Florida’s season opener started out with jubilation, and then was mired in frustration. On a night where “The Head Ball Coach” was honored with the renaming of the Swamp to Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. It was hardly an effort Spurrier would’ve been proud of.
Steve Spurrier was the best honorary Mr. Two Bits since George Edmondson hung up his orange and blue tie. Spurrier gave an invigorating speech prior to the game, exclaiming “Only the Gators get alive.” Spurrier’s Usain Bolt impression is a moment that will live forever in the minds of the Gator Nation.
Luke Del Rio showed poise in the pocket in his first collegiate start going 29/44 for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was able to pick up secondary receivers, yet at times tried to force throws in to double coverage. The big thing is, he didn’t turn the ball over. Del Rio will need to improve his accuracy going in to SEC play.
Eddy Pineiro was worth the hype. It may be the first game of the season, but the JUCO transfer was a perfect 3/3 with field goals from 40,49,48 yards. Pineiro showed leg strength by booting kickoffs to the back of the end zone. Pineiro’s energy is a secondary attribute which should bring a big boost to the Gators and the fan base. Head Coach Jim McElwain and the program has finally found that elusive kicker
Brandon Powell’s 7 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown proved to be big. Powell took advantage of being the secondary receiver to Antonio Callaway. The touchdown came in crunch time in the fourth quarter. Del Rio hit him on a pass in the flat, and a pretty spin move later, Powell took it to the end zone.
The Gators defense against the run was impressive, surrendering 1.3 yards per carry. Alex Anzalone (R-Jr) was able to time out snaps to get in to the backfield. Jabari Zuniga (R-Fr) gave a big push up the middle to get to the quarterback for 2 sacks. The Minutemen were held 1 for 11 on 3rd down.
The Gators paid UMass $1.2 million to put a scare in to them. Florida were 35-point favorites on Steve Spurrier’s night and they didn’t play up to their capability. Or maybe they did and that is a scary outlook for the season.
McElwain will need to solve the penalty problem. 8 penalties for 80 yards allowed UMass to move the ball easily down the field. Two 3rd down penalties proved costly.
The right side of the offensive line struggled. Tyler Jordan and Fred Johnson allowed UMass to get too much pressure on Del Rio in the pocket.
Outside of Scarlett, the rushing attack was unimpressive averaging 3.7 yards per carry against lesser talented UMass.
The Gators survived and advance, keeping all championship possibilities alive. In the eyes of the Gators faithful, that is all that really matters.
Del Rio looked like he can run the offense efficiently. His weapons of Callaway, Powell and Scarlett flashed their big play ability. Yet, the 363 total yards of offense is nearly fifty-percent of what Florida tallied in last years’ opener.
Florida improved the nations longest winning streak in season openers to 27-0. Now the Gators will look to extend the SEC longest winning streak over anyone opponent to 30 straight over Kentucky next week.