Wow! I can honestly say that the Florida Gators are on the right path to putting 2013 behind them as they thrashed Eastern Michigan 65-0 in their home opener today. The seven game losing streak is over! Everything was clicking today! The offense lit up the scoreboard and the defense was smothering!
I actually had a ton of fun at this game! As of Game 1, I can say the offense is very fun to watch this year. New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper treated the first series like it was Madden by going for it TWICE on fourth down! I think that is awesome and I am hoping that he was the missing piece that the Gators needed to solve the offensive woes that have plagued them since the beginning of the Muschamp era.
Jeff Driskel, playing in his first game since his injury against Tennessee a year ago, looked good. The redshirt junior completed 31 of 45 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown. He also threw NO interceptions this game! Driskel still has some things he needs to work on (like completing some of those passes to wide open receivers and looking downfield for that one receiver who burned his man) but for his first game back, I give him an 'A' for his performance today. He would have gotten an 'A+" if he had thrown for about three touchdowns and 350 yards. Still, I am very content with his performance tonight and was very impressed with his decision making.
All us Gator fans were even blessed with an appearance from true freshman Treon Harris today! His first play as a Gator came in a wildcat package during the first drive and he even threw a couple of passes today! He completed both passes he threw today for TWO touchdowns and 148 yards! That is just absurd! I do not know many quarterbacks who have thrown a touchdown on their first pass, let alone their first two passes! Not only that, both his TD passes were 70 and 78 yard bombs, respectively. I'm starting to think that Harris likes the long ball a little bit.
For anyone wondering about the touted Will Grier (who I have said in previous articles would challenge Jeff Driskel for the starting job), he has been redshirted this year. I am fine with that following Harris's performance today.
In the rushing game, sophomore Kelvin Taylor (68), redshirt senior Matt Jones (65), and junior Mack Brown (60) ran for a combined 193 yards. Taylor had two touchdown rushes while Jones had one TD run as well as a TD catch. With this three-headed monster attack at running back, the Gators will be a force to reckon with on the ground this year.
Out of all the wide receivers, sophomore Demarcus Robinson stood out to me today as he nabbed six balls for 123 yards and one touchdown. His longest catch was the 70 yard bomb thrown to him by Treon Harris. Senior tight end Clay Burton led all receivers in receptions with seven and provided a nice security blanket for Driskel throughout the game. Junior running back Mark Herndon also had a touchdown reception in the game after catching a 78 yard pass from Treon Harris.
Defensively, the Florida Gators bullied Eastern Michigan all day as they allowed just 125 offensive yards (80 rushing and 45 passing) and zero points! The Gators forced five turnovers, which consisted of four recovered fumbles and an interception. Neiron Ball, a redshirt senior, was all over the field today as he recorded six tackles (2.5 tackles for a loss), a forced fumble, and two sacks! The Gators' only other sack of the day came from redshirt sophomore Alex McCalister. Fellow redshirt seniors Michael Taylor and Leon Orr followed Ball's lead as Taylor had six total tackles (0.5 tackles for loss) and Orr had five total tackles.
True freshman Duke Dawson had his first collegiate interception today and it was a big one as he took it 36 yards for a touchdown. The entire Florida secondary shut down Eastern Michigan's passing attack as the Eagles only completed 9 of 21 passes.
In the special teams game, redshirt senior Francisco Velez converted all three of his field goal attempts and extra points today. His longest kick was 36 yards. Redshirt sophomore Austin Hardin had some issues keeping the ball in bounds on a couple of kickoffs, but still totaled three touchbacks in the game. Eastern Michigan only averaged 23 return yards on seven kickoff returns! Senior punter Kyle Christy punted the ball three times today for 145 yards. Eastern Michigan averaged just one return yard on these punts!
This was the start that Muschamp and the Gators needed and I am so stoked for next week's game against the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) at 7:30 p.m. in The Swamp! This game will be on the SEC Network and is also the Gators' first SEC matchup of the year! The Gators have not lost to Kentucky since 1986 and I highly doubt that this game is even going to be close! I am beyond excited!
As for Eastern Michigan, they now fall to 1-1 and will gladly take off with however much money the University of Florida paid them to come down here and get demolished. Their next game will be on the road against the Old Dominion Monarchs (1-1).
*All stats accredited to Gatorzone.com