They might’ve seemed slow, eventually steady, but no part of the Gators’ dominant home opener was merciful.
Even in a first-time meeting, the Gators weren’t kind hosts towards the Tennessee Martin Skyhawks. In a 45-0 stunner, Florida delivered its first shutout since 2016 against North Texas.
Honing in at home
A week away from football didn’t hinder any part of the Gators’ mission.
But a 17-point first half was not to Dan Mullen’s liking — especially when 14 of those points were put up in the second quarter. Neither quarterback Feleipe Franks nor the rush could pull much together in the first quarter, but Franks found his footing before the half. He delivered 69-yard and 35-yard touchdowns to Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland, respectively.
Franks eased off in the second half but helped assemble rushing scoring packages delivered by running backs Malik Davis and Lamical Perine. While Davis only participated in three attempts for 18 yards, he proved himself a solid second option behind Perine, showing a high level of tenacity in each 6-yard carry.
Davis spoke of his excitement towards earning his first touchdown since 2017.
Another first came in the form of highly-touted redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland, who scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter. After battling a slew of injuries in his first season, expectations were high for the top-100 receiver when he became healthy.
Mullen had high praise for the receiver’s progress.
Quarterback Emory Jones closed the scoring frenzy out with a 16-yard rushing touchdown in the last three minutes.
The speechless Skyhawks
The Skyhawks failed to muster up much offensive noise. The Gators held the Skyhawks to as little as just eight first downs and 194 total yards on offense. Gators true freshman defensive end Khris Bogle compiled five tackles and a sack, but wasn’t the only true freshman to make an impact. Cornerback Kaiir Elam put up an interception, while Jaydon Hill and Chester Kimbrough strung together four tackles each.
#Gators cornerback CJ Henderson was seen post game in a walking boot and crutches. Reports say it could be an ankle sprain. Head coach Dan Mullen said we'll know the extent of the injury on Monday. @ESPNGainesville pic.twitter.com/D57RoU5ph2
— Zach Oliveri (@Zach_Oliveri) September 8, 2019
Major gains, major losses
The Gators had no trouble decimating the Skyhawks, despite losing their best on both sides of the ball. Cornerback CJ Henderson and wide receiver Kadarius Toney ended their evenings early with first half injuries. For Henderson, a left ankle injury brought him back sidelined with crutches and a boot in the second half. Toney left the game in the first quarter clutching his wrist.
Not much is known on the status of either player, with Mullen commenting that the team would know more on Monday.
Heading into SEC play
Florida couldn’t stay away from conference action for long with Kentucky up next.
The UT-Martin win looks pretty on paper. But with uncertainty surrounding Toney and Henderson, adjustments will likely need to be made before heading north.