Gators win 61-13 in opener

It was a much needed performance for a team lacking offense for several years.

Maintaining a tradition that began in 1990 when the Florida Gators blew the doors off Oklahoma State, 50-7, the Florida Gators won their 26th straight season opener. For the fifth time during that same 26-year span, a new head coach got his Florida career off to a rousing start. Okay, so it was expected. New Mexico State isn’t exactly like opening the season against an SEC opponent, but this is a young team with far too many unknowns, so Jim McElwain’s 61-13 Florida head coaching debut should be considered a smashing success.

Offensively, the Gators racked up 606 yards, rushing for 224 and throwing for 382. Florida threw for four touchdowns and ran for three, averaged 7.7 yards per play – 5.3 per rush and 10.3 per pass attempt. Last year, the Gators averaged 30.3 points and 367 yards per game. The Gators averaged 4.36 yards per rush last year and only 6.7 per pass attempt.

Defensively, after a first half in which they gave up two touchdowns and 201 yards, the Gators went into a complete shutdown mode. New Mexico State didn’t make a single second half first down and finished the half with -1 total yards. The Aggies managed 72 rushing yards and 128 passing yards, averaging 3.1 per rush attempt and 4.1 per pass attempt.

The Gators were flagged for only

The Gators split the snaps between quarterbacks Treon Harris and Will Grief almost evenly. Harris, who started the game and played the first three series, finished the night with 14-19 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He also carried five times for 23 yards. Will Grier came off the bench to go 15-17 passing for 164 yards and two touchdowns, plus he ran four times for 43 yards and scored one touchdown on the ground. Third teamer Josh Grady, the Vanderbilt transfer, completed the only pass he threw for three yards, ran twice for 21 more and caught a pass for 25 yards when he was in the game at wide receiver in the fourth quarter.

The Gators ran 79 plays – 37 pass attempts and 42 rushing attempts. Kelvin Taylor led the ground attack with 54 yards on eight carries and he scored a touchdown. Taylor also caught two passes for 41 yards. Fourteen receivers caught passes with Brandon Powell leading the way with two receptions for 50 yards and a TD. Redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis grabbed two passes for 44 yards and two scores.

“There were some mistakes we need to get cleaned up,” McElwain said. “We played the game fast, physical, but we played it clean. I was really proud of that. We’ve got a long way to go as a ball club, but I’m proud of them.”

The Gators play host to East Carolina, a 28-20 season opener winner over D1AA Towson State, next Saturday in The Swamp.

FIRST QUARTER

Florida 7, New Mexico State 0; 8:21

The Gators needed only four plays to drive 63 yards for the first touchdown of 2015, a 37-yard Treon Harris to Brandon Powell pass. The touchdown was set up by an 18-yard Kelvin Taylor run that got the Gators into Aggie territory for the first time. Powell, who ran a crossing pattern from the left slot, caught the ball at the seven and slipped past two Aggie defenders to dive into the end zone for the score. Austin Hardin came on to add the extra point for a 7-0 UF lead.

Harris was 6-6 throwing the ball in the first quarter for 112 yards and ran twice for 15 more. Taylor carried three times for 24 yards and had a 43-yard reception on the final play of the quarter.

The Aggies managed three first downs and 45 total yards on their only possession of the quarter, picking up 22 yards on the ground and 23 through the air in 13 plays.

SECOND QUARTER

Florida 14, New Mexico State 0; 14:06

Taylor capped an 8-play, 89-yard scoring drive with a 9-yard touchdown run on Florida’s second play of the quarter. On the drive, Harris was 5-5 throwing the ball for 79 yards with the big play the hookup with Taylor, who turned a 12-yard pass into a 43-yard gain. Hardin’s kick gave the Gators a 14-0 lead.

Florida 21, New Mexico State 0; 10:59

Following 3-and-out and a 22-yard Aggie punt, redshirt freshman Will Grier saw the first action at quarterback of his UF career and responded with a 5-play, 50-yard scoring drive that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end C’yontai Lewis. Grier was 2-3 throwing the ball on the drive with the big play a 23-yard completion to DeAndre Goolsby that set up the TD pass to Lewis. Hardin’s third extra point of the day made it a 21-0 Florida lead.

New Mexico State 7, Florida 21; 6:28

On the first play after the Gators stopped the Aggies inches short of a first down at the UF 21 on a fourth and three, Grier’s protection broke down in the pocket and he fumbled the ball over to the Aggies, who took seven plays to get their first touchdown of the season, an 8-yard run by Larry Rose on a draw play. Parker Davidson’s extra point cut the Florida margin to 21-7 with 6:28 left in the first half.

