The Toledo Rockets were not given much of a shot at winning going into the Swamp against the #10 ranked Florida Gators. In my first Gator football game, I watched UF beat a team that they were supposed to beat. They did not rout the Rockets like many were hoping, but it was a solid home opener nonetheless. There are some good and bad things that I took away from this first week of Gator football.
I'll start off with the good. The Gator defense stepped up when it was backed up into its own red zone and held Toledo to a pair of field goals. They also had an interception which helped set up a Gator touchdown. Offensively, the Gators ran the ball real well. Replacing the heralded Mike Gillislee, Red Shirt Sophomore Mack Brown shined in his debut with a 2 touchdown, 114 rushing yard performance. When UF did have to punt, the special teams unit took care of business and did not allow any explosive returns from Toledo.
Now here is the bad. I am not a fan of quarterback Jeff Driskel. Yes, he did complete a majority of his passes, but only one of them was for a touchdown. He fumbled the ball twice and one of those resulted in a turnover. I just do not see him as a good quarterback. In my opinion, he should have signed with the Red Sox in the draft because football is not the sport for him. Hopefully the Gators can rely on their running game and defense and not have to rely on Driskel in an important situation. UF also got sloppy in the fourth quarter with a couple of holding penalties that negated some big plays. Against a team so overmatched however, the Gators can get away with these mistakes.
Fortunately, I saw more good than bad and believe the Gators football squad can do big things this year. I will be heading down to Miami to watch the Gators do battle with the Miami Hurricanes at 12 pm next weekend on September 7. We will see how the Gators fare against a team who has not been able to fill their stadium since the Orange Bowl was knocked down. One piece of history I will mention is that the last time the Gators went down to Miami, they blew a 33-10 lead and lost 38-33. But let's keep in mind this was when Miami had tons of NFL caliber talent on their team. It is a totally different Miami squad now and I will not be surprised if the Gators go into Miami and leave with a victory.
*Stats accredited to Gatorzone.com
On August 30, 2013, I attended my first athletic event as a student at the University of Florida. The game I went to featured two Top Ten heavyweights in the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles, who were ranked #8 and #3 respectively. I was honored to be apart of the fifth largest crowd at James G. Pressly Stadium as 4,279 came out to watch the Sunshine Rivalry. The game remained a defensive battle early on until FSU's Dagny Brynjarsdottir scored two goals early. Another goal from Michaela Hahn resulted in a 3-0 FSU lead at the half.
But the Gators did not roll over and submit to FSU. They came out in the second half and they fought. They managed to shut out the Seminoles in the second half and put a few more shots on goal as well. Overall, I was impressed by the play of the Gators. The score is not indicative of how great a game it actually was. The Gators moved the ball well and Forward Savannah Jordan lived up to the hype. The freshman, who has scored 5 of the 6 UF goals in this young season, played the entire game and proved she is a threat once she gets the ball. Her blazing speed and feel for the game make her a crucial weapon to the Gators and I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that she is only a freshman! UF's success this season will rely on her play. The play of goalies Nora Neset Gjøen and Taylor Burke also impressed me as they made some dynamic saves in the game that ranged from jumping over FSU players to catch the ball or diving to leaping up to tip a ball over the net.
From what I saw tonight, UF has a resilient squad with a "never say die" attitude. Scheduling FSU this early in the season was a good move as the Gators will probably not play another team with a caliber as high as FSU's. UF will look to rebound from this loss as they take on the Florida International University Golden Panthers in Miami at 7 p.m. on September 1st.
One last note: I was fortunate to be in the background of this GatorVision video when I was conversing with Savannah Jordan after the game tonight:
*Stats accredited to Gatorzone.com