The Gators still have work to do offensively, but there were some positives. The unit had 21 first downs, converted 9 of 17 third down attempts and didn’t turn it over. Starting quarterback Luke Del Rio was accurate with the ball and drove Florida into UMass territory on seven of the 10 drives. UF should have scored more points against an inferior team and didn’t have enough explosive plays, especially on the ground. The offensive line did a poor job of run blocking and the pass protection was even worse. That’s partly why you saw a dink-and-dunk offense all night. The other reason was offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier wanting to keep it vanilla in the first game.
Florida gave up a few big plays in the passing game and committed costly penalties, two of which led to a touchdown for UMass. Those issues kept the Gators from receiving an A grade. The Minutemen couldn’t do much of anything offensively. They were held to 187 offensive yards, 1 of 11 on third down and quarterback Ross Comis was sacked four times, twice by redshirt freshman defensive end Jabari Zuniga. Linebacker Alex Anzalone looked spectacular in his return. Florida’s depth at cornerback is a concern and could hurt the Gators when starters are out like they were Saturday. Teez Tabor will be back from suspension next week and should solidify the position.
Special teams: A
Had it not been for Eddy Pineiro, only a touchdown would have separated Florida and UMass. His three field goals allowed the Gators to put the game away in the fourth quarter. It was an impressive debut for Pineiro, who had The Swamp chanting his name before kickoffs. Johnny Townsend had two of his four punts downed inside the 20, and Antonio Callaway had a couple good returns.
Florida coach Jim McElwain and his assistants obviously didn’t show all their cards against UMass, even with the game close in the second half. We saw a base defense and not a lot of offensive creativity, but that was to be expected. The coaches knew they could win with simple schemes, but they’ll have to show more against Kentucky and get the team to play sharper.
The Gators have set a much higher standard than what they showed Saturday. As McElwain put it, this team still has a long way to go before they can meet expectations and successfully defend their SEC East title. But after ending 2015 with a three-game losing streak and seeing six SEC teams open their season with losses, Florida will take the win.
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.