One week after the Head Ball Coach Steve Spurrier returned to the stadium he nicknamed The Swamp, the Florida Gators put the Chomp back in the Swamp with an old fashioned stomp over the Kentucky Wildcats.
For longsuffering Gator fans it was a welcome relief as the Gators put on an offensive display reminiscent of the old days of the Fun n Gun.
No play exemplified that better than on first down from the Gator 22 yard line after a huge interception by Quincy Wilson, quarterback Luke Del Rio dropped back on a play action fake and hit wide receiver Antonio Callaway in stride for a 78 yard touchdown.
It was the same play they opened with last week against UMass but this time Del Rio put the ball inside and made the connection and Callaway did the rest.
The Head Ball Coach had to be proud!
Fans in the Swamp certainly were.
Loud and Proud!
The Chomp is back in the Swamp!
Or is it?
The Monday Morning Quarterback wonders if the Chomp really is back in the Swamp, or have we seen this act before?
After all there was the Ole Miss game last season where redshirt freshman Will Grier lit up the Ole Miss defense to the tune of 271 yards passing and 4 touchdowns as the Gators cruised to a 38-10 victory.
We all know what happened after that.
Was Saturday’s demolition proof that head coach Jim McElwain’s rebuilding project has finally started to mature?
Or was it simply an anomaly due to an overhyped, overmatched opponent?
Well, The Monday Morning Quarterback believes it was a little of both.
After all, that wasn’t an Alabama defense, or offense for that matter, that the Gators faced on Saturday.
It wasn’t Little Sisters of the Poor either but let’s be realistic: Little Sisters of the Poor might have a tougher defense.
But seriously, that was the same Kentucky defense that gave up 27 unanswered second half points last week to blow a huge half time lead and the game to lowly Southern Miss.
A good SEC defense doesn’t allow Southern Miss to score 42 points.
Regardless, that defense was manna from heaven for the Gator offense on Saturday.
Good, bad, or ugly, the Gators and Luke Del Rio needed a game like this to gain some confidence. To show themselves and the fans what they’re capable of when everybody does their job.
In particular, Del Rio had high praise for the job his much-maligned offensive line did after the Gators first series.
“I don’t know if you guys noticed,” Del Rio said postgame. “But I didn’t get touched after the first possession, literally did not get touched. Not hit, I did not get touched, so tremendous, tremendous job by them. They deserve all the credit. They opened the running lanes for the running backs, and it’s really easy to play quarterback when you’re back there and there’s no pass rush.”
Head coach Jim McElwain wasn’t quite so effusive in his critique of the line play, however.
“They did OK. We’ve got to create some more creases and yet our protection was much better,” McElwain said. “So bits and pieces. We put some dents in them today. We’ve just got to work on keeping our feet moving, playing low to high and playing with a never-say-die attitude up there.”
But considering the Gators gave up the most sacks in the country last season and struggled once again against UMass, the line play against Kentucky was a welcome sight and is encouraging for fans moving forward.
Another good sign is the play of the running backs. From a committee of one last season to four this year, the backs looked pretty good against Kentucky.
The Gators rushed for 244 yards led by true freshman Lamical Perine’s 105 yards on 17 carries.
The Gators were determined to run the ball inside after Southern Miss gashed them inside for over 200 yards last week.
All four backs Mark Thompson, Jordan Scarlett, Jordan Cronkrite, and Perine ran hard all night pushing piles, fighting for yards, and playing physical.
The tough inside running really helped the passing game by slowing down the pass rush and setting up play action.
Then there’s Del Rio.
While many felt he was a step down from Grier, he sure didn’t play like it on Saturday. His calm demeanor, accurate throws, and command of the offense was nothing short of spectacular.
For a guy making only his second collegiate start and first SEC start, he put on a show reminiscent of a more highly rated recruit like Chris Leak.
Like any other quarterback he had a few throws he’d like to take back, but for the most part, he made good decisions and accurate throws, and managed the offense effectively going through his reads and hitting open receivers. His only turnover of the game was off a tipped pass caused by a bad route more so than a bad throw.
Big boy football indeed. Folks, the Gators may just have a quarterback.
The defense, long a staple in Gainesville, looks faster and nastier than last season. With a deeper line and the addition of LB Alex Anzalone who is finally healthy and looking like the 5 star prospect he was coming out of high school, the Gators played fast and furious throughout. They completely shut down Kentucky’s running game and harassed quarterback Drew Barker throughout.
On Kentucky’s first series Anzalone almost singlehandedly held them to a quick three and out.
On first down, he sacked Barker on a well-timed blitz for a five yard loss. On second down, he dropped into coverage and stopped his man for only a two yard completion. On third down, he showed his athleticism tripping up a scrambling Barker literally by his shoestrings as he stretched completely and got just enough to take out Barker’s feet.
The defense had four turnovers on the night including three interceptions.
With All American Teez Tabor back from his one game suspension and Quincy Wilson looking like an All American himself, the Gators defensive backs picked off three Barker passes and blanketed the Kentucky receivers all day.
For certain the Gators are better and deeper at almost every position this season. In fact, this might be the most complete Gator team since 2009.
Whether or not that translates to wins against the better teams on their schedule, however, remains to be seen.
But, for one night, the Chomp truly was back in the Swamp!
I’m The Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out!