Miami and Florida gave us everything you would expect from a college football game in August.
There were penalties left and right. There was horrendous tackling. There was terrible offensive line play. There were a ton of turnovers. But somebody had to win, and that somebody was Florida, 24-20.
The Gators overcame four horrific turnovers, including an inexplicable interception from Feleipe Franks with 4:30 to play, to miraculously pull out the victory. Franks’ interception gave Miami the ball at UF’s 40-yard line with a chance to go in front. But Miami’s ensuing drive gained minus-two yards. Yes, minus-two.
Miami committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the interception return, and then had a block in the back two plays later. By the time the drive ended, Hurricanes QB Jarren Williams had been sacked three times. Only two Florida pass interference penalties kept Miami’s hopes alive. But with Miami’s struggling offensive line, Williams, a redshirt freshman making his first career start, didn’t have much of a chance.
A game of turnovers
Florida controlled play early, but kept the Hurricanes in the game with two fumbles (hello, new turnover chain). The second fumble led to a Miami field goal. Later in the second quarter, Williams delivered a 25-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brevin Jordan to cap off a 90-yard drive and give his team a 13-7 lead at halftime.
Florida cut the lead to 13-10 in the third quarter and then went ahead thanks to a muffed punt from Miami receiver Jeff Thomas.
The miscue gave the Gators the ball in the red zone, and Franks put his team ahead with an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Lamical Perine.
On the next series, the horrific tackling that plagued Florida all night showed up when DeeJay Dallas broke through at least five defenders on a 50-yard touchdown run to put the Hurricanes ahead, 20-17.
not the best display of tackling I've ever seen pic.twitter.com/mAgeZnFslZ
— Sam Cooper (@SamDCooper) August 25, 2019
And on the ensuing possession, Franks threw an interception to give Miami the ball and a chance to take a two-score lead.
But that didn’t happen — even after an unnecessary roughness penalty on Florida gave the Hurricanes a first-and-10 from the UF 11-yard line. Instead, Bubba Baxa missed a point blank field goal.
When Florida got the ball back, Franks made Miami pay. He first hit Josh Hammond for a 65-yard gain. Two plays later, he ran it in from three yards out to put the Gators back in front, 24-20, with 8:18 to play.
That proved to be the winning score, but plenty of silliness happened between then and the final whistle. Miami advanced to the Florida 30, but turned it over on downs with 4:30 to go. Instead of trying to run out the clock, Dan Mullen went to the air. Franks threw into triple-coverage and Romeo Finley picked him off.
That decision drew this reaction from Steve Spurrier:
STEVE SPURRIER IS INCREDULOUS pic.twitter.com/6xG3iDT4px
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) August 25, 2019
Miami had one final chance after Franks’ gaffe, but the offense went nowhere and Florida was able to eke out a victory.
What did we learn about Florida?
More than anything, Florida avoided an ugly, ugly loss and won a game it was supposed to win. Florida looked like the better team early, but two fumbles — completely unforced by Miami, by the way — kept points off the board and Miami in the game.
The Gators showed some potential for explosive plays on offense, especially when the ball gets to Kadarius Toney. But Franks — a guy who looked much-improved late last season — had a rough night. He forced things. He took unnecessary risks. He couldn’t keep his emotions in check. It could have been a case of being overly amped up for a season-opener against a rival, but he is supposed to be a leader of the team. If the Gators are going compete with Georgia for an SEC East crown, Franks needs to be better. Much better.
On defense, it’s tough to gauge if Florida has a really strong defensive line or if Miami’s offensive line is really bad. I’m leaning a little more toward the latter, but 10 sacks is nothing to sneeze at. But the line and its ability to get in the backfield was the difference in the game. The tackling from the back seven was bad — especially when UF’s defensive backs needed to come up and make a play. Looking at you, C.J. Henderson.
What did we learn about Miami?
Let’s start on a positive note. Jarren Williams showed why he won the starting quarterback competition. He showed poise. He showed escapability. He showed toughness. And he showed he can make a variety of throws. Dan Enos, Miami’s new offensive coordinator, got Williams into a rhythm early by calling an array of short passes.
But as the game progressed, Miami’s young offensive line just could not give him the necessary time to make throws. The line is going to be a big issue — one the coaching staff is going to have to account for in its game plan on a weekly basis.
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