Florida football score, takeaways: No. 11 Gators turnaround real after dominating Noles

By Adam Silverstein
November 24, 2018
Florida football score, takeaways: No. 11 Gators turnaround real after dominating Noles

Image Credit: UAA Communications

It took a full half to find their stride, but the No. 11 Florida Gators made a major statement on Saturday in Doak Campbell Stadium, letting the college football world know they were again the kings of the Sunshine State with a dominant 41-14 win over the Florida State Seminoles. Six years to the day since Florida’s last win over Florida State, the Gators (9-3) ended a five-game losing streak in the series and a couple historic records long coveted by the Noles (5-7).

Let’s take a look at what went down and what we can take from Florida’s 27-point domination over its in-state rival in Tallahassee, Florida.

1. The turnaround is real: Before the game, it was made clear on this website that the outcome of Saturday’s showdown would determine whether the Gators had truly turned a corner in Year 1 under head coach Dan Mullen. While that was still a question after the first half, it was quickly answered over the final 30 minutes of the game. Florida outscored FSU 28-7 in the second half, thoroughly dominating the Noles in nearly every phase of the game. That was not much of a surprise considering the Gators’ improvement this season and its statistical advantages entering the contest, but it was good to see it actually happen. UF outgained FSU 536-293, dominating yards both through the air (254-154) and on the ground (282-139). The Gators registered five sacks and eight tackles for loss, held the ball 12 additional minutes and went 4 for 8 on third down after starting 1 for 7 (UF did go 0 for 2 on fourth down in the red zone, however).

Not only did Florida end its five-game losing streak to Florida State, it ended the Noles’ chances of advancing to a bowl game, which it had done an NCAA record 36 straight times entering this season. UF also ended FSU’s 42-year streak of finishing .500 or better. Those are whipped cream and a cherry on top of the most important accomplishment: looking like the best team in the state of Florida in front of a packed crowd and dozens of recruits watching at home.

“I really think we did [play great], with the exception of red zone offense in the first half, where we had four possessions and we only got 13 points, I thought we really played a complete game in all three phases today and executed at a really high level,” Mullen said. “I’m really proud of our guys for battling back. When you think you’re going to have the opportunity to play for a championship and lose it with a little skid, they really buckled down from that point and finished the season strong.”

2. Feleipe Franks, fantastic: Every praise of Franks comes with the obvious couching. He often does not see open receivers, does not progress through his reads and sometimes throws the ball too hard in an attempt to force throws. Despite all of that, the third-year signal caller completed 16-of-26 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday, picking up 46 more yards with his legs, including a number of key first-down runs. Franks was not put in a great position by Mullen with a number of third-and-long throws in the first half, but he found open receivers time and again in the second half with a number of nice long balls that set up touchdowns.

“He did a great job,” Mullen said of Franks. “They gave us some different looks, they got down to the red zone, some different coverages and mixed some things up right there. I even thought he did a good job there a couple of times [when] we didn’t have anybody open and he didn’t force it. He tried to scramble to create and extended the play before he threw it away. He did a good job, he didn’t make mistakes, and executed well. I know it’s tough to play quarterback at the University of Florida, everybody’s got pretty high standards.”

With a bowl game remaining, Franks (23) has more touchdown passes than any Gators quarterback since Tim Tebow (30) in 2008 — in other words, he’s thrown more than Tebow did in 2009. With six additional rushing scores, Franks (29) is only six back of Tebow’s 35 total touchdowns in 2009. Finally, Franks’s 2,284 passing yards are the most since Tebow’s 2,895 in 2009. None of this is to say Frank is the next Tebow, but he’s clearly had the best passing season for a Florida signal caller in nearly a decade — even if he did struggle against elite competition.

“I have always wanted to come here and play, because I am literally from eight minutes down the road, so it has always been a dream of mine to come here and play against Florida State,” Franks said. “It was a big game, as no one on our team had beaten Florida State before. We came out and battled, and this one definitely ranks at the top.”

3. It was a true team effort: Franks’s day would not have looked as good without some terrific play around him, including two great receiving performances. Redshirt sophomore Trevon Grimes posted 118 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, and redshirt junior Van Jefferson grabbed four balls for 92 yards and a score. Junior Tyrie Cleveland nearly had a big grab to open the game but fell hard on his shoulder and never returned. It was also a stellar day on the ground from Florida’s running backs as junior Lamical Perine took 13 touches for 129 yards and a touchdown (the score was from 74 yards out, UF’s longest play from scrimmage this year) and redshirt senior Jordan Scarlett went for 88 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.

The defense was also tremendous with junior defensive end Jachai Polite pressuring Florida State QB Deiondre Francois all day long; Polite picked up 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss along with a forced fumble. He now has the most sacks in a single season for Florida since Derrick Harvey in 2006. The Gators also picked off two of Francois’s passes and got constant pressure on him throughout the day with junior DE Jabari Zuniga always swarming.

Odds and ends: Florida broke a tie with FSU, improving to 14-13-1 all-time in Tallahassee and 35-26-2 in the series … this was the first time since 1960 that both the Gators and Noles had a new head coach in the game; UF won that showdown also … it is the third straight week that Florida has gained more than 500 yards of total offense, the first time it have done that since 2008 with Mullen as offensive coordinator … the 41 points scored by Florida was its most in Tallahassee and against FSU since 2008 … the Gators improved to 7-2 against unranked opponents this season, 5-0 when scoring first, 7-0 when leading after the third quarter, 6-0 when allowing fewer than 20 points and 8-0 when winning the rushing battle … UF has now scored in 384 consecutive games, an NCAA record

What’s next? Florida should move into the top 10 of the College Football Playoff Rankings on Tuesday, which would put it in great position to earn a New Year’s Six bowl berth as an at-large bid the following Sunday. Right now, it is wait and see for UF, though many are projecting it in either the Peach Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.

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