Florida football score, takeaways, highlights: No. 8 Gators survive Miami, absurd fourth quarter

By Adam Silverstein
August 25, 2019
Florida football score, takeaways, highlights: No. 8 Gators survive Miami, absurd fourth quarter
Football

Image Credit: Twitter / GatorsFB

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the end, the No. 8 Florida Gators (1-0) have the record they wanted after opening the 2019 season with a win over a Power Five-equivalent opponent for the first time since 1995. Florida beat the Miami Hurricanes 24-20 on Saturday night in Orlando at Camping World Stadium, but if you watched the fourth quarter alone, you may not understand how that is even possible.

Whether you want to chalk it up to “Week 0” shakiness, nerves of being in the national spotlight or simply bad luck, the Gators did more than enough to lose the opener of the 150th season of college football. There were four turnovers, numerous bad penalties and even curious (at best) coaching decisions. Still, Florida ultimately out-talented and outlasted Miami, eventually running out of miscues to make in the final seconds of the game.

“That was exhausting. I’ll tell you what, though. I really loved the way that our guys continued to battle, continued to compete, continued to try to find a way to win for the entire four quarters,” head coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “… I must say, honestly, it felt my life clock was going probably at about a thousand times faster [at the end of the game], right? I mean, every second was probably like a thousand minutes or days. I don’t know. The last five minutes of the game I think I aged like 10 years.”

Let’s take a look at what we can take away from the Gators’ victory as the team enters its first of two off weeks in the 2019 season.

1. Florida actively made winning difficult: Victory does not come easy in college football, particularly in opening-week games against in-state rivals. Still, the Gators appeared to be willing to do whatever necessary to lose on Saturday night, yet somehow, they did not do enough. I’m being facetious, of course, but there’s hardly any other way to explain how poorly Florida played in critical moments throughout the game.

  • Leading 7-3 entering the second quarter, UF had an opportunity to go up two scores. Redshirt junior quarterback Feleipe Franks fumbled a zone read on the UM 7-yard line.
  • Florida held Miami and got the ball back. Redshirt sophomore running back Malik Davis immediately fumbled. Davis appeared to clearly recover the ball, but officials did not review the play and Mullen did not challenge it.
  • On the ensuing possession, the Canes converted third-and-16 (18 yards), second-and-19 (40 yards) and scored a tipped-pass touchdown (25 yards) to lead 13-7, a minimum 10-point swing.
  • In the third quarter, after a relatively clean first half, the Gators began committing penalties left and right. Miami saw a drive extended by pass interference and unnecessary roughness, eventually scoring a 50-yard TD.
  • Franks threw a solid deep ball to senior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, except classmate Freddie Swain thought the ball was overthrown to him. Swain got two hands on the ball but tipped it into a 22-yard Canes interception.
  • After UF held UM to a missed field goal, Franks threw one of the worst interceptions ever tossed by a QB to give the Canes the ball right back.
  • Deep breath. On the final series of the game, Miami took 10 plays … 14 yards. Despite the Gators getting constant pressure, they could not get out of their way. The Canes recovered three of their own fumbles. Florida let its rivals convert fourth-and-34 and third-and-12 with PI penalties. Another PI flag was close but (rightly) picked up in the end zone. The drive began with 4:20 left and lasted 4:08, ending on the UF 26.

“It seemed like we had to win the game about four different times,” Mullen said, “but we continued to do that. And so I’m really proud of that. I think it goes a lot to the work our guys put in over the summer, the conditioning, what Nick Savage and his staff does to get our guys ready to continue to play all the way through the end that way.”

2. The coaches did not help: Offensively, it was tough to understand Mullen’s game plan. The Gators effectively used junior athlete Kadarius Toney early for a 66-yard reception TD on a screen in the first quarter, gave him two touches on the following series and only got him the ball once the rest of the game. Senior running back Lamical Perine only ran 10 times for 42 yards with UF’s other backs combining for six poor touches for five yards. Franks was not allowed to throw downfield much of the game but did so with success (tipped INT was on Swain) when necessary. Mullen inexplicably ran Franks on simply draw keeper at third-and-8 near the red zone. Other than the Gators impressively going 4 for 4 on fourth down, the offense felt passive and certainly not as attacking as should have been expected.

