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.
Gators announced home and home series with Cal Friday
The Florida Gators continued their philosophy of striking “home-and-home” deals with Power 5 opposition, when they announced on Friday that they will be doing so with the Cal-Berkley Bears out of the Pac-12 coming later in this decade.
The Gators made the announcement through their website and social media mid-day Friday that they will play Cal at home first and then travel to Berkeley the following year:
Coast to coast❗
🐻 at 🐊 2026
🐊 at 🐻 2027#GoGators
— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) February 7, 2020
A.D. Scott Stricklin has broken up the long tradition that Florida would only play two home out of conference games in September and usually, against much lesser competition before entering SEC play. Stricklin has been very outspoken that in the age of the College Football Playoff, strength of schedule is emphasized and the selection committee holds schools responsible for not playing top-notch out of conference opponents, at least some of the time.
With that in mind, the Gators opened the 2019 season in Orlando against the Miami Hurricanes and won a sloppy game. And, they already have other Power 5 schools laid out to play home and away.
As we previously wrote, Florida will be playing the Texas Longhorns first in Gainesville in 2030 and then. return the game the following year in Austin.
Florida had previously announced last year that they will also play the Colorado Buffaloes out of the Pac-12, again with the first game in Gainesville in 2028 and then, returning it to Boulder the following season.
It’s interesting with Friday’s announcement that Stricklin and the football program are working backwards with the schedule. And, they will now play Cal before Colorado in September of 2026, and then will be opening on the Berkeley campus the following season.
Florida and Cal have only met two times, having played first in Gainesville in 1974 as the Gators wo 21 – 17 and then, they also met in Tampa to open the 1980 season with a Florida 41-13 blowout victory.
Second National Signing Day recap for top state schools
National Signing Day 2020 has come and gone, and several in state schools were able to improve their classes heading into spring ball. The University of Florida watched rival Georgia secure the number one overall class, but the Gators were still able to land the best class in the state with the number eight class overall.
The Gators officially signed former five-star receiver Justin Shorter from Penn State, and Florida stayed in the family today as well, Xzavier Henderson officially joined the Gators. He’s the ounger brother of former DB C.J. Henderson.
Dan Mullen also able to dip into the state of Texas inking four-star DE Princely Umanmielen. It wasn’t all great news for the Gators, as they missed out on a few key guys, including losing out on arguably top state safety Avantae Williams to in state rival Miami. Overall it was a good cycle for the Gators both recruiting and in the transfer portal.
The Miami Hurricanes continued an impressive offseason on National Signing Day. The Canes made arguably the biggest move in the state by landing Williams and keeping him Florida. Williams became the highest rated Hurricane in the class and propelled the U to the number 13 spot.
Miami has the second-best class in the ACC behind Clemson. With an impressive offseason in the books, once again excitement will be in the air in Coral Gables. The question is: will they live up to it in year two for Manny Diaz?
Florida State and new coach Mike Norvell have been working hard to get this class rolling last minute. After a good early National Signing Day Norvell looked to keep the momentum going. The Noles took a big hit Wednesday though, with the loss of Venice four star WR, Malachi Wideman, who flipped to Tennessee.
The Noles came back from that by landing a handful of other recruits. They got the number six Juco running back La’Damian Webb, ass well as, Robert Scott, an offensive lineman and Corey Wren, an athlete/running back.
Replacing Cam Akers will be tough for Norvell and building the offensive line is a top priority. The former Memphis coach came in late like he did, yet he finishes with a decent class sitting at 22 on 24/7.
Now the work begins turning around the former powerhouse.