: There seems to be a lot going wrong for Florida right now, but the running game is certainly humming along. The Gators’ rushers combined for 250 yards on 42 carries with each of the four ball carriers scoring a touchdown. Junior Mark Thompson led the way with 11 carries for 85 yards (7.7 yards per carry), followed by sophomore Jordan Scarlett (11 carries, 62 yards, 5.6 ypc), freshman Lamical Perine (11 carries, 57 yards, 5.2 ypc) and sophomore Jordan Cronkrite (nine carries, 46 yards, 5.1 ypc). Florida has 600 rushing yards through three games and is on pace for 2,400 for the regular season; UF running backs accounted for about 1,660 one year ago.
3. Don’t mess with the D: Florida’s defense is dominant. How much so? The Gators set a program record Saturday night by holding the Mean Green to 53 yards. No, not 53 rushing yards or 53 passing yards — 53 total yards. North Texas had -13 rush yards, went 2-for-15 combined on third- and fourth-down and averaged 1.1 yards per play despite possessing the ball for 23:47. One negative was Florida being called for three pass interference penalties (two of which were certainly legitimate). The Gators also snagged just one turnover on the evening, an interception by redshirt junior safety Marcell Harris. That said, Florida also got a safety from redshirt junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley as part of its seven sacks for 53 lost yards. Freshman defensive end Jabari Zuniga, a budding star, had two of those on his own.
4. Offensive line: Don’t get it twisted, this unit can run block. In terms of pass protection, Del Rio was juking and moving off his spot all evening before eventually going down with an injury. The offensive line — down two starters due to injury — was already a question mark before the season began. Now it’s a serious black eye. Improvements can and will be made with experience, but the Gators have to figure out something soon or they may need all four of their quarterbacks before the year is out.