Image Credit: SEC Network
While the Florida Gators once again looked uneven on Saturday, they made relatively easy work of the Georgia Bulldogs by using a dominant defensive performance to prevail 24-10 in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
With a tough slate upcoming, the Gators have plenty to do if they want to stay atop the SEC East and return to Atlanta in December.
Here are four things we learned from Florida’s win on Saturday.
1. True team effort: Yes, the Gators’ defense was once again dominant. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit. But Florida put together a thorough performance on Saturday that included all three phases stepping up and individual players taking over the game one drive at a time. Florida only posted 231 yards of total offense on Saturday, but it grinded things out on the ground with sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett toting the rock 26 times for 93 yards and a touchdown. He is now the second UF player in the last 12 years with a score in six straight games.
Aside from Scarlett, who was the most efficient runner on either team throughout the game, redshirt sophomore tight end C’yontai Lewis had a series all to himself when he caught a near-impossible pass on the sideline for a 17-yard gain and followed it up three plays later by breaking a tackle and rumbling 19 yards into the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown. In the third quarter, sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway took over with a 21-yard gain, 4-yard reception on first down and a jet sweep he took into the end zone for a 4-yard score.
In the fourth quarter alone, senior linebacker Jarrad Davis had four tackles, two for lost yardage — including the game-sealing tackle on fourth-and-3 from the Georgia 47 with 3:08 to play — and a quarterback hurry. “To make that play, it meant a lot because I know it’s fourth down, get the ball back to our offense, we can run out the clock and get out of here. It meant a lot,” he said.
Junior defensive back Duke Dawson, who has made his fair share of miscues this season, had two pass defenses in the same quarter, including one on fourth down the series before Davis ended the game. Senior LB Daniel McMillian also had his best game at UF.
So while Florida may not have been the model of consistency in the game, it was obvious that players were stepping up when they needed to in order to make big plays and pull the Gators to a victory. It’s exactly what head coach Jim McElwain has been asking of his team since he started in 2015.
2. This defense is not to be messed with: It’s easy to throw away Jacob Eason’s 15-for-33 passing performance as true freshman jitters or blame it on his offensive line, but Florida simply dominated Saturday’s game defensively. Eason posted just 143 yards and a touchdown — 66 of it on Georgia’s only touchdown series of the game, which was aided by a 15-yard pass inference penalty. Outside of that series, in which Eason completed 3-of-3 passes all on broken plays, he was 12-of-30 passing for 77 yards on the afternoon.
“Defensively, I mean, what do you say? Other than not losing contain, which really hurt us,” McElwain said. “That quarterback that they have is something special. That guy’s going to be a guy we’re going to have to contend with here at Florida for a lot of years here to come. He did a great job scrambling out of the pocket. I think we did a good job with our rush lanes in the second half and stayed disciplined with our eyes in the secondary.”
In the running game, the Gators bottled up Chubb and Co., holding the solid ground attack to 21 yards on 19 carries. Georgia posted 164 total yards (98 outside of its touchdown-scoring possession). It only had eight first downs (compared to eight punts) and went 4-of-16 combined on third and fourth downs tries. As Jay-Z once proposed, “What more can I say?”
3. There are still plenty of issues: Just because Florida dominated Saturday’s proceedings does not mean it played a clean game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio‘s first-possession interception was awful. Del Rio himself remains a major question mark considering he completed 15-of-25 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and the pick. “Other than that, he took care of the football and managed the game well,” McElwain said.
The offensive line also committed two penalties on its first four snaps of the game, though it did settle down after that and deserves credit for the way it performed overall. The problem is that one of those penalties came as Florida took over at midfield, pushing back solid field position. Another of the Gators’ six penalties also came at midfield as freshman linebacker Vosean Joseph received unnecessary roughness for pushing the Bulldogs’ punter for no good reason. Instead of starting at the 49, Florida began at its own 34, lost 10 yards and punted. And while we’re at it, redshirt sophomore kicker Eddy Pineiro seems to have no interest in making field goals inside 35 yards. It’s great that he can hit the long ones, but the short ones are just as important.
4. See ya later, alligator: Athletic director Jeremy Foley was in attendance for his final Florida game in an official capacity and saw the Gators pull off yet another victory against the Bulldogs. During Foley’s tenure as AD, Florida was 18-6 against Georgia. New AD Scott Stricklin was also in attendance. The transfer of power takes place on Tuesday … exactly one week before the presidential election.