It was not a pretty day in Gainesville. Gray clouds and heavy rain dominated the forecast all day prior to kickoff, but then the rain let up on what most believed would be a dominating Gator football victory. The East Carolina Pirates, however, had other plans.
ECU struggled last week against FCS Towson, fighting to a 28-20 victory, but this was a different Pirates team in the Swamp on Saturday. East Carolina came out with their cannons firing as they drove 75 yards on their first drive to take an early 7-0 lead. Overall, the Pirates totaled 333 yards of offense, 346 passing, and negative 13 yards rushing on their way to scoring 24 points.
As for the Gators, they totaled 373 yards of offense, 205 passing, and 168 rushing. Starting quarterback Will Grier finished the game 10-for-17, with 151 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Treon Harris also played and finished 5 of 8 passing for 54 yards while running for 32 more. Both wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (five receptions, 55 yards) and tight end DeAndre Goolsby (three receptions, 94 yards) had touchdown receptions in the game. In the end, the Gators escaped with the 31-24 victory, but head coach Jim McElwain was not happy, to say the least.
“It was embarrassing,” McElwain stated. “It was embarrassing to our administration, our university, and it almost came back to bite us in the end.”
One of the most infuriating aspects of the game, according to McElwain, was the increase in penalties. After last week’s one penalty performance against New Mexico State, the Gators totaled 12 penalties for 105 yards. Two of those 12 were unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against defensive lineman Joey Ivie and running back Kelvin Taylor. Two penalties that McElwain says cannot happen.
“It’s not okay to act that way, it’s not okay to call attention to yourself,” McElwain exclaimed. “When the selfish act hurts the whole team, it’s not okay.”
Surprisingly, the outcome of this game seems to not have come as much of a surprise to the Gators head coach. Apparently, the team did not have a good week of practice.
“The way you prepare is the way you’re going to play,” McElwain said. “It’s inexcusable. When we do that, that’s not the way you play. It’s not the way you prepare, it’s not the way you give of yourself for the benefit of others, it’s a bunch of entitlement. Entitled for what? How about investing.”
Looking ahead now, the Gators will hit the road for the first time this season to take on Kentucky. The Wildcats are coming off a road victory over South Carolina and they’re hungry to snap a 28 game losing streak against Florida. McElwain and the Gators have their work cut out for them.
“I’ll see them on Monday, we’ll correct the mistakes, bury it, tear off the rear view mirror and get ready to go play a very good Kentucky team on the road that, arguably, beat us a year ago here,” McElwain noted. “They’re going to have a lot of confidence, new stadium, new facilities, lot of energy. I’m sure right now they’re going to look at this and say ‘you know, we can beat these guys.”
The Gators and Wildcats will kickoff at 7:30 from Lexington, next Saturday night.