GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida did not get a chance to ease into the 2019 season as they kicked the year off with a rivalry match against Miami. The Gators hung tough for a 24-20 victory, but the sloppy effort left a lot to be desired and they wound up dropping two spots to No. 10 heading into Saturday's home opener against first-time foe UT Martin.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU. LINE: None
"You know what I loved? We made some mistakes, missed some tackles," Gators second-year head coach Dan Mullen told reporters. "But we just kept going, kept straining hard every single snap. … The last five minutes of the game, I must've aged like 10 years." That's because Florida coughed up the ball four times in the game, including two fourth-quarter interceptions of quarterback Feleipe Franks, and were hit by costly penalties at critical times, leaving the team to hang on for the win. While Mullen certainly had a lot to fix after that effort, one area that proved dominant against Miami was a pass rush that accumulated 10 sacks, the most by an SEC team since 2008 and just the eighth game of double-digit sacks by an FBS team since the start of the 2015 season. UT Martin comes in after a victory of its own, but the Skyhawks, just 1-26 all-time against FBS schools, needed a second-half rally to defeat Northwestern State, scoring 28 unanswered points en route to a 42-20 win.
ABOUT UT MARTIN (1-0)
It took an all-around effort for the Skyhawks to prevail in their opener as they scored on offense, defense and special teams for the first time since Sept. 27, 2008 with four offensive touchdowns, a 78-yard interception return and a 55-yard punt return. In his first career start, running back Peyton Logan became the first Skyhawk to hit the century mark on the ground since 2017, logging 13 carries for 149 yards and touchdowns of 21 and 53 yards. The defense shut down Northwestern State in the second half, but it still gave up 387 yards passing for the game, although sophomore safety Wanya Moton stepped up with a pair of interceptions, including the 78-yard pick-six, and was named Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
ABOUT FLORIDA (1-0)
Despite the mistakes, the offense made big plays against the usually tough Hurricanes and it finished with two passing plays of 60 yards or more after producing two such plays all of last season. Franks accounted for three touchdowns for the sixth time under Mullen and his 254 passing yards tied the third-highest total of his career, but the ground game was limited to 50 yards on 28 carries, the first time the Gators were held below 60 rushing yards since the 2017 season-opening loss to Michigan. The defensive front continues to wreak havoc, with nine Gators accounting for the 10-sack effort against Miami, and it was the sixth time in 14 games under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham that the unit amassed at least five sacks.
1. Florida has won 19 straight games against first-time opponents.
2. The Gators went 4-for-4 on fourth down against Miami.
3. Franks' fourth-quarter interception against the Hurricanes halted a streak of 157 straight passes without a pick.
PREDICTION: Florida 45, UT Martin 10