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Instant Analysis: An offensive explosion in 51-35 win

September 26, 2020
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 After six months of doubt and contentious debates about whether the 2020 college football season would happen, the Gators kicked off their much-anticipated campaign on Saturday afternoon at Ole Miss.

UF entered this season as the media’s pick to represent the East in the SEC Championship Game and possibly contend for its first birth in the College Football Playoff.

So far, so good, at least on one side of the ball. No. 5 Florida defeated the Rebels (0-1), 51-35, in its first true road game in a season-opener since 1987.

Here is our Instant Analysis.

It Was Over When: With the Gators clinging to a 21-14 lead, quarterback Kyle Trask led them on a nine play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 16-yard scoring strike in the back of the end zone to Kadarius Toney. Florida’s defense followed that up by forcing a punt. Trask then led them on an 81-yard scoring drive that finished with a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Pitts with just seconds remaining in the first half.

They Stole the Show: The Trask to Pitts connection picked up right where it left off in 2019. Trask completed 30 of 42 passes for 416 yards and six touchdowns, which tied the SEC record for most touchdown passes in a conference opener. Pitts caught eight of his passes for 170 yards and four scores, which tied the school record for touchdown catches in a game.

Toney looked less like a gadget player and more like a true slot receiver for the first time in his career. He caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. He converted a pair of third downs midway through the second quarter and concluded that drive with a touchdown that gave Florida a 21-14 lead. He also broke a tackle in the backfield and ran for 50 yards on a jet sweep that set up the Gators’ second touchdown of the day.

In his first game replacing David Reese at middle linebacker, Ventrell Miller turned in an impressive game, recording 14 tackles and making an earth-rattling hit on a third-and-1 in the second quarter.

Five-star Georgia transfer Brenton Cox lived in the backfield in his Gators debut, making eight tackles, including 2.5 for losses and a sack.

Five-star freshman defensive tackle Gervon Dexter received a lot of playing time with Kyree Campbell unavailable and showed glimpses of his sky-high potential. He ended a promising Rebels’ drive by intercepting a pass deflected by Cox late in the first quarter.

Kicker Evan McPherson drilled a career-best 55-yard field goal with plenty of distance to spare in the third quarter that put UF back ahead by three scores.

These Stats Don’t Lie: This game was a barnburner from the start, and the Gators won despite their defense. UF gained 642 yards of total offense, a school record against an SEC opponent. They averaged 14.4 yards per completion, 6.8 yards per rush and 8.7 yards per play. Conversely, Ole Miss gained 613 total yards and averaged 18.5 yards per completion.

There wasn’t much defense played, but UF did rack up 11 tackles-for-loss and four sacks. Ole Miss recorded five and one, respectively.

Oh What A Play: After a screen pass to Toney gained four yards on the first play of the second half, the Gators took a shot on the next play. Pitts lined up on the end of the line and ran a post pattern. Trask’s pass was a little behind him, but Pitts was able to adjust and make the catch. He stiff-armed a defender into the ground and raced into the end zone for a 71-yard score.

Perhaps even more incredible is that Trevon Grimes was even more wide open down the left side after his defender fell down. Trask elected to throw to the sure-handed Pitts for the score.

These Matchups Proved Key: The Rebels’ passing defense ranked worst in the league last season, and it was easy to see why on Saturday. UF’s receivers ran wide open on virtually every passing play en route to a huge day through the air.

On the other side of the ball, Ole Miss’ receivers took advantage of some atrocious play by UF’s secondary and linebackers. Former UF commit Matt Corral took advantage of some busted coverages and poor tackling to throw for 395 yards and three scores.

Up Next: The Gators (1-0) will square off against South Carolina in their home opener next Saturday. UF leads the all-time series 28-9-3 but is just 5-3 over the past eight meetings.

 

Instant Analysis: An offensive explosion in 51-35 win

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