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“Obviously, we’ve got a long way to go,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said in his post game press conference.
Although Florida outgained UMass 363-187, the Minutemen were able to stay on the field enough to keep the UF offense sidelined.
“UMass and Coach (Mark) Whipple stayed with their game plan, took the air out of the ball and caused us some issues,” McElwain said.
Add that to a number of self-inflicted wounds and the Gators weren’t nearly as efficient as they should have been. Still, it was a win with a quarterback making the very first start of his collegiate career and the defense gave up only one scoring drive all night.
Del Rio completed 29-44 passes for 256 yards with no turnovers. Jordan Scarlett led Florida’s 107-yard rushing attack with 70 yards on 13 carries. The Gators registered 21 first downs, held onto the ball for 31:59 and converted 9-17 on third down.
McElwain was not happy with Florida’s penalties, which helped UMass score a touchdown and killed a couple of potential touchdown drives.
“I’m not happy at all with the penalties, especially the three personal fouls,” McElwain said. “That’s not how you’re going ot play winning football and that’s disappointing.”
Next up for the Gators is Kentucky (0-1) next Saturday. The Wildcats, who haven’t beaten the Gators since the Ronald Reagan administration, blew an 18-point halftime lead and lost to Southern Mississippi, 44-35, Saturday night.
1. The winning streak for season openers was extended to 27 straight seasons. The last time the Gators lost a season opener was 1989 when Ole Miss beat UF, 24-19.
2. UF didn’t turn the ball over. Florida fumbled the ball once but recovered its own miscue and Luke Del Rio didn’t throw an interception.
3. If game one is an indication of things to come, then the kicking problems have been solved by Eddie Pineiro, who kicked field goals of 40, 49 and 48 yards in the fourth quarter and both his extra points. Only two of Pineiro’s six kickoffs were returned. Pineiro had never kicked a field goal or extra point in a real football game other than Florida’s spring game back in April.
4. Del Rio showed plenty of poise as well as the ability to unload the football rather than take a sack. He went down only once and that was clearly the fault of his protection, not because he held onto the ball too long.
5. The Gators have a potential terror off the edge in Jabari Zuniga, who scored a couple of sacks late in the game when the UF defense took control.
6. The Gators got an exceptional effort out of linebacker Alex Anzalone, who had six tackles, a sack and a batted pass.
7. Johnny Townsend punted four times for a 44.5 average with coverage holding UMass to 9 yards on 2 returns.
1. WR Dre Massey was taken to the locker room with a knee injury in the first quarter and never returned. CB Duke Dawson went to the locker room with an arm injury in the first quarter and he never returned.
2. The Gators left points on the field when the O-line couldn’t convert on a fourth-and-1 at the UMass 6 in the second quarter and then committed a holding penalty and gave up a sack in the fourth quarter when the Gators seemed to be driving to a touchdown.
3. The Gators committed 3 penalties for 35 yards to help UMass on its lone touchdown drive of the game. Overall, the Gators committed 8 penalties for 80 yards in losses.
4. UF had a serious coverage bust that gave up a 53-yard gain when the Gators had UMass backed up under the shadow of its own goal line in the second quarter.
5. The Gators failed to wrap up UMass QB Ross Comis in the first quarter, allowing him to escape and score the only TD of the game for the Minutemen.
1. Martez Ivey whiffed on a kickout block on the fourth-and-1 at the 6, costing UF a first down carry.
2. Mark Thompson dropped a couple of passes including one on third down from the UMass 10 in the second quarter.
3. Fred Johnson had a blatant hold right in front of the officials that resulted in a 16-yard change in field position. On the play Jordan Cronkrite ran for 6 yards to the 12 but instead the play came back and the Gators were sent back to the 28.
4. On the next play, there was a complete breakdown in the pass protection and Del Rio was hit and lost the ball. Del Rio did recover the ball and only the next play Pineiro hit his 49-yard field goal.
