Five things we learned as Florida escapes UMass 24-7 in opener

By Adam Silverstein
September 4, 2016
Five things we learned as Florida escapes UMass 24-7 in opener

Image Credit: ESPNI

This is neither what fans wanted nor what the No. 25 Florida Gators expected. How could it be?

To think that Florida, fresh off a season head coach Jim McElwain referred to as equal parts disappointing and embarrassing, would open 2016 playing the way it did against the UMass Minutemen is almost mindboggling … until you remember it’s the Gators.

Twenty two months after Will Muschamp was fired, Florida resembled the team he left: dominant but undisciplined defense with a lacking offense, weak offensive line and quarterback issues.

Here are five things we learned from the Gators’ season-opening 24-7 win.

1. Only one question has been answered: Florida undoubtedly left McElwain scratching his head Saturday night as the Gators coach tries to figure out how a team billed with more offensive firepower and improved discipline could play the way it did at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The only thing McElwain does know should at least help put his mind at ease: He has a kicker. In the first game action of his career at any level, redshirt sophomore Eddy Pineiro hit all four of his field goal attempts (well, technically three since McElwain took one off the board), two from 49 and 48 yards, respectively. Those are not chip shots. Pineiro was calm and confident lined up to put points on the scoreboard, and while we’ve yet to see him tested in a tough road environment, his ability to put the ball through the uprights (and out of the end zone on kickoffs) should inspire confidence.

2. Same problems remain: As mentioned previously, Florida did not look like a changed program on Saturday. It committed an absurd eight penalties for 80 yards — most of them in the first half — extending multiple UMass drives and erasing big-time plays due to boneheaded miscues. Its coach refused to stick to the run when it was obviously working, especially late in the game. The Gators were unable to get into a rhythm offensively with shaky quarterback play (more on that in a minute) and only hit one semi-explosive play against a lackluster opponent. The offensive line did not appear as if it took a step forward as it missed key blocks and made redshirt sophomore quarterback Luke Del Rio pay as he took big hit after big hit while exposed. McElwain swatted the unit for “mop[ing] around” and not “hustling” between plays, noting that their energy was infectious to the offense.

3. Quarterback issue unsolved: Del Rio needed 29 passes and 44 attempts to amass 265 yards on Saturday. He dinked and dunked all over the field, well, in between throwing behind receivers and tossing a handful of passes that nearly resulted in turnovers. Ultimately though, Del Rio had a clean sheet (despite a strip sack in which he recovered the ball) and tossed two touchdowns on the evening. McElwain said after the game that Del Rio solidified himself as Florida’s starter but noted that the signal caller “played OK” and could “play better” in the future. Del Rio could probably grow into a role as a game manager for the Gators, but fans who had high hopes for a dynamic playmaker may need to temper those expectations.

4. Florida needs its horses: If the Gators are going to beat some significantly more talented teams, well, they’re going to need their full complement of players. In addition to the five suspensions, including starting cornerback junior Jalen Tabor and potential starting tight end redshirt sophomore C’yontai Lewis, UF saw two important players go down with injury on Saturday. Junior transfer wide receiver/returner Dre Massey suffered an undisclosed injury in the contest and barely saw the field. Junior defensive back Duke Dawson hurt his arm and will need to be further evaluated. UF is still building depth and developing talent. It simply cannot afford to have important players miss time.

5. Thunder and lightning: Forget looking like Thor, redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone plays like the Norse mythological figure. If Saturday was any indication, Anzalone has not lost a step. He was in the offensive backfield milliseconds after the snap. He swatted balls, ran down rushers, disrupted passing lanes and was simply all over the field. Senior LB Jarrad Davis flashed, too, but that was no surprise given his 2015 campaign. The importance of Anzalone and Davis in the middle of the Gators defense cannot be overstated, and they each lived up to their billing on Saturday.



  1. Alex says:

    Very dissapointing start; Umass is not a very good team, in fact they are a very bad team. Unfortunately, we looked like Muschamp 2.0; the team played uninspired and undisciplined throughout the night.

    I hope Eddy P. is up for the challenge because he is going to be kicking a lot of 48 yd+ FGs this year

    One shout-out that needs to be made is the Freshman DE Zuniga; the future is bright for that kid

  2. Traubgator says:

    Perfect summary and spot on.
    You left off that our WRs don’t run routes and apparnetly haven’t been coached on the position.
    Why is it so hard to implement some timing patterns.

    Enough with the WR screens

  3. UFGATORFAN100 says:

    Abalone plays with a constant Mortor…. He plays like a Manchild and as Tebow says “Freak of the Week.” I was very disappointed with the OLINE play especially Fred Johnson who was constantly being beat off the ball and losing contain on the DE’s….

    PS hopefully Massey and Dawson are OK we need them ASAP and as Adam stayed we can’t afford key people missing time.

  4. Mike says:

    First game of the season.

    Escaped? UF dominated defensively..pretty clear UMass wasnt going to score the rest of the game.

    OL play was scary…but known weakness on this team.

    Love the talent at RB…but not much else on the offensive side (except 81) .

    Keep building and improving..

  5. Jimmie says:

    I’d rather watch woman’s volleyball

  6. Stephen GRIFFITH says:

    At least we have a kicker this yeao

  7. Jim says:

    Defense will keep the Gators in positions to win against big time teams but watch out better yet, avoid the costly yellow flag. … Offense has alot to prove but there seems to be too many playmakers there to be pessimistic, even with the dreadful O-Line which I suspect can only get better. Couple that w/ high % FG’s and there are some big time wins probably on the way…In this way, God can smile upon the Gators…

  8. Tom Mix says:

    “refused to stick to the run when it was obviously working…” UF averaged 3.7 yards per rush, which, if you look at last year’s college football team stats, is well into triple digits on offense. So, no, the run was NOT “obviously working.” At 5.8 yards per pass attempt, the Gators, again looking at last year, would have finished 113th in the country.
    Even Muschamp never presided over such a putrid effort on offense against such a weak team. Why did anyone speculate that UF’s offense was going to be better in the first place? It’s not like Del Rio was some hot shot transfer. He was, and id a second or third stringer at almost any other university in the country. Are any of the backs better than Kelvin Taylor? Is there a wide out that is as good as Demarcus Robinson?
    Finally, Nussmeier ran a putrid offense at Michigan, so why did anyone expect him to run a good one at UF? Like the overmatched head coach, anyone can succeed at Alabama when Saban is running the show.
    I bet Treon Harris is laughing his ass off now. He was the scapegoat for things that were bad before he came to UF, and remain bad at UF. By the way, a lot of folks said he was too short to play QB. Tat doesn’t seem to matter at Houston, which has a pretty good offense. But, then again, they have a good coach, not a bunch of clowns.

  9. Michael Jones says:

    Yeah, this is Florida and most of these responses are Gator Nation.
    Thought the team played pretty well except for BOTH the OL and DL which got manhandled at times. Hated the lack of discipline which was a step back to the Muschamp era. . especially Davis who needs to get under control or he is going to cost us a ballgame.

    The wide receivers played well, especially young Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain. Del Rio was fine and will get better. Scarlett, as expected, is going to be our best rusher. Goolsby is good.

    UMass is better than they were last year and that had more than a little to do with our performance. I’m pretty sure that we won the game though, right?

    And Muschamp NEVER had an offense like McElwain’s. . not on his best day or McElwain’s worst.

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