The heavy rotation helped seven different players catch passes in a 14-9 win over Kentucky. Jake McGee and Demarcus Robinson led the way with three each while Ahmad Fulwood and Brandon Powell both caught a pair of passes.
The biggest play of the night was by Antonio Callaway. Quarterback Will Grier hit the freshman deep down the middle of the field, where Callaway made a one-handed grab in stride for a 34-yard reception. Callaway added a nine-yard gain on an end around and returned one punt for 37 yards.
“We found something that was working,” Florida tight end Jake McGee said on postgame radio. “Coach Nussmeier was calling a great game and some things opened up. It’s something we probably need to capitalize on a little more, but we scored enough.”
It was especially important for a Florida offense that played five true freshmen, using as many as three freshmen offensive linemen together at times. Even beyond the first year players, the Gators had 28 players in Lexington that made their first Southeastern Conference road trip.
“A lot of those guys are going to be playing a lot of games in these kind of stadiums,” McElwain said. “As much experience as we can get them is good.
OFFENSIVE LINE ISSUES
The Florida offensive line struggled to pass protect or run block on Saturday, but McElwain is optimistic that the unit is building depth. True freshman Martez Ivey came off the bench to play in his first game after a knee injury, and freshmen Fred Johnson and Tyler Jordan continued to get playing time on the offensive line.
“We now may be able to get some pieces moving around and some continuity in there,” McElwain said. “It’s good to see. The one thing we have not been able to do is control the line of scrimmage up front. We’ve got to get some snap in our hips and start knocking people off the ball. These last two games, there’s a lack of explosive runs. We’ve got to see what it is and keep evaluating.”
Inexperience has been a problem for the offensive line, and they battled communication issues early in the season. The unit still has a long way to go and the challenges will only get more difficult as the team gets into the heart of SEC play.
“We’re up to a couple guys with three starts now and our left guard has 13 now,” McElwain said with a grin. “They’re working their tails off. We knew it was going to be a work in progress, but our guys are figuring out how to win.”
LINEBACKERS PLAY IMPORTANT REPS
Alex Anzalone (shoulder) didn’t make the trip to Lexington, leaving depth an issue for the linebacker position. Jarrad Davis and Antonio Morrison played a majority of the reps while Daniel McMillian and Jeremi Powell both came off the bench to add depth.
Davis made 10 tackles to lead the team for the second straight week.
“Those linebackers, they took a lot of reps today,” McElwain said. “To see how all of them were flying around, it’s good to see. These guys are fun to watch play. They love to play the game and care about each other.”
HARDIN STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Florida kicker Austin Hardin had his only field goal attempt blocked. After missing twice against East Carolina on September 12, the coaches remained confident in him and expected things to change.
Hardin hit a 29-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, but it didn’t count since the play clock ran out just before the snap. The officials moved Florida back five yards, and Hardin’s next kick was blocked. McElwain blamed the kicker for not getting the ball high enough.
“We’ve got to quit line driving field goals,” McElwain said. “Just get the ball up. He’s probably, in his head, missed a couple last week so of course everybody is going to panic. He’ll be back, he’ll be alright.”