Florida score: What we learned from Gators’ decisive win in Dan Mullen’s debut

By Adam Silverstein
September 1, 2018
Florida score: What we learned from Gators’ decisive win in Dan Mullen’s debut

Image Credit: SEC Network

If the Florida Gators‘ first win of the 2018 season felt familiar to you, it was not that dissimilar for how the program kicked off the 2009 campaign. Florida earned a sound 53-6 victory over the Charleston Southern Buccaneers on Saturday night nine years after it beat the same program 62-3 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Let’s take a look at what we learned from Week 1 of the 2018 season.

It was over when … the halftime buzzer sounded. Frankly, it was over well before that, but a fifth touchdown pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks was the icing on the cake. Though the Gators kicked things off early with a 34-yard touchdown toss from Franks to redshirt freshman wide receiver Trevon Grimes less than three minutes into the game, the offense stalled a bit over the rest of the first quarter.

Once the second quarter began, Franks delivered by throwing touchdowns on four straight drives. He hit junior WR Van Jefferson twice and senior WR Josh Hammond once, but it was a Tim Tebow-esque jump pass (though Franks did not get off the ground) to junior WR Tyrie Cleveland that brought smiles to the faces of Gators fans. Florida led 38-0 at the break and never looked back taking most of its starters out for the final 30 minutes of the game. It was just the fourth time in school history that UF scored five touchdowns in a half.

Exceptional efforts: Yes, Franks was playing against FCS competition, but that should not diminish the fact that he threw nearly half as many touchdowns Saturday (five) as he did in all of 2017 (nine). He completed 16-of-24 passes (with a few notable receiver drops) for 219 yards and was also efficient on the ground with 34 yards on five attempts. The Gators special teams also deserves praise with a pair of blocked kicks on the evening, one on a field goal attempt and another on an extra point that was returned 98 yards for a two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter.

Odds and ends: Five running backs touched the ball Saturday but none was more impressive than freshman Dameon Pierce, who racked up 75 yards on eight carries … 10 different receivers caught passes … Florida only converted 2-of-9 third downs and went 1-for-2 on fourth down … freshman kicker Evan McPherson went 2-for-2 on field goals (21, 31), and the Gators went 3-for-3 in the game … redshirt junior punter Tommy Townsend booted a 53-yard punt in the game … freshman QB Emory Jones saw action, burning one of his four redshirt games despite barely playing … Florida improved to 20-7 in season openers under new coaches with Mullen moving to 8-2 in such games all-time … the Gators have won 29 consecutive home openers dating back to 1989, the longest active streak in the nation … UF has scored in 373 consecutive games, an NCAA record … CSU is now 0-21 all-time against FBS opponents

What it means: The offense’s ability to put points on the board was notable, but more impressive was Florida’s defense as it held Charleston Southern to 0 yards in the first quarter and negative yards most of the first half until a breakaway run by CSU spoiled that stat. The Gators also forced three turnovers (two fumbles and an interception) in addition to the two blocked kicks and held the Bucs without a third-down conversion over the first 30 minutes. Franks’ five touchdowns should give him confidence, and redshirt sophomore QB Kyle Trask even got to see some action completing 3-of-3 passes for 22 yards and running into the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Up next: Florida opens its SEC slate next week when it hosts Kentucky at 7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network. The Gators will look to continue a winning streak against the Wildcats that dates back to 1986. Kentucky beat Central Michigan 35-20 to open the season on Saturday.

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