Florida Football is fun again

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Picture Courtesy of Ryan Jones

It had been 336 days since Florida last won a football game. On Saturday afternoon in The Swamp, Gator Nation let out a huge collective sigh of relief – and excitement – as Will Muschamp’s guys absolutely demolished Eastern Michigan, 65-0.

After some weather forecasts called for a 100% chance of rain in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon, many Florida fans were hoping lightning wouldn’t be a factor either. We didn’t need that, especially not for a second straight week. But the football gods finally found favor in the Orange and Blue as the dark clouds somehow skirted around Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The sun even peeked through for a while; it was hot, but I doubt anyone in venue objected to the temperature. We were watching football – and high quality football at that.

Check out these numbers courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info:
-65 points are the most since 2008
-655 total yards are the most since 2010
-33 pass completions and 47 pass attempts are both the most since 2002
-6 plays of 30+ yards are the most since 2008

11 different players hauled in a pass, with Demarcus Robinson leading the way with 6 catches for 123 yards and a TD. No player had more than 10 carries on the ground, but the top three rushers (Taylor, Jones and Brown) each had a run over 30 yards and the Gators as a whole racked up 259 rushing yards. The passing game was solid too. I don’t think Jeff Driskel played all that great (just 5.5 yards per completion), but he avoided silly turnovers was efficient enough (68% completions) to make Gator fans very happy. Freshman QB Treon Harris may have had the best mop-up performance ever: 2 for 2, 148 yards and 2 TDs. One of those was a nice deep ball to Robinson who shrugged off the defender and walked into the end zone, and the other was a post pattern bullet to Mark Herndon, who split the safeties and housed it.

That defense played alright too. They held EMU to 125 total yards, forced 5 turnovers and pitched their first shutout since 2012. 31 different defensive players saw the field. D.J. Durkin’s crew played angry and executed the schemes to near-perfection. Linebacker Neuron Ball led the way with six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Freshman DB Duke Dawson had a pick six in his first career game. That is what an SEC defense is supposed to do against a much weaker opponent. Not much more needs to be said, other than that Gator Nation should feel confident about this unit moving forward.

Sans two kickoffs out of bounds from Austin Hardin, special teams were very good. Fresh off his brand new scholarship, Francisco Velez went 3 for 3 on his field goals and Kyle Christy punted the ball like he did in 2012. In other news, the sky is blue, water is wet and Andre Debose is still very dangerous in the return game. The sixth year senior nearly sent the stadium into a frenzy in the 3rd quarter with a punt return that made at least five EMU defenders look silly. It was #4 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays, and probably could have been #1 if he reached the end zone. Regardless, we’ll see Debose do plenty of that this season.

Now before fans start touting UF as a team that could win the SEC after one game, Eastern Michigan is not exactly a quality football team. In Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida, his teams have usually had issues with penalties. That did not change on Saturday: 10 penalties for 100 yards. It was overshadowed by the great play in every other aspect of the game, but it’s something that should be noted. The Gators did not exit the day unscathed on the injury front either. Heralded tight end transfer Jake McGee brought a lot of promise to the position that was virtually non-existent last season, but he went down in the second quarter with a broken leg. He is out for the season. Left tackle D.J. Humphries also sustained a bone chip in his ankle that will sideline him for two to three weeks (that may include the Alabama game). In 2012, the big motto from Muschamp in reference to injuries was “man down, man up.” In 2013, it seemed like it was just “man down, man down.” We shall see what happens in 2014.

For now there are positives aplenty for Florida fans, who have justifiable reason to be very excited about Kurt Roper’s offense as they face tougher defenses down the line. Something else that should be fun? This week’s Chomp Chat podcast (Episode 1 | Episode 2)! SHAMELESS PLUG! We’d love to get your thoughts on the Eastern Michigan game and what you might expect to see against Kentucky next Saturday, so shoot us an email at thechompchat@gmail.com and we’ll address your question on the program. Also, our question of the week from the previous show: What’s the strangest scenario (weather or otherwise) you’ve encountered at a University of Florida athletic event? Send your stories to that same address. Be sure to tune into the show and share with your friends!

P.S. If you’re attending the game against Kentucky, WEAR ORANGE!

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