Florida report card: Elite defense will keep Gators in every game
Florida defeated Missouri 21-3 and moved to 6-0 on the season. There were times when the Gators didn’t look like an undefeated team, but they got the job done in the end, which is all that really matters anyways. Here are the grades the Gators deserve based on Saturday’s performance on the road.
Kelvin Taylor has been a surprise so far this season. Florida’s offensive line didn’t create many holes for the son of former Gators star Fred Taylor, but Kelvin still did a great job of getting yards after contact. He had over 100 yards late in the fourth quarter but lost some yardage when the team was running the clock out and finished with 99.
Besides Taylor’s performance, there weren’t many players to spotlight. That’s to be expected, though. Florida has a very young and inexperienced offensive unit, so growing pains come with the territory.
The one thing I noticed, especially in this Missouri game, is that quarterback Will Grier needs to learn when the ball should be thrown away. There were far too many instances throughout the game where he held the ball too long and the Tigers defensive line got to him. It’s OK to throw the ball out of play and move on to the next down instead of trying to force something that isn’t there.
That brings me to my next point. There have been several close calls when it comes to turnovers in the past couple of games, but Florida has been the beneficiary of good luck. The Gators have a total of zero turnovers in the past 10 quarters. UF is eighth in the country in turnover margin.
Florida hasn’t allowed a touchdown in two of the games it has played. The Gators have one of the best defenses in the country, and it’s one of the reasons why the team is 6-0. On Saturday, Florida held Missouri to only 3 points and just 257 total yards. The defensive front pressured Missouri quarterback Drew Lock all game, and he never got into a rhythm. The pressure got to Lock when he forced a pass and cornerback Jalen Tabor took it to the house for six.
This defense is elite. Florida will be in every single game it plays in because of this defense.
Special teams: C
Starting kicker Austin Hardin wasn’t that great when he played (Hardin has been sidelined for three games with a leg injury), but walk-on kicker Jorge Powell has proven to be worse for Florida thus far. Powell missed his only field goal attempt of the game when he hooked a 36-yard field goal try terribly, though the hold looked to be a big reason why. He also had a kickoff that went out of bounds in the game. That doesn’t even include the PAT that he nearly missed.
Florida coach Jim McElwain showed just how much he trusts Powell when the coach elected to fake a field goal attempt when it would have just been a 40-yard try.
The good news for Florida’s special teams is the fact that punter Johnny Townsend has turned out to be a huge weapon for the Gators – kind of like what former Gators punter Kyle Christy was to Florida back in the 2012 season when the team went 11-2. Both guys found ways to flip the entire field.
Let’s be real. Did anyone out there think the Gators, with a new head coach, would be 6-0 to start the season? McElwain and his staff have done a tremendous job in year one. Next weekend, against LSU in Death Valley, will be the biggest test to date for the staff. With Florida starting undefeated, I know Gators fans have high expectations right now, but don’t be angry if the team loses against LSU. This season has been a success already.
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Gators got the job done. McElwain said it best after the game, “I’d rather be bad and win than be bad and lose.” As long as Florida continues to play well and win, there really should be no complaints.
Next week, Florida will travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET Saturday.