In their final game in The Swamp, Florida’s seniors made some of the greatest contributions Saturday towards the Gators’ 23-0 win against Jacksonville State.
While the offense once again stumbled throughout the game, Florida’s defense played to its usual high standards and held the Gamecocks scoreless.
Neither performance was much of a surprise. All season long, the Gators (10-1, 7-1 SEC) have shown they are not the kind of team that can regularly win games in blowout fashion, regardless of its opponent’s quality.
Though Florida’s scoring numbers against JSU might seem like a lackluster way for the Gators to close their home schedule, they put up enough points on an upset-filled weekend to ensure they still have plenty to play for.
QUARTERBACKS — C
Making his second start this season for an injured Jeff Driskel, sophomore quarterback Jacoby Brissett did not hurt the Gators with any critical mistakes, but the offense was not exactly clicking against the FCS-level Gamecocks.
Florida scored just one offensive touchdown — a Mike Gillislee rushing score — on Jacksonville State with Brissett completing 14 of 22 passes for 154 yards.
Though he failed to hook up with his receivers on several long balls, Brissett looked cool under pressure and took just one sack against the Gamecocks’ blitzes.
RUNNING BACKS — A
Inching closer to the Gators’ first 1,000-yard rushing season since 2004, Gillislee had a memorable final game in The Swamp.
The fifth-year senior rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries and now needs just 36 yards at Florida State next Saturday to meet his goal.
True freshman Matt Jones also ran tough against the Gamecocks with 8 rushes for 65 yards. His 8.6 yards per carry average was a game-high.
RECEIVERS — C
Florida’s receiving corps had its best chance of the season to get something going against a JSU defense that allowed 51 points to Eastern Kentucky and 49 points in a loss to UT-Martin.
However, the Gators coaching staff called an admittedly conservative second half after compiling 250 yards in the opening two quarters.
Senior tight end Omarius Hines caught three passes for 37 yards and junior Jordan Reed had a pair of catches for 42 yards to lead Florida.
OFFENSIVE LINE — B
This unit has been roughed up in the second half of the season, so a one-game respite against a subdivision opponent was needed.
The Gators’ offensive line allowed just one sack and opened up some nice holes for both Gillislee and Jones.
While this grade is probably heightened due to the level of competition, Florida’s senior starters James Wilson, a left guard, and Xavier Nixon, a left tackle, went out with solid performances.
DEFENSIVE LINE — A
Led by senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter’s four tackles, Florida’s line helped the defense pitch its second shutout of the season.
The unit combined for three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the game and also contributed to limiting the Gamecocks to just 48 rushing yards.
While they weren’t two of the 19 departing players honored prior to kickoff, underclassmen Sharrif Floyd (three tackles, quarterback hurry) and Dominique Easley (pass breakup, half a sack) may have also played their last game in The Swamp.
LINEBACKERS — A
Senior inside linebacker Jon Bostic made the two plays of the game when he ran down a first-quarter 76-yard catch by JSU’s Kevyn Cooper to save an early touchdown, and then ran back an interception 7 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter.
Redshirt junior Jelani Jenkins also had a solid performance with four tackles, including one for loss.
DEFENSIVE BACKS — B
The secondary was knocked down a peg after several weeks as a solid “A” for Marcus Roberson’s missed the tackle that allowed a nearly 80-yard gain on Jacksonville State’s first possession.
Roberson, a sophomore, is arguably UF’s best cornerback in coverage, but his ball skills can’t overshadow his poor tackling at times. If it wasn’t for the impressive sideline pursuit and tackle by Bostic, Florida would have been in an embarrassing early hole against the Gamecocks.
At safety, senior Josh Evans (seven tackles) and junior Matt Elam (six tackles) led the Gators with a combined 3.5 tackles for loss.
SPECIAL TEAMS — B
Senior kicker Caleb Sturgis was 3 of 4 on field goals with makes from 21 yards, 44 yards and 47 yards. However, in the second quarter he had his second kick blocked in the last three weeks on a 27-yard attempt.
The kick block team for the Gators also did enough to affect JSU kicker Giffin Thomas, who entered the game 9 of 16 on attempted field goals this year. Thomas missed from 25 yards and 36 yards to end JSU’s two trips into Florida territory.
COACHES — C
The Gators’ coaching staff played a conservative game that prevented UF from notching the massive margin of victory most observers would expect out of this game.
While gaining “style points” has rarely seemed a concern for Florida coach Will Muschamp and Co., the USA Today Coaches’ Poll — which factors into the BCS rankings — kept the Gators at No. 6 in the country this week.
Clearly, the focus this week was to simply “get in and get out” of the game with a win and without injuries before next Saturday’s top-10 clash with FSU.