I’ll admit one thing: this inaugural 2016 “Instant Analysis” piece was not particularly enjoyable to write. Hopefully, subsequent ones will be.
Anyway, onto said instant analysis of the first game of the second season of Jim McElwain’s tenure…
It was over when: Brandon Powell juked, shimmed and tightroped the sideline for a 26 yard touchdown to put Florida up 19-7. The ensuing two point conversion was a mere formality.
Game ball goes to: Kicker Eddy Pineiro, who nailed three field goals, all in excess of 40 yards, in not just his Gator debut, but his American football debut. There’s a big difference in kicking field goals for fun in order to put on YouTube and gain some attention and kicking field goals in pressure packed situations in live game action, and hats off to Pineiro for coming through in the clutch.
Stat of the game: 27. The Gators have now won 27 consecutive season openers, which is the most in Division I college football.
What to like: other than Pineiro, you mean? Well, the Gators’ defense was pretty good for most of the night, holding UMass to just 187 yards of total offense. They did give up some costly penalties at most inopportune times, but they buckled down in the second half and really put the clamps down on Ross Comis and the Minutemen when they needed to most.
What to work on: A lot. Florida’s blitz pickup was… well, who are we kidding, Florida never did pick up the blitz to begin with. Kelvin Taylor was really good as a blocker last year, and his replacements at the tailback position struggled mightily in this area. Also, Luke Del Rio was fine, in spots, but seemed a little quick to go to his check down at others. This is something he’ll improve on at practice, but hey, you’d always rather your QB err on the side of caution. And eight penalties in one game is definitely something that needs to be addressed.
Offensive grade: C-. It was nothing short of a miracle that the Gators finished with 363 yards of offense considering how bad they were at protecting Del Rio. Without a couple of nice throws from Del Rio, and Powell’s electrifying touchdown run, this offense would otherwise have easily earned an F grade.
Defensive grade: B+. The penalties were head scratchers, but 75 of UMass’s 187 yards came on one drive. That means the Gators otherwise did a sensational job keeping the Minutemen at bay, particularly throughout a very tense third quarter, where one touchdown from UMass could have changed the entire complexion of the game.
Special teams grade: A. Come on, Pineiro didn’t do anything wrong even when given plenty of chances to (that’s the state of mind Austin Hardin left me in). And Antonio Callaway had a few solid punt returns to boot.
Bottom line: Florida was dreadful early, but finished strong. The Gators used the fourth quarter as an opportunity to start a brand new ball game and took full advantage, scoring 14 points and giving us fans a glimpse of what we were hoping to see all along.
|FLORIDA||1st 8:08||Antonio Callaway 12 yd pass from Luke Del Rio (PAT good)||0||7|
|UMASS||2nd 14:18||Ross Comis 5 yard run (PAT good)||7||7|
|FLORIDA||2nd :08||Eddy Pineiro 40 yd FG||7||10|
|FLORIDA||4th 11:14||Eddy Pineiro 49 yd FG||7||13|
|FLORIDA||4th 8:04||Brandon Powell 26 yd pass from Luke Del Rio (2 pt conv)||7||21|
|FLORIDA||4th 2:26||Eddy Pineiro 48 yd FG||7||24|