Hello again, national scene. Nice to see you again.
We’re Florida, by the way, in case you don’t remember us. We used to be very familiar with each other several years ago, when this guy named Tim Tebow ran the show around here. And with one stunning rout of an Ole Miss team that some (albeit not me) considered to be the best in the nation, we’re here to stay.
At least, that’s the plan.
But no matter what happens the rest of the way (which is something I’ll touch on in a moment), Florida has grabbed the nation’s attention in Jim McElwain’s first season. That’s something that can’t be taken away from them, and it’s more than what many expected this team to do in his first year- yet his team has already accomplished it before the season’s halfway mark.
Strangely enough, they did it with something Gator fans haven’t seen since Tebow’s days- an offense.
Florida opened the game by going nowhere and punting, but from that point on, the Gator offense couldn’t be stopped. Will Grier, who had been battling the flu earlier in the week, felt well enough to go 24-29 for 271 yards and four touchdown passes, all of which came in the first half. The first of these was a tremendous throw off his back foot as he was going down- and he threw it right on target to DeMarcus Robinson:
Grier. D-Rob. TOUCHDOWN Gators. https://t.co/bACdSwDYLH
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) October 3, 2015
And from there, things turned ugly fast. Chad Kelly and Jaylen Walton bungled an exchange on the Rebels’ next possession, causing the ball to float right into Bryan Cox Jr’s hands. Five plays later, Grier faked the entire Ole Miss defense out with a play-action, and found tight end Jake McGee wide open on the D of the “Florida” script logo in the end zone. Jorge Powell missed the extra point, throwing off the Gators’ approach after each subsequent touchdown, but it didn’t matter because there were a bunch more on the way.
Brandon Powell was the next Gator to join the fun. He took a short catch on a crossing pattern, made a man miss and turned it into a 77 yard touchdown reception. Florida then capped the first half with a bang by reigniting the connection that killed Tennessee the week before:
TOUCHDOWN GATORS!!! Will Grier to Antonio Callaway!!! (Sound familiar?) https://t.co/7gjvciCB2S
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) October 4, 2015
And for all intents and purposes, that was ball game. There was the faintest, briefest glimmer of hope when the Rebels drove down deep into Florida territory to start the third quarter, but the Gators’ defense buckled down and pushed them back to force a field goal. If there were any remaining doubts about the outcome of the game, that goal line stop erased them. From there, it was all just bonus points; two Gator field goals and a score-padding touchdown by Jordan Cronkrite in the fourth quarter following two more Rebel turnovers (one of which was an interception and long return by Vernon Hargreaves) proved to be thoroughly enjoyable to watch but ultimately meaningless. The Gators had put this game away by the end of the third quarter, and probably even by halftime.
That’s quite a feat given where the Gators appeared to be last week.
One game removed from looking like a 7-5 program, Florida suddenly appears to be as realistic a national championship pick as any. The offensive line struggled immensely against Tennessee, but gave Grier plenty of time to throw against Ole Miss and gave the running backs some holes to run through. The defense missed some 30 tackles against the Volunteers, but only four (rough count) against Mississippi. And the offense went from looking like a mediocre one capable of making big plays when the defense totally busts an assignment to one that is capable of repeatedly burning an opponent using any part of the field. Oh, and Florida’s second and third rated corners, Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson, combined to shut down Ole Miss’s star receiver, LaQuon Treadwell, for five catches for 42 yards.
To sum that all up, this team made it seem like the rebuilding job Will Muschamp left Jim McElwain was going to take longer than I thought. But after bludgeoning the #3 team in the country, the question has suddenly become whether that rebuilding job has already been completed.
To that new question, I say this: maybe, but I don’t know. We can’t know.
This win, as huge as it was, was just one win. Destroying Mississippi counts no more in the standings than beating Vanderbilt does. And as the old saying goes, anything can happen on any given night; on this particular night, the Rebels gave Florida a bunch of goodies that they couldn’t help but take advantage of. Now, while it’s obviously better to turn mistakes into points than not, doing so repeatedly doesn’t quite mean that the Gators are at the point where they want to be as a football program. (More on this later in the week.)
For now, though, we as Gator fans have earned the right to sit back and enjoy this one after five years of misery. Florida now has the SEC East in the palm of its hand, and can actually clinch the division by the end of October. That’s what’s most important.
Just a friendly reminder: in all kinds of weather means the good stuff, too.