In a game that featured a full Saturday’s worth of the usual college football shenanigans, the eighth-ranked Florida Gators made several boneheaded mistakes to allow the Miami Hurricanes to hang around. Eventually though, the Gators shut the door on a late drive by the Canes to earn a season-opening win in the Camping World Kickoff.
After stopping Miami on 4th down with under 5 minutes to go, the plan looked simple for Florida, be smart with the ball, grind out the clock, and go home with the W. Instead, Feleipe Franks threw an inexcusable interception, Florida committed multiple ill-advised pass interference penalties, including one on a 4th and 34, and allowed Miami to drive all the way to the 26 before finally standing strong and turning away the Canes.
Two Key Observations
Week Zero Rust, It’s Real (I hope)
Despite both teams looking solid on their opening drives, with Miami getting on the board first with a Bubba Baxa field goal and the Gators answering with a 66-yard catch and run by Kadarius Toney, it became clear throughout the night that both teams were not 100 percent up to speed.
The two teams combined for five turnovers as well as two more fumbles by the Hurricanes that were recovered by the offense. Florida’s four turnovers included a fumble inside the Miami 10-yard line, squandering a chance to take a 14-3 lead early on. Miami’s Jeff Thomas muffed a punt that to a Felipe Franks touchdown pass, and then immediately after some porous Gator tacking led to a 50-yard touchdown run for DeeJay Dallas. The normally reliable Baxa would then miss a short chip shot that would have extended the Hurricanes lead to 23-17.
Instead, Franks threw a frozen rope to Josh Hammond for 65 yards and three plays later, ran it in to give the Gators a 24-20 lead they would not relinquish. The rivals also combined for 218 penalty yards as well as what seemed like an endless amount of missed tackles anytime a ball carrier broke beyond the line of scrimmage.
Until the late Franks interception, it seemed like Florida had mostly shaken off the rust off the off season and despite the late near-meltdown, played more composed football than Miami for most of the night.
Dominating The Trenches
While the Florida offense and at times the secondary struggled to play its way into form, the Gators’ defensive line was at full throttle from the very beginning. The Gators sacked Williams twice in the first two drives of the game, and they would not let up from there, finishing with 10 sacks on the day. Jonathan Greenard and Ventrell Miller led the way with 2.5 and 2.0 sacks respectively.
The Gators were consistently able to put Miami behind the chains on 2nd and 3rd down and it was in those situations that the Florida defensive was able to thrive. The Florida offensive line was able to keep Franks upright for the most part, allowing the veteran QB to make the throws needed to win the game.
While it wasn’t pretty, Florida managed to come up with a win against an extremely motivated in-state rival, which is always a positive. The Gators will now take week one off before facing UT-Martin in Gainesville on September 7.