5. There was a stretch in the second quarter when Del Rio missed on 6 consecutive passes.
6. On their first possession of the game, the Gators moved easily to the UMass 48 where a fumble and a throwaway by Del Rio caused by inadequate protection stalled the drive.
7. On the Gators first possession of the second half, bad protection forced Del Rio to scramble on third-and-6. He was stopped for a 1-yard gain and the Gators had to punt.
8. A Jordan Cronkrite run of 10 yards was nullified by a hands to the face personal foul by Ivey. Instead of first down at midfield, the Gators were second-and-18 at their own 25.
Florida 7, UMass 0; 3:57
TD: Luke Del Rio 12 pass to Antonio Callaway; Eddie Pineiro kick
The first touchdown pass of Luke Del Rio’s Florida career was a 12-yarder to Antonio Callaway to finish off an 11-play, 71-yard drive that took 5:31 off the clock. On the drive, Del Rio went 5-5 passing for 52 yards plus he carried twice including a 4-yard gain on a quarterback sneak on fourth down at the UMass 16 to keep the drive alive. Big plays on the drive were an 18-yard completion to Brandon Powell and a 13-yard Del-Rio to Ahmad Fulwood completion.
UMass 7, Florida 7; 14:18
TD: Ross Comis 5 run, 14:18
Mike Caggiano kick
Officially the UMass scoring drive covered 75 yards in 9 plays, but the Florida defense aided and abetted the Minutemen with four penalties – roughing the passer, personal foul hands to the face and two offside – that advanced the ball 40 yards. The big play of the drive was a 24-yard pass from Ross Comis to Jalen Williams on a fourth and 14 that gave the Minutemen a first down on the UF 12. Two plays later, Comis avoided a sack and scrambled into the end zone for the TD.
Florida 10, UMass 7; 0:08
FG: Eddie Pineiro 40
After their best defensive series of the first half, the Gators got the ball with great field position after Antonio Callaway returned a punt 17 yards to the UF 47. The Gators picked up a couple of first downs thanks to a 10-yard pass from Del Rio to Freddie Swain and an 12-yard Del Rio connection with Callaway that gave the Gators a first down on the UMass 25. But, the drive stalled there and that brought on Eddie Pineiro, who drilled a 40-yarder with 0:08 left in the half. Pineiro had nailed a 28-yarder earlier in the quarter but the points were taken off the board after an offside penalty against UMass. McElwain elected to gamble that the Gators could convert a fourth-and-1 at the 6, but Martez Ivey missed a kickout block and Mark Thompson was stopped for a 1-yard loss.
Florida 13, UMass 7; 11:14
FG: Eddie Pineiro 49
Pineiro’s second field goal of the game, a 49-yarder that would have been good from at least 55, came after a promising drive stalled out due to a holding penalty on Fred Johnson and a missed block on third down that led to a sack and fumble by Del Rio put the ball back on the UMass 31. Pineiro came on and drilled the field goal which easily cleared the crossbar.
Florida 21, UMass 7; 8:04
TD: Luke Del Rio 26 pass to Brandon Powell; Del Rio to Freddie Swain 2-point conversion.
After the UF defense forced a 3-and-out, the Gators were given excellent field position at the UMass 46 thanks to a 15-yard punt return by Callaway. After four straight running plays moved the ball to the 26, Del Rio threw a bubble screen to Powell, who spun out of a tackle and raced down the sideline for UF’s second touchdown of the night with 8:04 to go in the game. When the Gators elected to go for two, Del Rio connected with Swain for the conversion that made it a 14-point game.
Florida 24, UMass 7; 2:26
FG: Eddie Pineiro 48
After the UF defense shut down the Minutemen once again, the Gators took over on their own 30 and drove to the UMass 31 where the drive stalled out, bringing on Pineiro once again. With fans in the stands chanting “Eddie! Eddie!” Pineiro delivered with his second field goal of the game from 48 yards out.