Gator Defense Shines in Shutout Against North Texas

The Florida Gator football team (3-0) beat the visiting North Texas Mean Green (1-2) 32-0 Saturday night, earning their first shutout since September 6th, 2014—a 65-0 home win over Eastern Michigan.

Gator football head coach Jim McElwain says this was “a good win, not a great win”, after struggling offensively in the red zone. Meanwhile, McElwain says quarterback Luke Del Rio’s injury may force other Gators to step up.

Del Rio left the game in the second half after being tackled low by an on-rushing defender. McElwain says things didn’t look good but it is wait and see to determine if Del Rio can play next week at Tennessee.

The scoring started with a safety. The Florida Gator football team has never scored a touchdown on an opening drive in The Swamp under Jim McElwain. Following a 57-yard Johnny Townsend punt after the opening drive, North Texas’ first offensive series took only two plays before defensive lineman Caleb Brantley tackled quarterback Mason Fine in the end zone for a 2-0 lead with 13:04 remaining in the first quarter.

Florida’s offense seemed to find its groove after that, marching 67 yards downfield, but a false start penalty stalled the Gator drive and brought in kicker Eddy Pineiro for a 22-yard chip shot to make it 5-0.

Florida’s next score came via a 46-yard, well-balanced drive that ended with tailback Jordan Cronkrite rushing into the end zone for a six yard score.

Heading into halftime, Gator running back Lamical Perine made the score 19-0 with a two yard scamper of his own. Florida had the opportunity for more points after a 25 yard interception return by safety Marcell Harris, but McElwain decided against a red zone field goal for the second time, going 0-for-2 in fourth down conversions.

Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine (22) runs with the ball as North Texas Mean Green defensive back Eric Jenkins (2) defends during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine (22) runs with the ball as North Texas Mean Green defensive back Eric Jenkins (2) defends during the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

McElwain says going for it on fourth down is his way of making a statement and Florida must focus on finishing drives with touchdowns.

Florida’s defense was stellar in the win and by halftime, the Mean Green offense had accounted for only 19 yards after 23 plays from scrimmage.

In the third quarter, Del Rio made a poor decision and threw an interception to Nate Brooks. After the injury, he finished the game 14-for-25 for 186 yards.

As Del Rio was tended to by trainers, McElwain had to be held back by his own players when he rushed the field in a passionate display of distaste towards the hit.

Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain gets held back by tight end DeAndre Goolsby (30), defensive back Teez Tabor (31) and teammates during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the North Texas Mean Green 32-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 17, 2016; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain gets held back by tight end DeAndre Goolsby (30), defensive back Teez Tabor (31) and teammates during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the North Texas Mean Green 32-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

McElwain says he cares about his players and it’s his responsibility to protect them as if they’re his own children.

Quarterback Austin Appleby came in to end the third quarter, and his first drive ended with tailback Mark Thompson adding a 20-yard touchdown run.

Leading 25-0, the Gators’ fourth touchdown came from a fourth different tailback, after Jordan Scarlett’s 1-yard scoring run.

A big story in this game was the continued stellar play of Florida’s defense.  It finished with seven sacks while allowing only 53 yards of offense — setting a new school record. After securing the shutout’s only defensive takeaway, Marcell Harris says the Gators’ defensive line helped to force mistakes.

Moving forward, McElwain says the Gators will continue to execute the same offensive game plan with Appleby under center should he become the quarterback. The Gators will be back in action next weekend when they visit Neyland Stadium for a match up with the Tennessee Volunteers.

About Charlie Jordan

I'm a senior studying Political Science at the University of Florida. Multimedia Sports Reporter for ESPN Gainesville 95.3 and WUFT - Passionate about life, sports, and fitness.

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