There were plenty of concerns surrounding the production of the offensive line and their ability to handle Tennessee’s front four leading up to Saturday. After giving up multiple sacks in week one and leaving the Gators’ running back duo stranded in the backfield, run blocking took a major step forward on Saturday.
Running back Trevor Etienne finished the night with a career-high 172 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. The sophomore had a combined total of 18 carries for 109 yards leading up to week three.
Having Kingsley Eguakun back on the field was crucial in terms of how this offense operates, and that was evident on Saturday.
“I mean, just grateful. I want to give a shout-out to my O-line, first of all,” Etienne said after his career performance. “Just thankful for those guys. Like I said earlier in the week, it was going to be a physical game. They came out and dominated for 60 minutes. I just want to say thank you. I owe those guys. I have to take them out to dinner or something.”
According to PFF, the Louisiana native forced a total of nine missed tackles on 23 rushing attempts while averaging 7.5 yards per carry. When the Gators needed a first down, Etienne got the job done.
“Definitely. I knew this game was going to be physical, and we were going to have to play hard,” Etienne said on his toughness. “I wanted to keep our offense out of those tough play calling downs, keep us from being backed up. Running backs, we had to run the ball hard. So that was our goal each and every play.”
The crowd played a significant factor for not just the defense, but for this team’s confidence overall. These players understand the history and bad blood between Florida and Tennessee.
“I really just fed off of the energy on the sideline, man. Everybody was amped up for this game,” Etienne said on the crowd and team preparation. “They knew how much it meant to not just us but the Gator Nation, the players that played ahead of us in this game, and just off that energy. It just had everyone fired up.”
Trevor Etienne out-carried Montrell Johnson by 11 rushing attempts on Saturday, which came off as a surprise to Etienne. Both running backs have shared an equal workload through the first two weeks of football.
“I had no idea. It was shocking to me,” Etienne said on receiving the biggest workload Saturday. “I mean, I’m just thankful for those guys too because even though it was me in the game most of the time, they were still pushing me, still encouraging me, still giving me tips when I came off the field. So, I’m just thankful to have those guys in my circle.”
Billy Napier’s offense was 7 of 8 on third downs in the first half of play.
“I mean, definitely. I feel like this team we saw tonight in the first half, I mean, when we’re playing like that, we’re a really great team,” Etienne said on execution. “We just have to be consistent and keep being that team week in and week out.”
For the most part, this offense looked like a revived and organized group compared to what we saw from them in week one. They may not be the winner of Saturday’s game as the defense gave up six second half points, but they took a drastic leap in week three.
If you’re Florida, the preparation in practice these next two weeks is more important than it was the previous two weeks. With SEC play now underway, this team can’t afford to make the same mistakes they left behind in week one.