Anzalone makes a big splash in comeback for the Gators

When you miss that much time with injury the return can be a little nerve racking. If Alex Anzalone was nervous for his first game back healthy and in The Swamp Saturday night, he didn’t show it.

One of Florida’s two starting linebackers, Alex Anzalone seemed like he was everywhere and all the time. He finished with six tackles including a sack, but it seemed like he had 12 and was constantly around the ball.

Anzalone was very happy to be playing the sport he loves again.

“It was very exciting being out there with my teammates again,” he said following the Gators 24-7 win over UMass. “It felt really good. You can only imagine how it felt for me. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been almost a full year almost a full 365 days. It just felt really good. I’m just happy to get back out there with my teammates.

For the most part the Florida defense did what they should have done against the Minutemen. However, there was an early drive for a touchdown that saw key Gator errors and a couple of other plays during the contest that got away from them.

“I think we started out kind of slow,” Anzalone said. “There are a lot of things we have to clean up, but it’s part of the first game. We aren’t used to that speed lately, so we just have to watch the film on Monday.

“We were kind of prepared for what they had,” he said. “They were just playing hard caught us on a couple of things. We just had to clean it up. You have to give credit to them, they played really hard and really well.

Outside of one long pass play in the second half, the Gator defense was pretty dominant.  The defensive side of the ball wants to start a new trend of finishing strong.

“I think we’ve been in these situations before, especially the older guys last year,” he said. “The biggest thing this year is we know we have to finish and I think we finished pretty well. Some things we have to clean up and watch the film.

Anzalone was playing at a high level Saturday night, his first back with so much time off. In his second year with the Geoff Collins system, he just believes he understands where he is supposed to go and what he is supposed to better.

“I think I am more familiar with the scheme, just making calls,” he said. “We know what the coaches want and what the coaches think.”

In that second half, Anzalone came free for a sack that seemed to ignite the team and certainly lit up the crowd.

“It was good,” he said. “I think it was my first sack in The Swamp, so it was exciting. Looking back I was kind of more focused on the next play, it was 3rd and 11, so it was kind of a ‘next play’ mentality.”

There was a scare in the game. Anzalone was on the field and in some pain at one point. A guy that hasn’t been able to stay healthy was hurt again. Alas, he laughed it off in the interview session.

“I got a little cut on my hand, it was one of those things, a little booboo,” he said with a smile.

He has been through the injury thing before, and so coming back this time was just another day in life.

“I was prepared for it and knew what to expect,” Anzalone said. “It was nothing I hadn’t come back from before.”

“I was ready.”

Yes he was, and he looks to be one that the Gators can count on this season to do big things.



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