Florida 28, New Mexico State 7; 3:17

Florida answered the New Mexico State touchdown with a 6-play, 74-yard scoring drive that showed off Grier’s ability to tuck and run. On the second play of the drive, there were no open receivers but the middle of the field opened up and Grier took off on a 38-yard jaunt to the Aggie 33. One play later, Grier connected with Antonio Calloway for 23 yards to set up a 4-yard run by Grier, who went into the end zone untouched. Hardin’s extra point made it a 28-7 game with 3:17 remaining in the half.

New Mexico State 13, Florida 28; 1:46

The Aggies made short work of the Florida defense when they took over, driving 75 yards on five plays. Rogers and Rose connected on a 40-yard screen pass that got the ball to the UF 35. On a third down in which the Aggies threw an incomplete pass, the zebras called an illegal chop block that would have been a 15-yard penalty. Florida declined and paid a price as Tyler Rogers hit Teldrick Morgan for a touchdown in the right corner of the north end zone with 1:46 to go. Davidson missed his extra point.

Florida 34, New Mexico State 13; 0:24

The Gators drove the ball 75 yards on seven plays, running the 2-minute drill to perfection to score before the half on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Grier to C’yontai Lewis. Grier was 5-6 on the drive for 61 yards. No play was bigger than a 13-yard connection with Powell on third and 12 from the Florida 37. Powell made a couple of people miss and navigated the final four yards in traffic to get the ball to midfield. After a couple of completions to Demarcus Robinson, Grier read the blitz perfectly and found Lewis wide open down the middle of the field for the easy touchdown with 24 seconds left. Hardin’s extra point was blocked.

The Gators, who averaged only 367 yards and 30 points per game in 2014, piled up 361 yards and put up 34 points in the first half. Harris was a perfect 7-7 for 119 yards and one touchdown while Grier was 9-11 for 125 yards and two scores. The Gators netted 117 rushing yards with Taylor picking up 50 on seven carries.

New Mexico State gained 201 yards against the Florida defense with 82 on the ground and 119 through the air. Larry Rose ran for 65 yards and a touchdown and had two catches for 42 yards.

THIRD QUARTER

Florida 37, New Mexico State 13; 9:25

The Florida defense showed up on the Aggies’ opening possession of the second half, forcing a 3-and-out along with the first sack of the season by Jonathan Bullard. The Gators got excellent field possession after the punt, taking over on the Aggie 42, but after a couple of first downs, the offense stalled and Hardin came on to nail a 34-yard field goal with 9:25 remaining in the third quarter.

Florida 44, New Mexico State 13; 6:31

Vernon Hargreaves III made his presence felt on the Aggies’ first play after the UF field goal. Rogers threw deep into double coverage and Hargreaves outleaped everyone for the ball at the UF 25, running the pick back to the New Mexico State 31. It took the Gators five plays to get into the end zone, a 3-yard run by freshman Jordan Cronkrite with 6:31 left. The TD was set up by an outstanding catch of a Grier pass by Alvin Bailey good for 17 yards. Hardin’s extra point extended the Florida lead to 31 points.

Florida 47, New Mexico State 13; 1:44

After the defense turned in another 3-and-out, the Gators took over on their own 48. With Harris returning at quarterback, the Gators used passes of 11 to C.J. Worton and 13 to Valdez Showers to move the ball to the Aggie 19 where the drive stalled. Hardin came on to kick his second field goal of the game from 36 yards out with 1:44 to go.

Florida gained 90 yards while holding the Aggies to -2 in the third quarter. Grier went 6-6 for 39 yards and Harris went 2-5 for 24. New Mexico State managed -8 on the ground and 6 through the air.

FOURTH QUARTER

Florida 54, New Mexico State, 13; 9:34

Harris led the Gators on an 11-play, 65-yard scoring drive following another 3-and-out by the defense. Freshman Jordan Scarlett got the TD on a 4-yard run with 9:34 remaining in the game. Harris hit a 6-yard pass to C.J. Worton to convert one third down and then hit Vandy transfer and third-team QB Josh Grady for 25 yards for a fourth down conversion that set up Scarlett’s TD.

Florida 61, New Mexico State 13; 4:23

The exclamation point on Florida’s easy win was a 7-play, 56-yard touchdown drive that put the Gators over the 60-point mark. The touchdown came on a 6-yard pass from Grier to Worton in the back of the end zone on fourth and goal with 4:23 to go in the game. Key plays on the drive were a 9-yard run and 12-yard reception by Mark Herndon and a 26-yard pass to Bailey


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