GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain was in his best postgame mood of the season Saturday night after his No. 18-ranked Gators’ 40-14 win against Missouri.
Even as he talked about the team’s 11 penalties for 65 yards, including 8 false starts. (He’ll figure that out during the bye week, he said.)
And even as he ran through the injury report.
He was optimistic about the prognosis for senior linebacker Jarrad Davis, noting his “lower leg” injury does not involve anything broken.
That was the big injury news, but there were a couple of other notables.
Redshirt senior defensive end Bryan Cox Jr., who was just getting past an ankle injury that slowed him in the previous game, came out Saturday with his hand wrapped and did not start. He did get into the game, though.
“Bryan Cox actually did something to his thumb and we need to get the thumb guy to look at it Monday. He did that in pregame,” McElwain said, quickly segueing to the positive of the situation. “… In his absence, some of those young guys, you guys watched the game, I thought they played great. We didn’t get sacks, but (the key was) forcing the guy not to get his feet set, and we did that, which forced some errant throws. That was the one thing we worked on all week was just not letting him get his feet set.”
Sophomore running back Jordan Cronkrite was held out with an “upper leg” issue.
“He couldn’t go, strained something in there. We’ll see where that is,” McElwain said.
It didn’t matter as freshman Lamical Perine (106 yards on 11 carries) and sophomore Jordan Scarlett (101 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries) both eclipsed 100 yards on the ground.
Also, junior tight end DeAndre Goolsby was seen running to the sideline after a play in the third quarter to apparently have someone help him put his finger back in place.
Or as McElwain put it, “I think his pinky was a little sore, but he went back in.”
The injury to Davis will be the one to monitor as Florida heads into its bye week.
In addition to resting, McElwain said this is an important week of recruiting for his coaching staff, especially after losing two home games to the LSU game postponement and ultimate rescheduling in Baton Rouge, La., on a weekend Florida was supposed to host Presbyterian.
“Good time for a bye,” McElwain said. “Our guys, obviously we missed some recruiting weekends here. We need to get out on the road and do a great job next week. There’s some things we’ve already had planned that we’re going to work next week in practice as we get ready kind of for the second half of the season and it should be good.”
By the numbers
With junior cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson going back-to-back with interception returns for touchdowns in the second quarter, it marked the first time since 2011 against Furman and only the fifth time since 1996 the Gators recorded two pick-6s in a game. And none of those other occurrences the last 10 years came against a SEC opponent.
In fact, the last time Florida returned 2 interceptions for touchdown in a SEC game was against Georgia in 1994.
“Obviously it starts with our defense. They did an unbelievable job shutting them down. (With) defensive scores, you’ve always got a chance to be successful, and all great teams score on defense. There’s no doubt about it,” McElwain said.
Meanwhile, sophomore Antonio Callaway’s 44-yard touchdown return off an onside kick in the fourth quarter marked Florida’s first kickoff return score since Solomon Patton in 2013 against Missouri.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 15, 2016
Callaway also has 2 punt returns for touchdowns in his career and Florida now has a return touchdown in 12 straight seasons. Kansas State is the only other team in the country with a streak that long.
And for one more obscure note, Saturday marked the first time McElwain elected to defer to the second half in his time at Florida.
That worked out pretty well for the Gators.
Game ball for Jeremy Foley
McElwain revealed the team presented the game ball to athletic director Jeremy Foley, who is set to retire on Nov. 1, meaning Saturday was his last official home game in that position.
“It was great in the locker room afterwards. This was Jeremy Foley’s last game in The Swamp,” McElwain said. “When you think about all the things that he has accomplished and things that he’s done for this university, the town of Gainesville, the state of Florida, it’s pretty special. To give him the game ball and see the guys stand up and give him a standing ovation and have him break them down when it was all over, you know guys, that’s what life’s all about. That was pretty cool.”
Opportunity for experience
One other point McElwain was especially excited about was how many players the Gators were able to get on the field.
Florida used 59 players in all.
“We were able to play a ton of guys. In fact, a lot of guys that were on our scout teams, and let me just tell you something, that is such a great reward for those guys because they’ve worked their tails off,” McElwain said. “And to be able to put them in a game and let them play in a place like The Swamp, that just puts a smile on my face. I was really excited to see some of those guys get in the game.”
The postgame media session Saturday night was the first opportunity to ask the Florida players about the rescheduling of the LSU game in Baton Rouge, La., on Nov. 19.
“We have a great administration here, great head coach and I’m glad Mr. Foley and the administration did what’s best for the conference,” Tabor said. “They really wanted to play the game and they made it happen any way we could, even if that means we got to go to LSU and play. So I’m really thankful for our administration and our head coach to get the game rescheduled.”