GAINESVILLE -- Five years ago, Florida had a first-year coach, was undefeated and set to face-off against the No. 3 team in the country.
Alabama demolished Will Muschamp’s 12th-ranked Gators 38-10, but there would be no déjà vu Saturday night in The Swamp.
The Gators, led by the devilishly shrewd Jim McElwain, flipped the script and annihilated No. 3 Ole Miss by the exact same score (38-10) in a shocking upset.
OFFENSE - A
Will Grier was the star (24-of-29 for 271 yards and four touchdowns), but Florida’s offensive line and offensive coordinator deserve major kudos, too. Doug Nussmeier called a brilliant game, keeping Ole Miss’ aggressive and attacking defense off balance with motions, play action, boot-legs and a lot of easy reads for Grier.
Florida couldn’t really run the ball (111 yards on 34 yards), but they didn’t really have to because the OL held up well enough in pass protection. Demarcus Robinson was great (8 for 94) and Brandon Powell showed off the jets on a 77-yard score.
Grier was simply one of many sick players, but he played nasty, too. He threw four touchdowns in the first half and managed an offense that never turned the ball over and went 8-of-16 on third down.
The Gators didn’t gain many yards after halftime, but they capitalized on a couple of turnovers and ran the clock with some key first downs.
DEFENSE - A+
Mercy. Florida’s violent, swarming, mauling defense was unrelenting Saturday night. The Gators held the Rebels’ to a season-low 328 yards and just 10 points.
Quarterback Chad Kelly took a beating (4 sacks, numerous other hits) and UF’s secondary held Ole Miss’ talented receiving corps in check.
The Gators forced 4 turnovers, had 11 tackles for loss and sealed the blowout with a critical goal line stand in the third quarter.
Jon Bullard was terrific again (shocker), but fellow senior Antonio Morrison finally looked like his old self (13 tackles, 3.5 TFL). Vernon Hargreaves collected another interception and five-star freshman CeCe Jefferson nearly recovered a popup fumble (a nifty one-handed snag) for a touchdown.
All in all, it was dominant performance from a defense that prides itself as #BDN.
SPECIAL TEAMS - A
Florida’s third unit also delivered its best performance of the season. The missed PAT led to some interesting decisions, but otherwise UF was great.
Johnny Townsend averaged 47 yards on five punts and his 57-yard boot after Florida’s opening three-and-out immediately flipped field position and was an underrated play early in the game.
Jorge Powell drilled both field goal attempts and might’ve usurped Austin Hardin’s job.
The coverage units, especially punt coverage, were excellent.
OVERALL - A
A month ago, I said Florida’s opening win felt different. But nothing looked that different as UF struggled to beat East Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee. Welp ... the Gators’ days an SEC doormat appear over. McElwain is the first UF coach to start 5-0 since Steve Spurrier in 1990. The atmosphere was electric.
The Gators didn’t just win. They destroyed a consensus national title contender. I don’t know if Florida is truly back, but suddenly it doesn’t seem like we’ll have to wait so long to actually find out.
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