Florida 61, New Mexico State 13: Gators kick-start Jim McElwain era with rout

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Over the past four years, giving up two touchdowns in a game seemed to be something of a death sentence. After all, the 13 points the Gators gave up last night would have been enough for the other team to win nine games in Will Muschamp’s four year tenure.

But enough about Muschamp and his failures. This is a new era, and from a pure numbers standpoint, one that started better than any other in Gator history.

Florida used both QB’s to combine for over 400 yards of offense, Vernon Hargreaves picked off his seventh pass as a Gator and Florida hammered New Mexico State, 61-13. Those 61 points were the most scored by any Gator coach’s team in his inaugural game as Head Gator. Only Ron Zook (51 against UAB in 2002) and Steve Spurrier (50 against Oklahoma State in 1990) have even come close. Take from that what you will.

As you probably heard, the Gators were staging an audition for the QB position throughout this game. Will Grier and Treon Harris both played pretty well, I thought, but there were some significant differences. (Much more on that tomorrow.) However, as McElwain stated several times, the QB position wasn’t the most important thing last night. Winning the game was. And Florida took care of that pretty quickly.

Harris got the start, and Florida opened the game by going nowhere thanks to an awful snap from center Cam Dillard that cost the Gators 12 yards, but after that, things quickly got out of hand. On the next drive, receiver/running back Brandon Powell lost himself behind the Aggie defense, and Harris found him:

In a cosmic sort of way, that touchdown pass was probably what hurt Harris the most. Better defenses aren’t going to bust coverages that badly, and even if they do, their defensive backs are going to be fast enough to recover to break that pass up or pick it off. Harris floated that ball. I mean, he just put up a rainbow. Instead of giving DB’s the time to make up for getting beat by getting over to the ball’s landing spot as it harmlessly sails through the air like a frisbee, you’ve got to punish them for being so out of position by getting the ball to your receiver as quickly as you can. The right throw on that play is a bullet that Powell catches in stride, so he doesn’t have to break his route and then twist back around and dive for the pylon. But I’m nitpicking. Back to the game.

Kelvin Taylor scored on the next drive from 10 yards out, and then it was time to switch quarterbacks. With  Grier at the controls, the Gators went flying right down the field, and the drive ended with this:

That’s the right throw. Tight window, but C’yontai Lewis was open enough for Grier to fit it in there and he didn’t hesitate and stuck it in there. Great job.

New Mexico State would fight back, sort of. On the next drive, the Aggies forced a fumble by collectively beating Florida’s offensive line, (yep, here we go) strip sacking Grier and then recovering the fumble; running back Larry Rose scored a few plays later. Grier answered by guiding the Gators down the field for another touchdown to make it 28-7, but the Aggies responded again. QB Tyler Rogers led New Mexico State down the field, but the drive stalled in Florida territory and the Aggies faced a 4th and 6. Aggie coach Doug Martin elected to go for it, and Rogers paid it off with a 31 yard touchdown pass to Teldrick Morgan behind the Florida secondary.

But then the Gators put the game away, as Will Grier found a streaking Lewis behind the New Mexico State defense for the second time to make it 34-13 at halftime (NMSU missed their PAT, Florida had theirs blocked). And that was pretty much that; New Mexico State had no more answers.

Grier stayed out there to begin the second half, leading Florida to a touchdown and a field goal to make it 44-13 before turning the reins back over to Harris. The touchdown came after Vernon Hargreaves made an incredible play, high pointing a deep lob down the middle of the field to grab his 7th career pick, and then returned it 43 yards deep into NMSU territory. That set up Jordan Cronkrite’s first touchdown as a Gator.

Harris then came back out to finish the game. He led the Gators for a field goal, and then drove them all the way down the field, where the other prized freshman running back named Jordan got his first touchdown as a Gator:

OK, we get it. Florida won by a lot. Now for some general analysis.

