Five things we learned from the No. 25 Florida Gators dominating win over the No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday night.
1. Antonio Morrison
For as good of a player as Antonio Morrison has been during his time in Gainesville, the weakest part of his game has always been in in coverage. With the Ole Miss passing attack coming in to Gainesville this week it appeared to be a bad matchup for Florida’s starting middle linebacker.
Au contraire, Morrison finished with a game-high 13 tackles and 3.5 for a loss, earning him National Defensive Player of the Week honors from the Walter Camp Foundation.
Morrison was all over the field for the Gators but his tackle for loss on a third and goal that forced the Rebels to settle for a field goal after an 18-play drive to open the second half was the one that set the tone for the rest of the half and game.
2. Punters are people too
Johnny Townsend was your boy last night, Gators fans.
The redshirt sophomore averaged 47 yards per punt on five kicks, had two go over 50 yards and dropped two inside the 20.
Townsend’s impact was felt immediately. After the Florida Gators offense went three-and-out to start the game Townsend’s 57-yard punt pinned Ole Miss back on their own 15-yard line.
Right off the bat Townsend flipped the field on the Rebels, the Florida defense responded with a three-and-out series of their own and the offense went on to score on their next possession.
Townsend has had some forgettable punts this season, but he was fantastic last night and made an impact.
Punters are people too.
3. Offensive line progressing
They took one on the chin against ECU and then again against Kentucky. Florida’s offensive line is young, inexperienced and as they struggled with the lesser teams on the schedule it looked like they would be a liability the rest of the season.
Then Florida’s offensive line played their best game of the year against a good Tennessee defensive front and even better against an Ole Miss front that has sure fire first round picks on the defensive line.
Enough can’t be said of the job that Mike Summers is doing to get the line playing competently and confidently as they head into the most difficult stretch of the season. If the offensive line keeps this up Florida’s offense will be one to be reckoned with the rest of the way.
4. Most unselfish team in years
Last week it was Brandon Powell getting a huge block for Antonio Callaway’s game-winning touchdown. This week Ahmad Fulwood and Callaway paved the way for a 77-yard Powell touchdown. On Vernon Hargreaves interception in the fourth quarter both Jalen Tabor and Jarrad Davis hustled to get in front of Hargreaves, diving for blocks trying to spring Vernon into the end zone.
Florida is playing unselfish football on offense defense and special teams and that is a credit to Jim McElwain and the coaching staff for instilling a sense of care, and team into the guys.
5. Quarterback battle dead and buried
The Florida Gators will release a depth chart on Monday afternoon and there will likely be an “or” in-between Will Grier and Treon Harris.
Make no mistake about it; there is no quarterback battle in Gainesville.
Grier took the battle out back, dug a hole, dropped it in there, packed some dirt on it, said a prayer and laid it to rest.
Over his last five quarters of play Grier has completed 35-of-47 pass attempts (74.4 completion %) for 412 yards, six touchdowns and no turnovers.
Harris did get into the game for a designed quarterback run but, right now, there is no imminent threat from Harris to take over Grier’s role as the starter. McElwain will continue to find ways to get Harris into the game and keep him involved, Florida still wants teams to have to prepare for two quarterbacks, but this is Grier’s team.
He’s the starter no matter what that depth chart says on Monday.