Gators' quarterback worries steal show from 32-0 win

There wasn’t a whole lot of celebrating Saturday night after 23rd-ranked Florida (3-0, 1-0 SEC) scored a rather uninspiring, 32-0, win over North Texas (1-2) at Steve Spurrier Florida Field. There were issues with the offensive line, troubles in the red zone and far too many penalties, but those were the least of Jim McElwain’s worries after quarterback Luke Del Rio went down at the end of the third quarter on a hit below the knees by North Texas linebacker Joshua Wheeler.

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Although Del Rio was able to walk off the field, his availability for next week’s game at Tennessee and perhaps long into the season won’t be known for another day or so.

“Luke is getting his leg looked at right now,” McElwain said at a rather subdued post game press conference. “Right now it doesn’t look great.”

The Gators were leading North Texas, 19-0, in the third quarter when Del Rio stepped up in the pocket and threw deep downfield. Wheeler was coming off the edge, partially engaged by tight end C’yontai Lewis. Whether Wheeler lost his balance and tried to finish the play by diving or deliberately tried to go low on Del Rio is debatable but it left a rather sour taste in McElwain’s mouth although he did his best to bite his tongue.

“Their guy was probably trying to make a play … it’s not something they coach, I know that,” McElwain said, but he did add that in the first two games of the season North Texas pass rushers went for the quarterback’s legs, somewhat of an unspoken taboo.

“When I see something like that, it isn’t right,” McElwain added.

When Del Rio went down, Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby came into the game and to his credit, he got the Gators in the end zone on that and Florida’s subsequent possession. His stats were modest – 2-4 for 30 passing yards, 1-5 running the ball – but his main job was to hand the ball off as the Gators pounded the ball into the end zone to make a more respectable final score.

With Del Rio potentially out, Appleby will have the chance to play in big games that actually mean something, which is the reason why he transferred from a perennial Big Ten bottom feeder to the University of Florida. McElwain noted that while prepping Appleby for his first start against 15th-ranked Tennessee (3-0, 0-0 SEC) next week, both freshmen Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks would see their workloads accelerated next week.

Even when Del Rio was in the game, Florida’s offense misfired far too much against North Texas. The Gators scored 4 touchdowns and led 19-0 at the half, but they should have had at least three more. They settled for a 22-yard field goal on their second offensive possession of the game, got stuffed at the 5 later in the first quarter and then couldn’t convert a first down on fourth and two from the North Texas 8 on their last possession of the first half.

Penalties were once again an issue. There were four false starts, three of which threw potential scoring drives off schedule and there was an illegal shift that nullified a big gainer in the passing game.

It was a night in which Florida’s defense, ranked #2 nationally coming into the game, totally dominated. The Gators gave up only 53 total yards on 50 offensive plays (1.06 per play), and never allowed North Texas to penetrate any farther than the UF 26. Through three games, the Gators have given up only 389 total yards and just 14 points.

The Gators held North Texas to just 2-13 conversions on third down and 0-2 on fourth down.


1. Florida’s pass rush was ferocious. The Gators racked up 4 sacks in the first half for 27 yards in losses including a safety by Caleb Brantley on the first possession of the game by North Texas. UF added another 3 sacks in the second half and finished the game with 7 for –53 yards.

2. It was a revolving door at running back where Mark Thompson, Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Jordan Cronkrite combined for 250 of Florida’s 255 rushing yards. All four running backs scored a TD.

3. The Gators were playing without big play wide receiver Antonio Callaway and that affected their ability to stretch the field, but UF may have discovered another deep threat in freshman Josh Hammond who had 2 catches for 72 yards. Hammond had a 53-yard reception in the first quarter that probably would have gone for a TD if he hadn’t had to wait up for the football.

4. The Gators forced 9 North Texas punts, allowed only 8 first downs and -13 rushing yards on 28 attempts.  


1. With second and goal at the North Texas 3 in the first quarter, redshirt freshman RG Richard Desir-Jones was flagged for a false start that threw the drive off schedule. Instead of a TD, Florida had to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Eddie Pineiro.

2. On Florida’s first TD drive, the Gators had a first down at the North Texas 12 but tight end C’yontai Lewis was called for holding, an obvious call right in front of the zebra.

3. On Florida’s second possession of the second quarter, the North Texas pass rush forced two incompletions. On first down from the UF 42, Luke Del Rio avoided the sack with some nifty footwork but was forced to throw the ball away. On third down, the Mean Green again got penetration against the UF offensive line and forced Del Rio to throw off balance and incomplete.