Florida’s defense was fine, for the most part. I didn’t really like watching the Gators get burned on a 4th and 6 for a 31 yard touchdown, as it brought back memories of last year, but I can’t complain about giving up exactly 200 yards of total offense, even against such a bad team. The touchdown aside, there were very few busts in coverage, and the defensive line was outstanding. On one play, Cece Jefferson literally threw an offensive lineman to the ground on his way to the backfield, which was awesome. And when the Aggies did get the ball to playmakers in space, the Gators’ defenders did a great job flagging them down and making the open field tackles. So that’s always good to see.

Offensively, I was pretty happy with the way things went. Florida gained 606 yards of total offense. That should tell the story right there, even though- again- New Mexico State’s defense is notoriously awful. Both QB’s looked good enough to lead the team to a successful season (Grier looked a little better, but again, more on that tomorrow). Florida also appeared to find two quality running backs who are ready to contribute right away behind Kelvin Taylor. We know Taylor is a great running back, and we know the two Jordans are very talented and have a great chance to someday be very good, but I wasn’t sure how good they’d be as freshmen having to learn on the fly. But both of them really impressed, combining for 58 yards on 13 carries and looking more than adequate in pass protection.

The passing game (despite a meh performance from the much maligned offensive line) also looked good. Not only does Florida seem to have two adequate-or-better QB’s, but we saw several playmakers emerge last night. Antonio Callaway, CJ Worton and Alvin Bailey all stepped up and made multiple receptions. As a matter of fact, fourteen different Gators caught a pass. Fourteen. How about that?

Specifically, the Gators appear to have three tight ends capable of inflicting heavy damage in the passing game in Jake McGee, C’yontai Lewis and DeAndre Goolsby. Each of them caught at least two passes, and two of those were touchdown passes to Lewis. Gooslby also impressed with this video game esque move:

And finally, how about the discipline showed by the entire Gators team? I ragged on our previous coach for the myriad of penalties his team committed on a weekly basis, which, sure enough, would eventually prove to cost them some games. I even noticed it in the very first game he coached. Last night, however, the Gators had just one penalty marked off against them. One. That, maybe even as much as the offensive explosion, is a good sign as we move ahead.

The 61-13 win, despite being the most points scored in a Gator coach’s debut, was by no means perfect, and it by no means indicates that Florida is ready to compete for championships. What it does mean is that the Gators are off to a good start. There’s some growing to do, and some improvements to make. But the growing and improvements are going to be made off of a good starting point. We are moving forward from a very good beginning.

And that, more than the lopsided win, is something to be happy about.

9 thoughts on “Florida 61, New Mexico State 13: Gators kick-start Jim McElwain era with rout

  1. Maybe the Gators do have two QB’s they can win with. But if one is better as Grier looked to be, why keep going with the two QB rotation? Yeah if the Patriots have Tom Brady and Philip Rivers they can win wih both of them, but why fuck around with giving Rivers all sorts of shots? You’ve got Brady. OK so no, Grier isn’t a proven hall of fame QB like Brady but it’s the same principle. Just because you’ve got two guys who you can win with doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to drag this QB battle on and on and on at the expense of stealing reps from the guy that’s better but still young and could therefore really use them.

    FTR: I like Harris a lot as a guy. He seems really chill. And if something were to happen to Grier and Harris had to take over, I’d still feel pretty good about our chances.

    1. It could be about bringing along Grier slowly while going with the guy who has experience. Remember, Danny Wuerffel was clearly better than Terry Dean but Dean had experience and they brought Wuerffel along slowly. Not to suggest Grier will be the second coming of DW just saying there is a precedent

