It has been a tumultuous four weeks for this team after losing starting quarterback Luke Del Rio for a few games, a second half collapse at Tennessee, travelling to Vanderbilt and squeaking by with a win, and then then having the biggest home game of the year postponed and moved to a road game later. This team needed a lopsided win and got one.
“That was a fun day out there in the park as I talked to our guys earlier about this,” McElwain led off his press conference following the win over SEC East foe Missouri. “‘Grabbing your jersey and putting the helmet on, let’s run out to our park and let’s have a good time doing it.’ There was great energy.”
The Florida defense was stifling when the starters were in the game. In the 10 possessions of the first half. The Tigers got only two first downs. They coughed up that many interceptions for touchdowns in the half.
“Obviously it starts with our defense. They did an unbelievable job of shutting them down,” McElwain said. “Defensive scores, you always have a chance to be successful and all good teams score on defense, there is no doubt about it. Just to see how they were feeding off of everything on the sideline was outstanding.”
While the defense was doing its thing, the offense was racking up yards but not getting into the end zone. By the end of the half, the defense had outscored the offense with two 14-6 if you give proper credit for field goals and extra points.
At the heart of the matter was the return of Luke Del Rio who looked to be throwing off of his back foot all night and threw three interceptions that could have been more.
“We have some work to,” said about the offense. “I thought Luke was off today, he missed a couple of reads. The turnovers were something we have to get corrected. Having eight false start penalties… wow.”
That would be the other big issue. The offense was called for eight false starts, most against the offensive line. That is an abnormally high number for any game. To be fair, Missouri had their shared of false starts as well. McElwain did give credit to Missouri’s Charles Harris, who was his usual disruptive self in the game.
“I don’t know (what it was) but we’ll get it fixed,” McElwain said. “That is what off weeks are for. We were a little off on our rhythm with our cadence. I thought a couple early had to do with their number 91, our guys were trying to jump that a little bit. I don’t know if he got some sacks or whatever I don’t know but credit him for those. That is what a great player does.”
As the game wore on and the defense was so dominant, Florida kept adding up yards and eventually the broke through. Some long explosive plays broke in the second half and McElwain said they felt they could run more, but they wanted to work on the passing game further. Outside of Scarlett’s fumble at the goal line that lost the ball, McElwain was pleased with his backs.
“I thought we wore on them a little bit,” he said. “We got some explosive runs at the end. We probably could have run it more, but we wanted to work on some things in the passing game.
Freshman running back Lamical Perine led all rushers with 106 yards on 11 carries. Jordan Scarlett was right behind with 101 yards on 12 carries. Mark Thompson also ran very well and amassed 65 yards on 10 carries. In total, Florida had 287 rushing yards on the night.
“It is nice and ball security at the end you know,” McElwain said before getting the evil look of a man ready to make someone work. “In fact I get to run Jordan Scarlett’s drill Tuesday and I am excited about that. I am sure he is looking forward to it too. At the same time, I like the way they’re competing. I like to see guys aren’t hanging their heads and when they get the opportunity they run hard. I thought they missed a couple of cuts early I also thought Mark ran hard too. The thing we have to do is get them the ball in space a little more and that’s what we’ll work on more this week.”
The biggest negative coming out of the game is the condition of senior linebacker Jarrad Davis who had a leg / ankle injury in the second half and had to be helped off the field and into the locker room. Outside of that the Gators came away relatively unscathed.
“Obviously we are wondering about Jarrad Davis,” McElwain said. “He’s getting an MRI, we haven’t gotten the results yet. It’s not broken, whatever it is. We’ll get that looked at. He was in pretty good spirits headed up to get the MRI.
“Bryan Cox did something to his thumb and we need to get the thumb guy to look at it on Monday. He did that in pregame. In his absence, some of those young guys played great.
“You didn’t see Jordan Cronkrite. He had an upper leg problem and couldn’t go.
“Tabor was fine, he was in on hands, just out precautionary (for a little bit) more than anything.
“Goolsby, I think his pinky was a little sore, but he went back in.
Young guys see the field…
One real positive when the score gets lopsided is the chance to play some of the younger guys on the team that need reps to get better. We saw a great deal of that on the defensive side of the ball Saturday.
“They got some cheap yards at the end and in fact we were able to play a ton of guys,” McElwain said. “In fact a lot of guys on the scout teams. That is such a great reward for those guys because they work their tails off. To be able to put them in a game and let them play in a place like The Swamp… that just puts a smile on my face.
And with Davis out with his injury that meant freshman David Reese also got some more time.
“David came in and he’s a guy that when he’s come in he’s showed up,” McElwain said about his previous play before Saturday. “Obviously missing Jarrad is huge, and yet, the great thing when you look at that unit is there wasn’t a panic. David came in and played with great energy, paid attention to detail and made a couple of big tackles with us.
Another young guy that got some time as Tyrie Cleveland. The freshman receiver from Houston actually got in the first series and immediately caught a 46 yard bomb from Del Rio. He finished with 79 yards on three catches and his first touchdown grab as a Gator.
“It was good to see him,” McElwain said. “He’s a talented guy, a great person, a great kid. He was struggling with injuries and then the learning curve being behind a little bit. This will be an important week for him as well as he continues to grow into that offense and truly give us another big time threat opposite Antonio (Callaway). I was really excited for Tyrie, he is a guy that really cares and excited to be here.”
Foley gets the game ball…
McElwain shared a special moment following the game that came from the locker room. The Missouri game marks the last home game for Athletic Director Jeremy Foley as the man in charge of the athletic program. His 25 years of service to the University of Florida as AD is unparalleled in the college world. The team gave him a special going away present.
“It was great in the locker room,” McElwain said. “It was Jeremy Foley’s last game in The Swamp. When you think about all of the things he’s accomplished and don for this University, the town of Gainesville, the state of Florida, it’s pretty special. To give him the game ball and see the guys stand up and give him a standing ovation, to see him break them down when it was all over, that was pretty special. That is what life is all about. To give him a win in the last time he’ll be in charge…”