Eastern Kentucky rushed for just 13 yards on its first three drives. The Gators got them into predictable passing situations and were able to bring heat off the edge to pressure quarterback Bennie Coney, who ended the game 8-19 for 43 yards.
Running back Dy’Shawn Mobley, a Kentucky transfer, scared the Gators coming into the game but ended with only eight rushes for 23 yards.
“I thought we would be able to dominate on the line of scrimmage,” Will Muschamp said. “Their back’s a good player, very good player and we worried about him getting run a little bit. We didn’t tackle as well and didn’t finish some tackles as well as I thought we should’ve, the zone read hurt us a little bit in the second quarter there. We didn’t handle the quarterback very well but other than that we played well.”
Even though it was Senior Day, it was the young players on defense that stole the show late. Sophomore Joey Ivie was third on the team with six tackles. Freshman Gerald Willis had five tackles and two quarterback hurries.
Redshirt sophomore Alex McCalister was dominant in the pass rush, making two sacks and three tackles for a loss with one quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. The Gators will need another strong offseason out of him to try replacing what Dante Fowler has brought to the defense this year.
“Alex McAllister continues to build on his explosive power and adding a little weight, he’s going to be a good football player,” Muschamp said. “He can flip his hips in the rush and he’s a guy that needs to come on. Every snap he gets he’s going to get better.”
Freshman cornerback Quincy Wilson had one pass breakup and Alex Anzalone, who earned the start with linebackers Neiron Ball and Jarrad Davis out for the season, made three tackles and one tackle for a loss. Defenisve tackle Caleb Brantley had another big day, making one tackle for a loss and forcing a fumble.
Add a young secondary to that group, and the next coach at Florida is taking over a defense with plenty of talent.
“The secondary is all back,” Muschamp said about next year. “Quincy (Wilson) and Jalen (Tabor). (Tabor) got that ball out in the end zone but he should have intercepted that one ball in the end zone. I’ve seen him make that play a lot. Then the young safeties are going to be very good. Keanu’s still got a bit of a tweak of the ankle I think he’s going to be fine. We held him to the second half he probably could have played but we held him.”
Marcell Harris had two tackles on Saturday and has been a force on special teams, especially kickoff coverage. He’s a redshirt freshman on the roster, but Muschamp said he’s actually a true freshman on the field because his knee kept him out of action all of last year.
“It’s just hard right now especially at safety with all we do and all the communication things we do it’s hard to play as a true freshman,” Muschamp said.