Tuesday, November 1, 2016

UF Football: #14 Florida Wins Third Straight Against Georgia

For the third straight season, the Florida Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) have emerged victorious over the Georgia Bulldogs (4-4, 3-3 SEC)! In a fairly non-electric contest between these two SEC East foes last Saturday, the No. 14 ranked Gators defeated the Bulldogs 24-10.

In his second game back from injury, Luke Del Rio was efficient. The redshirt sophomore completed 15 of 25 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Del Rio's lone mistake came on the first drive of the game, but the Gator defense was able to hold and force a field goal.

On the ground, the Gators were down two running backs. Mark Thompson was caught with marijuana and was not allowed to participate in the game. As if that wasn't shocking news in itself, reports also flooded in that Jordan Cronkrite was no longer a member of the team (however it has also been reported that he is back with the team now).

So with this in mind, Coach Jim McElwain made good use of sophomore Jordan Scarlet and freshman Lamical Perine. Starting with Scarlett, the Fort Lauderdale product put in work as he carried the ball 26 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. His longest run was 12 yards and his touchdown came in the second quarter to give Florida a 14-10 lead.

Complementing Scarlett, freshman Lamical Perine registered 15 carries for 33 yards. He also had the second highest amount of receptions for Florida in this game as he tallied three catches for 15 yards.

Moving on to the receiving corps, Antonio Callaway finally returned to relevance in this game. The sophomore led all Gator receivers with four grabs for 42 yards. He also registered a touchdown, but in an atypical way.

With Florida up 14-10 with almost three minutes to go in the third quarter, Callaway took a handoff on a jet sweep and ran around the right end for his first career rushing touchdown! With this score, Callaway became the first Gator player in school history to score a touchdown five different ways (rushing, receiving, passing, punt return, kick return).

Joining Callaway in the touchdown club, tight end C'yontai Lewis caught two passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. The redshirt sophomore's score came in the first quarter and gave Florida an early 7-3 lead.

The Gators out-gained the Dawgs 231 to 164 in total yards. Florida totaled 20 first downs compared to Georgia's eight. Seven of the Bulldogs' first downs came through the air with one other resulting from a penalty. The Florida offensive line was a tad shaky in this game, as Del Rio was sacked three times. Albeit a couple of those sacks were on Del Rio not releasing the ball in time.

The Gator defense did not force a single turnover, but they continued to flex their muscles as they terrorized Jacob Eason. Collectively, the Gator defense hurried the true freshman a total of 16 TIMES! He finished the game 15 of 33 for 143 yards and a touchdown pass in the second quarter. It would be Georgia's final lead of the game as it put them up 10-7.

It seemed that every time Eason made a throw, he was being pummeled to the ground. Jabari Zuniga, who may very well have been in Eason's nightmares following the game, hurried him a game-high four times. The true freshman defensive lineman finished the contest with three tackles (2.5 for loss)

Despite continuously hitting Eason, the Gators only sacked him twice. Junior cornerback Jalen "Teez" Tabor (one), redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone (0.5), and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Khairi Clark (0.5) were the perpetrators.

The leading tacklers for Florida in the game were senior Jarrad Davis with seven wrap-ups (two for loss), redshirt junior Marcell Harris with five (one for loss), and Alex Anzalone with five as well (0.5 for loss). Seven different Gators recorded a tackle for loss.

In the secondary, cornerback Duke Dawson broke up two passes. The clutchest of these two came in the fourth quarter when the junior batted down a pass on fourth down and two with the Gators up 21-10. The only other Gator defensive back to break up a pass was safety Marcus Maye. Coincidentally, the redshirt senior forced an incompletion one play before Dawson's fourth down stop.

Special Teams
In the kicking game, Eddy Pineiro went 1/2 on his field goal attempts. He missed a 33 yarder in the third quarter, but then nailed a kick from 38 yards out with 4:24 to go in the fourth quarter. This pushed lead to 24-10, and essentially put the nail in the coffin for Georgia. All but one of Pineiro's five kickoffs were touchbacks and he was a perfect 3/3 on his extra point attempts.

Looking at punting duties, Johnny Townsend continued to do his thing. Seeing the field six times, Townsend had two of his punts downed inside the 20-yard line. He had three travel over 50 yards with his longest being 55 yards. He averaged 47.8 yards per punt.

Return-wise, Antonio Callaway and senior Chris Thompson didn't do much. Callaway fielded three punts for a grand total of 10 yards while Thompson returned two kickoffs for 55 yards.

Final Takeaway
For the sixth time in the rivalry, the Florida Gators have boasted a winning streak of three games against the Georgia Bulldogs. The Gators were able to stick it to freshman Jacob Eason after he chose to attend UGA over UF. Granted, Eason will be very good in years to come and will no doubt get his chance to avenge this year's loss to Florida.

For now though, it's all celebration in Gainesville. The Gators are in first place in the SEC East and are two wins (or a win and another Tennessee loss) away from their second straight division title! The offense definitely needs improvement, but this defense continues to help the Gators win games.

The road gets tougher from here as the now No. 10 ranked Gators head to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (5-3, 1-3 SEC). Florida has not played the Hogs since 2013 in The Swamp and currently they are on a nine-game winning streak against the Razorbacks.

Their last and only loss to Arkansas came in the Bluebonnet Bowl in 1982. As tentative as I feel about it, I am picking Florida to win this difficult road game. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on CBS and heard on the Gator IMG Sports Network.

As for Georgia, they will also hit the road as they travel to Lexington to take on the second-place Kentucky Wildcats (5-3, 4-2 SEC). The Bulldogs have not lost to Kentucky since 2009, but I think that changes this year. I have the Wildcats winning a close one at home. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and it can be seen on the SEC Network.

*All stats accredited to FloridaGators.com



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