Video recap above by Nikko Tan
On paper, the Florida Gators wouldn’t be able to hang with the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels had gone on the road and beaten Alabama.; its offense averaged close to 55 points per game, good for second best in the country. And don’t even bring up their “Landshark” defensive unit featuring maybe the best lineman in the SEC, Robert Nkemdiche. On top of being outmatched on paper, the Gators had been ravaged by a flu bug that, reportedly, had affected up to 21 players during the week. All signs pointed to an Ole Miss victory, but that’s why the game is played.
In front of a loud and ready for an upset crowd in the Swamp, Florida ripped the third ranked Rebels 38-10 Saturday night.
Both offenses came out in the game and promptly went three-and-out. The Gators got the ball back and never looked back from there. Red shirt freshman quarterback Will Grier found junior wide receiver Demarcus Robinson for a 36 yard touchdown to break the scoreless tie with nine minutes remaining in the first quarter. That completion was the first for 20+ yards that the Ole Miss secondary had allowed this season. Grier was one of the Gators that had been dealing with those flu-like symptoms coming in to the game. In fact, he was listed as questionable entering the game. Based on the results in the game, it seemed like he was “healthy as a horse.”
Grier had his best performance as a Gator finishing the game 24 of 29 for 271 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half. It was the first time a Gator quarterback threw four touchdowns in a half since Chris Leak in 2005 against Kentucky. After the game, Grier was all smiles and seems very happy with the direction of the offense.
“As an offense we’re just starting to click, I think it’s starting to come together for us,” Grier said. “Preparation, I think we’re doing a better job preparing, and the guys around me, I mean, we’re all kind of elevating as a team and doing a really good job.”
The Gators offense totaled 355 yards, adding 84 yards on the ground to Grier’s 271 through the air. Florida had struggled mightily on third down conversions coming in to this game posting an abysmal 38% conversion rate, 23 for 61. On this night, the Gators finished 8-for-16 on third downs, and also won the all important turnover battle. The Rebels turned the ball over four times to the Gators zero. UF coach Jim McElwain was extremely pleased with the performance from his team.
“That was a good football team we beat,” McElwain stated. “That was really a good football team, and our guys took it took them.”
The Gator defense was stifling all night, not allowing Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly to ever get comfortable in the game. Linebacker Antonio Morrison finished with a team high 13 tackles. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III picked off Kelly, his third interception of the season. The Gators also combined for four sacks. A dominating effort in holding the high-powered Rebel offense to a season low 10 points. McElwain could not have asked for a better performance from that side of the ball.
“It starts, obviously with defense,” McElwain explained. “Our defense played their tails off, they had a great plan, and I thought the guys executed it.”
As for Ole Miss, their key play makers stayed quiet throughout the game. Kelly finished 26 of 40 for 259 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception and fumbled twice. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had five receptions for a team-high 42 yards. And defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche only recorded one tackle. .
Florida now hits the road for the foreseeable future as they won’t have a game in the friendly confines of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for over a month. The Gators will take on the Missouri Tigers coming up next Saturday. Last year, the Tigers embarrassed the Gators 42-13 in game where Missouri totaled just 119 yards of offense. McElwain wants to see how his team handles some success heading out on the road.
“I’m looking forward to getting to break down this Missouri squad and put the plan together,” McElwain exclaimed. “(We’ll) see how we do on the road and see how we handle all this, and yet, that’s the way it should be.”
While McElwain and other Gator coaches and players have said they move past each game quickly, this major upset might hang around in their minds a little longer. Florida will take on Missouri in Columbia next Saturday night at 7:30.