4.  On Florida’s first possession of the second half, a false start by Jawaan Taylor threw the drive off schedule on a first down from the UF 24. On third down, an illegal shift penalty nullified an 18-yard Del Rio to Brandon Powell pass. On fourth down, Del Rio threw off the back foot and incomplete.

5. Among the Gators’ 11 penalties for 97 yards were two pass interference calls on Jalen Tabor and one on Quincy Wilson.  


1. On fourth-and-2 from the North Texas 5 in the first quarter, Jim McElwain elected to go for it instead of another field goal. The offensive line got no push whatsoever and North Texas got plenty of penetration, stuffing Mark Thompson at the line of scrimmage.

2. On fourth-and-2 from the North Texas 8 just before the half, the Gators called a pass play but Roderick Young led what looked like a jailbreak of a pass rush. Del Rio barely avoided a sack then threw the ball up for grabs in the end zone. The ball was batted around by the defense before falling incomplete.

3. On Florida’s second possession of the third quarter, Luke Del Rio threw off his back foot and way behind the receiver, right into the arms of North Texas corner Nate Brooks for an interception.

4. Luke Del Rio was hit low just below the knees by North Texas linebacker Joshua Wheeler while throwing a pass downfield late in the third quarter. Wheeler was hit with a roughing the passer penalty. McElwain took exception to the play and was on the field exchanging unpleasantries with North Texas coach Seth Littrell. On the next play, left guard Martez Ivey was flagged for a personal foul when he extended a hand into the face of E.J. Ejiya of North Texas. 

5. The Gators didn’t surrender a sack, which has more to do with the quarterbacks getting rid of the ball than the offensive line providing adequate pass protection. There were far too many passes when Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby had to unload the ball because of pressure from the North Texas rush.



Safety: Mason Fine tackled in the end zone for -7 by Caleb Brantley

After the Gators punted the ball away on their first possession, North Texas took over on its own 7. After a running play was stuffed for no gain, Mason Fine dropped back to pass but was swarmed under by a fierce Florida pass rush, led by Caleb Brantley, who was credited with a safety.


Field goal: Eddie Pineiro 22 yards

The drive: 9 plays, 67 yards, 4:15 time of possession

Following the safety, the Gators drove easily to the North Texas 5 but a false start on second and goal from the 3 threw the drive off schedule to force a 22-yard field goal by Eddie Pineiro. In getting the ball to the 5 the Gators got completions of 13 and 14 yards from Luke Del Rio to DeAndre Goolsby, a pass interference penalty and a 19-yard run by Jordan Scarlett.



TD: Jordan Cronkrite 6 run; XP: Eddie Pineiro kick

The drive: 6 plays, 46 yards, 2:39 time of possession
The Gators needed six plays to drive for their first TD, overcoming a holding call along the way. Jordan Cronkrite factored in four plays, running for 24 yards on three carries and catching a little screen pass that he turned into a 15-yard gain to the North Texas 6. On the next play, Cronkrite powered in from the left side for the touchdown.


TD: Lamical Perine 2 run; XP: Eddie Pineiro kick

The drive: 5 plays, 52 yards, 2:13 time of possession

The first TD drive of the night was all about Jordan Cronkrite. The second was all about freshman running back Lamical Perine, who accounted for 48 of the 52 yards on the drive, 30 on a screen pass from Luke Del Rio and 18 on three running plays. The TD came on a 2-yard run with 3:00 left in the first half.


1. The Gators outgained North Texas 281-19, holding the Mean Green to 25 passing yards and -6 rushing.

2. Of their 23 first half offensive plays, the Mean Green only had positive yards on 6 of them. 

3. Jordan Cronkrite accounted for 59 first half yards (44 on the ground, 15 yards receiving) and Lamical Perine contributed 55 (26 rushing, 29 receiving).



TD: Mark Thompson 20 run; XP: 2-point conversion failed

The drive: 8 plays 74 yards, time of possession

On a drive in which Del Rio left the game after being hit low and Martez Ivey was ejected for a personal foul, Austin Appleby came on to direct the Gators the final four plays to get the TD. Mark Thompson got the final 57 yards on runs of 36, 1 and 20 yards.


TD: Jordan Scarlett 1 run; XP: Eddie Pineiro kick

The drive: 8 plays, 48 yards, 5:19 time of possession

Austin Appleby completed passes of 11 yards to Brandon Powell and 19 yards to Josh Hammond as the Gators ate up 5:19 off the clock to a touchdown. Jordan Scarlett became the fourth Florida running back to score a TD when he ran over the right side from 1 yard out.





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