Photo by Kim Klement (Imgur)/Jacob Avers
Florida Football

10 Takeaways: Just what the doctor ordered

September 8, 2019
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Here are 10 takeaways as Florida demolished UT-Martin 45-0 on Saturday night in the Swamp.

1) Slow start turns into a fast finish. No matter how hard you may try, regardless of the quality of the opponent, you're not going to find much to complain about in a 45-0 victory. That is certainly the case tonight as well. However, if you really wanted to nitpick and accentuate the negative, you had your chance at the very beginning of the game when once again Florida seemed to come out flat. I don't know if it was because of they were facing an obviously outmatched opponent or the week layoff between games, but the Gators lacked a sense of urgency to open the game. Leading by just 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, in a game in which they were favored by 41 points, there was a sense that UF didn't come to play. Two passing touchdowns in the second quarter gave Florida a more comfortable 17-0 lead, but it still felt as though they should have done more.

2) Feleipe Franks (nearly) perfect first half. It took a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half for a ball that left Feleipe Franks’ hands to finally hit the ground. He started the game by completing his first 15 passes before the miss to end the half. Most of his early passes were underneath, but he did throw a pretty pass to a streaking Van Jefferson, who went 69-yards for Florida's first touchdown of the night. He entered his name in the UF record book by finishing 25-of-27 for 270-yards and two touchdowns. Now, considering the Skyhawks gave up nearly 400-yards through the air last week to Northwestern State, I would hold off on proclaiming he has turned the corner or throwing a ticker tape parade in his honor just yet. However, Franks without question looked better than he did in the opener.

3) Forget the pre-game festivities recoginizing the contributions of Mr. Two Bits (not really, but I needed an opening here), it was the improvement seen in tackling and the reduction in penalties that really gave the Gator Nation something to cheer about. Besides the play, mind-set or antics of Franks - the other big areas of concern after the Miami game were missed tackles and dumb penalties. Dan Mullen declined to provide the number of Florida missed tackles against Miami, other than saying there were a lot. We don't need to know a number to understand that there weren't anywhere near as many this evening. As far as penalties are concerned, the first yellow flag against Florida didn't fly until the final play of the first half and it was declined. In all the Gators only committed three penalties for 30 yards. 

4) When facing an opponent such as UTM - naturally plenty of younger players are expected to see the field. Most of the time you see them en masse on the backend of a blowout. What surprised me tonight is that Florida’s staff started shuffling in younger players well before the game got out of hand. We saw Khris Bogle, Chester Kimbrough, Kaiir Elam and Jaydon Hill in the game early, before the outcome was decided - and each of them more than held their own.

5) After two games it is starting to sound like a broken record, but Florida’s offensive line struggled again in the run game. Yes, I know the Gators averaged 6.1 yards per carry on the way to gaining 231-yards on the ground. However, those statistics belie the fact that UF, especially early in the game, struggled to get much push up-front against a FCS level defensive line in particular and a defense in general which was dropping seven or eight defenders into coverage play after play. The level of competition is only going to increase here in the next few weeks and the one major area of concern on this squad continues to be the question as to if UF’s offensive line is up to the challenge.

6) It isn't like it is news to anyone in the Gator Nation, but once again Jabari Zuniga came to play. Because he gave way to younger players as Florida shuffled in defender after defender, we didn’t see him all that much. But, when he was in there he not only shines as an athlete, who moves as well as anyone you will find at his size, he is an effort player to boot, who always has his motor running wide open. 

7) Though the announced attendance was 80,007, that was tickets distributed, not actual fannies in seats. It was a disappointing crowd for a season opener coming off a 10 win season and a victory over Miami. Dwindling attendance is an issue across the college football landscape. What isn’t an issue in Gainesville though is that while much smaller, the crowd in the Swamp can still bring it when needed. That was evidenced by the participation from the stands on a fourth and one play with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter. The noise level went up several decimals and the Skyhawks ended up losing three yards and turning the ball over on downs.

8) I don’t want to put too much stock in one game against an inferior opponent, but Jacob Copeland was outstanding. All those accolades Copeland received from his teammates during fall camp looked to be well earned. Normally, I dismiss those because the next time you hear a player not give a glowing endorsement of a teammate will be the first time you hear it. From what we saw Saturday night though, the Florida players were mostly on-point when they praised Copeland in the pre-season. Regardless of the health status of Kadarius Toney, in my opinion, I don’t know if you can say that he has absolutely earned it yet, but Copeland should receive some of Toney’s touches. Copeland is bigger, stronger and faster, but even more importantly, he gets north-south quickly instead of playing around going east-west. Yes, when they work all of that scrambling around by Toney looks great and creates excitement, but for every highlight tape run there is a play or two where if he wouldn’t have been dancing around and just lowered his shoulder and taken what was given, he would have been better off. I promise you, that east-west stuff will end up losing yardage against SEC speed more often than not. 

9) Speaking of players who showed that they deserve to see more action - let’s not forget the big play from Iverson Clement. It was only one run, with time winding down in a blowout victory, but it reinforced what Inside the Gators was told in our Anonymous Player Parting Thoughts - that being that Clement is one of the fastest players and best athletes on the team. He can be one of the most energetic, talkative, positive players on the team, but to this point he has mostly been more of a natural talent than a refined product. From what we have seen in open practices, he is a work in progress. What we saw on Saturday is that if he could get the nuances of the game down, he has the skillset to become a much bigger part of the offense.

10) It’s taken longer, much longer, then expected, but we finally saw something from junior defensive tackle TJ Slaton. I hate to sound so negative, but he is one of the most frustrating players on the team because to this point he hasn’t been able to get out of his own way in order to realize the incredible amount of natural, game altering, ability he possesses’. Not only is he a big body who can occupy blockers, but he crashed through the line and made a couple of plays behind the line of scrimmage. If he can stay focused, and keep improving, he can potentially be a difference maker. 

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