GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Those that cared to attend or tune in to Florida’s home game with UAB on Saturday saw the end of the Gators’ 5-game losing streak and a respite from a string of disappointing performances.
Yes, it was against UAB, a Conference USA program in its first season after a two-year hiatus from competition, but these days any positives for this Florida football team are welcomed.
And the Gators’ 36-7 win over the Blazers inside The Swamp featured plenty of positives (as such a matchup should).
That is, after all, why UAB was on the schedule. More so to give Florida a light week before its rivalry showdown with Florida State, as nobody could have known at the time just how much the Gators would need a game like this.
In the end, Florida did what it was supposed to do while outgaining the Blazers 409 yards to 180 and scoring the first 33 points on the way to an easy victory.
With that, here are the grades …
Quarterback — B-
This has to be Franks’ highest grade of the season. Overall, the numbers weren’t overwhelmingly impressive as he completed just 15 of 30 passes for 152 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
But he also didn’t make any glaring mistakes and didn’t get a ton of help from his receivers. Franks threw yet another beautiful deep ball to Tyrie Cleveland, who looked to have a 48-yard reception before it was later ruled incomplete, and he led Dre Massey perfectly on a pass that would have gone for around 20 yards or more had Massey been able to hang on to the ball. Those two passes alone could have made his numbers look a lot better.
Running backs — A
Florida rushed for a season-high 257 yards, spurred by a trio of impressive performances.
Freshman Adarius Lemons had a breakout game, rushing for 89 yards on 11 carries while having a long touchdown run called back for a holding penalty.
Sophomore Lamical Perine contributed a workmanlike 89 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and senior Mark Thompson played his best game of the season with 78 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
Overall, the running backs took the pressure off Franks and put the game away after halftime.
Wide receivers/tight ends — C+
This grade is boosted by the tight ends, who after being obscured most of the season were finally given a chance to contribute in the passing game.
C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby each caught touchdown passes and Moral Stephens had a 19-yard reception over the middle to convert on third down.
If only the Gators had seen fit to target the trio a little more in the games that mattered …
That said, not a great game from the receivers. In addition to the aforementioned drops, there were a couple other third-down passes that Franks put right on the money and his receivers were simply unable to come through with the catch to extend drives.
This has been a generally underwhelming group this season.
Senior Brandon Powell led the team Saturday with 6 catches for 55 yards.
Offensive line — B+
Down two starters, the Gators patched their holes well enough to get the job done.
The rushing attack averaged 5.1 yards per carry with big holes to run through much of the game, earning praise for the line from interim coach Randy Shannon.
Franks was sacked twice, but one could have certainly been prevented if he got rid of the ball sooner. Meanwhile, the holding penalty that wiped out Lemons’ potential long touchdown run wasn’t good from a group that continues to draw costly penalties.
But overall, the line did its job Saturday in a favorable matchup.
Defensive line — A
The Gators can’t ask for much more than the stifling performance their defensive front delivered against a UAB team that came in averaging more than 200 rushing yards per game.
The Blazers mustered a net of 3 rushing yards Saturday on 18 attempts, and quarterback A.J. Erdely was sacked three times.
Defensive end CeCe Jefferson has played at this best the last couple weeks, racking up another sack and 5 tackles on Saturday, while defensive tackle Taven Bryan remains a consistent force in the middle.
Bryan had a sack as well and has been one player who definitely delivered on the preseason hype.
Sophomore Antonneous Clayton, meanwhile, took advantage of his extra opportunities and netted his first sack of the year.
Linebackers — A
This often-criticized unit did its job Saturday in contributing to UAB’s offensive frustrations.
David Reese had 5 tackles and 2 tackles for loss and Vosean Joseph added 5 stops, 1.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
After Florida had given up 292, 227 and 220 rushing yards in its last three games, it was encouraging the see the defense tighten up, even against a lesser opponent.
Defensive backs — B
UAB got 74 of its total 180 yards on one long touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. That aside, there weren’t many breakdowns in the secondary for Florida.
For the second week in a row, safety Chauncey Gardner Jr. came through a timely interception, this time picking off UAB on a trick pass and returning it 42 yards to set up the Gators’ first touchdown.
Freshman safety Brad Stewart also had his first career interception and fellow freshman safety Shawn Davis had a jarring pass break-up along with a fumble recovery.
All while freshman cornerbacks Marco Wilson and C.J. Henderson provided mostly solid coverage.
Good performance all around.
Special teams — A+
For a kicker that has been steady and stellar most of his two seasons at Florida, Eddy Pineiro delivered his best performance yet Saturday while going 5-for-5 on field goals, including a pair of 50-yarders.
He became the first Gators kicker to make 2 50-yard field goals in a game and the first to make 5 field goals total since the 1992 Sugar Bowl.
Overall, he’s made 15 straight FGs and 28 of his last 29.
Johnny Townsend averaged 40.2 yards on four punts, dropping all of them inside the 20-yard line.
Lemons had a 33-yard kickoff return, and while the kick coverage unit wasn’t exceptional, UAB topped out at a 29-yard return.
Coaching — A
No matter the opponent, it’s not easy to get a team to play together and play motivated on the heels of a five-game losing streak, with no real goals still within reach.
So give Shannon and the coaching staff credit as Florida came to play Saturday.
Bryan, for one, made a point to praise Shannon and defensive line coach Chris Rumph in particular for keeping the team together through the adversity of this season.
Also, running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider deserves a lot of credit for what he’s gotten out of his unit despite the setbacks of losing Jordan Scarlett to a season-long suspension and freshman standout Malik Davis to an unfortunate knee injury.