Anyone who watched Florida football last season — and is aware of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s history — was not overly surprised by the performance. The Gators blitzed and got pressure often. Florida registered 10 sacks (10!), the most for the team in a single game since 1997. The Gators had 16 tackles for loss and took advantage of a Canes offensive front that was even more suspect than the one Florida brought to the table. But it also committed nine penalties for 100 yards with nearly all of the costly miscues coming in the second half. Miami did go 2 for 13 on third down and 0 for 2 on fourth down, but those numbers are misleading because of how many big plays the team gave up on first and second down. It was feast or famine all night, and that will lose a ton of football games.

“There’s a lot we can learn from that game and a lot we can get cleaned up defensively,” Mullen said. “We can get that coached. We can be better coaches, and we can get them coached better, get the players to play better. It’s hard to coach that effort, that strain, and that desire to find a way to win. That’s hard to coach, and they showed they had that tonight.”

3. Franks’ outlook is hazy: There’s no question Franks deserves criticism after Saturday’s performance. Even if you excuse the tip-drill INT and decide to be understanding about the zone-read fumble … his second pick was completely unacceptable. If Steve Spurrier was coaching, he may have benched him for the season over it.

Still, despite all the negatives, Franks was responsible for all three Florida touchdowns, threw a beautiful 65-yard strike to senior WR Joshua Hammond and had another nice throw to Cleveland taken away by Swain. If Mullen can use the film from the game to hammer some lessons into Franks’ head, maybe it will be a reminder of the mindset he had at the end of the 2018 season.

“I was pleased with a bunch of stuff with him,” Mullen said. “One of the things he knows, we’re going to put the game in his hands. And there are some teachable moments in there and some things he can continue to learn. But I think he knows we have the confidence in him to make plays. … Even if things didn’t go right, if we made a mistake, he came right back firing. There wasn’t a hesitation. There wasn’t concern or lack of confidence in him in what he was going to do. And I was really pleased in that.”

4. There were bright spots: The fake punt by redshirt senior punter Tommy Townsend and Toney’s 66-yard TD on the opening series got the Gators off to the hot start. And the team paying off Mullen’s four decisions to go for it on fourth down was a highlight. The 10 sacks and successful defensive pressure was key, though it was against a rough Canes offensive front. Sophomore tight end Kyle Pitts had three catches in clutch situations and looks like a weapon that can be used. Redshirt senior WR Van Jefferson made a terrific special teams play recovering a muffed punt that eventually led to a Perine TD. Point being: It may have been a rough win for Florida, but a lot happened in the game — such as forcing three Miami fumbles on the final series of the game, despite not recovering any — that gives a lot of hope for the rest of the season.

5. Odds and ends: Florida has the best all-time winning percentage in season openers when entering as a top 10 team in the AP Top 25 (22-0, 1.000) … the Gators beat the Canes for just the second time since 1986, improving to 27-29 against UM and 7-6 at neutral sites … Florida is now 25-14 all-time in games that hosted ESPN “College GameDay” … the Gators improve to 9-0 under Mullen when leading after the third quarter and 8-0 when allowing 20 points or fewer … UF has scored in 385 consecutive games, an NCAA record

One Comment

  1. Michael Jones says:

    I love Coach Mullen but for the most part we got out-coached, not that I thought Diaz was all that great either.

    As for Grantham, when is he going to learn that the 3 man rush does not work for us? He almost gave the game back to LSU last season with that. Our strength is our D-line athletes. Turn them loose. And how was surprising was it that Miami would come out throwing short little bubble screens and halfback flares and dinks and dunks with a freshman QB? Apparently, to Grantham, that was very surprising. Miami, a bunch of fake-jewelry wearing goofballs, ran the same play from the same formation and got the same successful results over and over.

    And my favorite coach on this planet, Dan Mullen, was definitely not at his best last night.

    And Franks needs to learn how to behave. You’d think he’d won the last two Heismans with all of his unmerited cockiness. Dude needs to chill, keep his mouth shut, and learn to play QB . . like stop getting scared flushing HIMSELF out of the pocket for starters. If he’s that scared of a rush, stay home and let Emory or Trask play.

    I hate to complain after a win but WE made it close.

    And you’re right about Toney. Reminds me of Omarius Hines breaking off a 60 yard run and Muschamp benching him for the rest of the game. Happened over and over . .and he ended up being an NFL player.

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