The day before the game, Toledo receiver Bernard Reedy had some things to say about the Florida team he saw on tape leading up to the season opening tilt Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“If we can keep the pressure on ‘em the whole game, we can eventually wear ‘em down,” Reedy said. “Since I’ve been watching film on ‘em, I say that late in the game they still don’t go as hard as they do in the 1st and 2nd quarter.”
Reedy was wrong. By the numbers, Florida technically grinded the hardest at the end of the game, running 19 plays and holding the ball for 11:01 — both game highs by slight margins — in the last stanza of Saturday’s proceedings.
After a relatively sound 24-6 loss at the hands of the Gators, Reedy didn’t meet with the media after hauling in seven catches for 50 yards. His teammates did however; and sung a bit of a different tune postgame.
“They’re tough you know. They’re ranked for a reason and they have a great coach,” senior running back David Fluellen said.
Florida was able to force Toledo into disadvantageous down situations repeatedly. The Gators had 12 third down stops in Saturday’s game. Toledo averaged ten yards needed to convert on those third downs. The Rockets only had two manageable third down situations all day, one of third and one, and another of third and five. The strain it put on Toledo’s offense was obvious, senior quarterback Terrance Owens dropped back to pass on 10 of the 12 failed third down attempts. He was sacked once, intercepted another time. The two times he did complete a pass on third down, both connections only gained a combined eight yards — four yards each.
“I think a failure to execute a little bit from us offensively put us in some third and long situations and you’re not going to beat a great Florida team that’s got great speed on defense. Those are tight windows to try and get the ball in on third and long,” Head Coach Matt Campbell said.
Campbell’s signal caller echoed the same sentiments.
“On first down and second down we need to move the ball. We can’t be in third and long,” Owens said.
Florida’s defensive line was stout all day. It was evident in the box score not by the number of sacks — two — but by a different metric, quarterback hurries. The Gators had eight QB hurries — judged by any time a defender forces the QB out of the pocket, or pressures a throw. At times defensive tackle Dominique Easley looked like he knew the snap count better than Owens did, repeatedly blowing plays up. Florida wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary on the defensive line. Merely playing their game.
“They didn’t do anything really schematically. They just went out there, you know and played,” Fluellen said.
On this day, Florida went out there and played better than their opponent did, the stats show it, the score shows it. For the 24th straight year, the Gators won a season opening game. Next week against Miami, they hope to win another.