GAINESVILLE -- Whew.
A week after rain and lightening soiled Florida's original opener, the Gators poured points on poor Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon in The Swamp.
It was a pay-day game (EMU received $850,000 for the beatdown), but UF badly needed a frustration release.
The Gators couldn't have asked for a better opponent, as the Eagles were awful and played scared the whole game.
The "statement win" deserves an asterisk, but the Gators don't care.
OFFENSE - A
Holy moly. Kurt Roper's revamped unit gashed EMU's pitiful defense, gaining 655 yards on a swift 86 snaps. The quartet of tailbacks scored five touchdowns, while 11 different receivers caught passes. Demarcus Robinson is the truth (the hype was legit this time, wow!). The Gators didn't hold anything back (no vanilla talk this year), but perhaps the most encouraging sign for the offense is that is still has legitmate issues to sort out ... yet scored seven touchdowns. Jeff Driskel wasn't a world-beater (continues to struggle with his progressions, accuracy comes and goes) and the offense stalled several times in the redzone.
DEFENSE - A
The Gators pitched a shutout. You can't do any better than that. [I wrote that last week, still stands.] Florida forced five turnovers, its front-four dominated the line of scrimmage and it yielded just two plays inside its own territory. The Gators tallied nine tackles for loss, as the Eagles appeared terrified to run or pass. UF's youthful secondary was never challenged. One negative, several stupid penalties could come home to roost in the future.
SPECIAL TEAMS - A
Frankie Velez was perfect kicking field goals (3-3, although his kicks look like ducks every time), and Kyle Christy was sharp in his return as Florida's starting punter. The kickoff coverage unit had some issues, but maybe they were just tired running down the field so many times.
Andre Debose's electrifying 55-yard punt return was a top 10 play on ESPN. The sixth-year senior finally looks healthy and could be a lethal returner all season. The directional kicks didn't work (Austin Hardin booted the ball out of bounds twice), but that's just nitpicking.
OVERALL - A
EMU stinks. Really stinks. But the Gators needed to release some rage following a miserable 4-8 season. We'll see soon enough if Saturday's performance was real or a mirage. The cynicism can wait a week.
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