Instant Analysis: A win is a win, even an ugly one

by Chris Will
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The Florida Gators finished Tom Petty Night with a 22-7 win over the Charlotte 49ers. Florida started off hot, but the road to the final score was a slow and bumpy one.

Inside the GatorsInstant Analysis takes a quick look at how the game unfolded.

IT WAS OVER WHEN: It wasn’t a pretty one for the Gators. There was a significant expectation that this game would be over early. With that said, this game was put on ice with about three minutes to go in the game. A deep punt by Jeremy Crawshaw had the 49ers pinned deep. A loud crowd and a false start later, Charlotte was within their own two-yard-line. Offsetting penalties gave the 49ers a second chance on fourth down. They would complete a pass to make it fourth-and-five but opted to punt down by 12 with 4:30 to go. Graham Mertz would put the Gators in the red zone with a 25-yard pass to Arlis Boardingham. Florida’s would opt for a red zone field goal which Trey Smack would convert to make it a 15-point game with 2:30 remaining.

THEY STOLE THE SHOW: As crazy as this may sound, Florida special teams won this game. Trey Smack took over the role as starting placekicker and showed out for the Gators. He knocked in five field goals including one from 54 yards out that had plenty of distance behind it. Florida has found their guy. The five field goals for Smack are tied for the third most in a game in program history.

THESE STATS DON’T LIE: Florida’s offense struggled in some critical areas of play. Florida was 0/4 on third down in the first half. They finished 1/9. They also struggled in the red zone and were forced to settle for four red zone field goals. And the rushing attack wasn’t quite what it has been or can be. Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne combined for 111 yards on 24 carries. Etienne, who was coming off over 175 yards on the ground against Tennessee and a National Running Back of the Week honor got just eight attempts.

THIS MATCHUP PROVED KEY: It was a battle of the trenches in this one and it was the Florida defensive line that caused the most trouble in this game. The Gators’ defensive front ripped through Charlotte’s offensive line and caused six tackles for loss and seven QB hurries. Perhaps more impressive, five different players were involved in the four sacks the Gators had.

WHAT A PLAY: Mid-way through the first quarter, we got a catch-of-the-year candidate from Gators wide receiver Ricky Pearsall. On first-and-10 from the Florida 45-yard line, Graham Mertz dropped back and slung it about 20 yards down the field. It ended up right in the opening between a trio of 49ers. Pearsall jumped up and trademark Michael Jordan Jumpman style snagged the ball with just his right hand before getting sandwiched. If you haven’t seen it, you should.

UP NEXT: Florida’s SEC schedule continues Saturday at noon. The Gators will travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is fresh off a conference win over Vanderbilt. Kentucky opened their SEC play with a 45-28 win in Nashville. Kentucky is 4-0 on the year and Florida has lost the last two meetings with the Wildcats.

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