GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Several newcomers for Florida came up big in Friday’s Orange & Blue Debut.
The offensive starters produced a few explosive plays against the second-string defense, as the Blue team cruised to a 44-6 victory over the Orange.
The Gators revealed their refurbished offense and look to have found some new playmakers. The first-team defense also performed well, coming up with three turnovers and a pick-six.
“We just had a wonderful spring and I mean that sincerely,” UF coach Jim McElwain told the SEC Network after the game. “I can only think of one or two practices where our guys didn’t come out and really try to get better. And with that, that’s just part of the learning curve.”
STORYLINES YOU NEED TO KNOW
Del Rio delivers: Luke Del Rio had the best performance of all the quarterbacks. He completed of 10 his 11 pass attempts for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Del Rio showed command of the offense and heads into the summer leading the QB race.
Dual-threat running back: Junior college transfer Mark Thompson led all rushers with 46 yards on five carries, but also showed his ability as a pass-catcher. He had three receptions for 25 yards, including a first-down grab.
Florida’s kicker can boom it: Eddy Pineiro attempted field goals for the first time in a game setting Friday and didn’t disappoint. He connected from 52, 46 and 56 yards, but missed wide right from 53 and 52 yards. Pineiro also boomed his kickoffs out of the end zone, showing off his leg strength.
Ball hawk in the secondary: McElain said Duke Dawson had come into his own this spring, and it showed in the Orange Blue & Debut. The new starter at nickelback made a pair of interceptions in the game, returning the second one for a touchdown.
First quarter: Del Rio got off to a hot start, throwing a 46-yard pass as well as a touchdown to DeAndre Goolsby on the opening drive. Pineiro drilled his first attempt from 52 yards.
Second quarter: Thompson broke loose for a 26-yard scoring run and also caught a pair of passes. Quarterbacks Austin Appleby and Feleipe Franks both failed to move the offense in the two-minute drill.
Third quarter: Franks threw his second interception of the game to start the half. Alvin Bailey, C’yontai Lewis and Chris Thompson all had catches of more than 20 yards.
Fourth quarter: Del Rio threw a laser to Dre Massey for a 19-yard score. Dawson intercepted Franks for a pick-six, but the true freshman quarterback redeemed himself on the last play of the game with a touchdown pass to Lewis.
Florida will need to build on their new offensive weapons and establish a starting lineup in the offseason. Defensively, the Gators are basically set with their depth chart and just need to stay healthy through fall training camp.