FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
In their final tune up game before entering the SEC gauntlet, the No. 9 Gators routed the FCS Towson Tigers (3-2, 1-1 Colonial Athletic Association) 38-0 on a sweltering late September evening in the Swamp.
As they did against FCS UT Martin three weeks ago, the Gators got off to a bit of a slow start, leading just 17-0 at halftime. The defense forced only one punt in the first half, and the offensive line caused the offense to become one-dimensional.
Still, the Gators have now won nine games in a row, their longest winning streak since the school-record 22-game run in 2008-09.
Here’s our Instant Analysis.
It Was Over When: In all honesty, this one was over when the Gators stepped foot off the bus with at least 11 players. Florida simply had way too much talent for Towson, one of the best FCS programs, to compete for long.
On their opening possession, UF methodically drove 82 yards on 12 plays in 5:32. Kyle Trask completed all seven of his throws on the drive for 64 yards, and tight end Kyle Pitts caught three passes for 21 yards. The two connected on a six-yard scoring strike to finish the drive.
Towson moved the ball at will on their first two drives, finding plenty of running room and open receivers down the field. They converted five of their eight third downs in the first half. However, they had nothing to show for it.
The Tigers’ first drive ended at UF’s 25-yard line when quarterback Tom Flacco fumbled a snap, and linebacker David Reese pounced on it. Their next drive ended with a missed 32-yard field goal attempt.
Florida added a 42-yard field goal by Evan McPherson on the first play of the second quarter. On their next possession, they drove 80 yards on eight plays, with the key play being a 31-yard rush by Dameon Pierce. Trask finished the drive with a one-yard rushing score to put the game out of reach at 17-0.
They Stole the Show: Aside from a couple of sacks where he held onto the ball too long, Trask turned in another strong start. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 188 yards and two scores with no turnovers. He completed his first 15 passes. Combined with his final three throws against Tennessee, he now owns the school record with 18 consecutive passes completed.
Pitts continued his strong play of late with four receptions for 28 yards and a pair of scores. On his first touchdown, he split a pair of defenders on a slant and caused one of them to fall down. He added a seven-yard touchdown on a corner route in the third quarter.
Jonathan Greenard has become a mainstay in this section – and in opposing backfields. He recorded a tackle-for-loss and half a sack. He intercepted his first pass as a Gator off of a deflection by Tedarrell Slaton in the third quarter and returned it 16 yards.
Linebacker Amari Burney built on his two-turnover performance against Tennessee by recording a team-best eight tackles.
Florida’s offensive line once again struggled to get much push in the running game, but Pierce turned in a fine game. He rushed for 84 yards on six carries, including a 37-yard touchdown.
Jaydon Hill received extensive playing time and performed well. He didn’t appear to get beat very often and recorded two pass breakups.
These Stats Don’t Lie: Both teams had success on third downs, as the Gators converted six of nine, while Towson converted eight of 15.
Florida outgained the Tigers 422 to 248. They out-passed them 262 to 183.
UF was 4-for-4 in the red zone, while Towson was 0-for-3.
Towson turned the ball over three times, and the Gators turned them into 10 points. UF didn’t commit a turnover.
UF’s defensive line dominated as it has most of the season, racking up four sacks and seven tackles-for-loss. However, Towson’s front enjoyed quite a bit of success as well, recording three sacks and eight tackles-for-loss. They limited the Tigers to 2.2 yards-per-carry.
Oh What A Play: With about five minutes to go in the third quarter, Pierce took a handoff, ran through a large hole on the left side of the line, picked up some perimeter blocks and raced into the end zone for a 37-yard score.
It might not seem like much, but it was the second-longest rush by a UF running back this year behind Iverson Clement’s 42-yard run against UT Martin. The offensive line hasn’t run-blocked well most of the season, so it was encouraging to see everything fall in place for a long run, even if it was against an FCS opponent.
These Matchups Proved Key: Florida enjoyed an advantage at every position against the overmatched Tigers. In particular, UF’s dominance up front on defense helped erase some of the mistakes made by the linebackers and secondary.
On the other side of the ball, the Gators’ offensive line played alarmingly poor. They surrendered multiple sacks in a game for only the second time this season and struggled to open up running lanes in the first half.
UF took advantage of its speed advantage on the perimeter to move the ball consistently. They loosened up the Tigers’ defense with some quick throws before making some deeper throws. They had receivers running wide open on just about every play, and Trask took advantage.
Up Next: We’re about to find out just how good the Gators (5-0, 2-0 SEC) are. Though they were pushed to the brink by Miami and Kentucky, they haven’t faced the level of talent that they will over the next month when they face Auburn, LSU and Georgia in a five-week span. First up is a homecoming date with No. 7 Auburn (4-0, 1-0) at 3:30 next Saturday.