  2. As thrilling as it was, I’m throwing *almost*everything out because it was, after all, against a glorified high school opponent.
    What I took away were the things that had nothing to do with the opponent:
    1- the unbelievable discipline. 3 called penalties, w/only 1 enforced?!
    2- the flow of the offense. They stayed out of their own way and executed!
    3- the obvious lack of self-inflicted errors.
    4- and the electricity at BHG!
    They aren’t back, not even close. But to build a solid house, you have to have a strong foundation. Last night, the concrete was poured and looks about as good as it can.
    UF is positioned perfectly with their schedule to continue building that foundation. This scrimmage is followed by our bowl opponent from last year, then an ease into SEC play w/UK, then what should be their first true difficult test.. against a resurgent UT squad.
    I am 100% on board with Coach Mac. He is in the direct blood line of Saban, and I liken UF’s fortunes to that of Alabama. Saban came in in 07 and began to rebuild a vastly disappointing UA program that hadn’t seen sustained success under the previous coach. Sound familiar?
    In his first season, he had marginal success, but by season 2 the Tide was already back to juggernaut status (Tebow & UF made sure their return to the top was delayed by a year).
    This is what I envision for Mac’s tenure.
    He’s off to about as good a start as I could have dreamed.
    Go Gators!

    1. That’s a common misconception that he is from the Saban bloodline; he was already somewhat established when Saban plucked him. He is more the John L Smith bloodlines who learned process management from Saban

      1. You have a point, T. Won’t argue he cut his teeth on Smith’s staff before Saban’s. But, if we’re going to split hairs, then might as well say he is actually of the Dick Zornes family tree since he spent over a decade years with him first as a player then coach.
        Point being, let’s not squabble over the minute details. 🙂

  3. To take anything away from this game is ludicrous. There was only one thing to take away, and that was the massive reduction in penalties. That bodes well for the futurw, but even that should be taken with a grain of salt because UF wasn’t playing anyone that might make someone nervous enough to make a mistake. I didn’t watch the game, and won’t, because there is no reason to do so. If you recall, UF was more impressive in last years opener, passing for more yards, higher total offense, more points, and pitched a shutout. That game, like this one was completely meaningless.
    WE don’t have a clue if this team is better, worse, or about the same as last year’s team yet. We will learn something this week. UF is a two touchdown favorite, which means that UF is considered to be about a touchdown better than East Carolina because UF gets about a touchdown for playing at home, or, at least, it used to. It’s been a while since the “Swamp” intimidated anyone.
    We found out that last year’s opening game was meaningless very quickly when UF struggled to score a field goal in the first half against the mighty Kentucky defense.
    I don’t know if UF’s offense is better this year since there isn’t any valid data to interpret. Just like I won’t go to a bullfight or watch Christians against lions, i refuse to watch farces like the one displayed on Saturday night. A play without a script by bad actors with zero drama or plot twists is pretty boring to me and I’m amazed anyone ever pays to see such rubbish.

    1. You sure can take something away from this. Despite all the bumps they are sure to endure this year they trotted out an offense from this century. That’s a start

    2. snowprint, how can you say there was nothing to take away from the game when you didn’t watch? To symbolically wave your hand as if it’s almost a non-event is confusing. How in the world can you know anything if you didnt watch game 1? I take it, then, since a game that counts in the standings doesnt interest you that you didnt bother to watch the practices or the O & B game either? Do you rely on nothing but the media to feed you the info on the team you follow, then?
      Not to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do when it comes to your favorite cfb team, of course. It’s your time not mine.
      But, I for one watched not because I wanted to see them win or even see how many points they scored. I watched because I wanted to see if the offense they put on the field was actually different from what was out there a year ago. To see how the routes were run, to see what the timing was like, to see if there was any improvement in the blocking or the other fundamentals that were so sorely lacking over the past several years. I watched to see if this team had a direction.
      Now, you can go watch a few highlights on espn, or read the box score, or even listen to some talk shows about what UF did on Saturday to get your information. What you’ll never see now is the flow of the game. How the team, from one play to the next, interacted and performed. You’ll never know, for sure, the direction they’re headed unless you watched the game in its entirety. You now will never feel the electricity of 90k+ in the stands because you didn’t experience it live.
      So, don’t come on here and lecture anyone about this or any game you didnt bother to waste your time watching. And to call it “rubbish” is an insult. So for that, F*ck Off.

  4. The main thing is the drop in penalties and self destruction. Just shows what a real head coach can do.

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