The last time the Florida Gators faced Auburn was in 2011. The Tigers won in force, by a final score of 17-6. Florida’s only six points came from special teams.
But this year, the Gators hope to change that story line. While the offense and defense will need to step up big in The Swamp, the special teams is going to need to have a breakout performance as well. Three of Florida’s five wins have been by over 30 points, so the pressure on special teams hasn’t been too big. But this weekend’s game against Auburn is a top-ten matchup, and it may take special teams to push one team over the edge. Does Florida’s special teams have what it takes?
Florida’s Special Teams
Kicker Evan McPherson and punter Tommy Townsend are the leaders of Florida’s special teams unit. Townsend, a senior, has downed six of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line. Meanwhile, sophomore McPherson has made six of his seven field goals – his only miss, at Kentucky. His 89.5% field goal percentage in the 2018 season was good enough for sixth in the nation.
Townsend, an Orlando native, has said that this week’s practice has been intense leading up to this weekend. Right now, Florida sits at No. 10 in the rankings. Meanwhile, the Auburn Tigers are ranked No. 7.
McPherson says that this homecoming game is a chance for the team to prove themselves on a national stage. The Alabama native believes some people sleep on the Gators, and don’t think they’re a dynamic enough team. That’s why McPherson says that everyone, especially the special teams, needs to focus on the little things come Saturday. For special teams, he says this is on kickoffs.
While Townsend and McPherson lead the offense charge, defending Auburn’s special teams will be important, too. Last weekend, the Gators were able to block a 49-yard field goal attempt against Towson. It’ll be critical for the defensive end to step up in this regard again on Saturday, too. The Gators can also utilize senior wide receiver Van Jefferson. He downed a punt at the 5-yard-line in the win over Miami.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is expected to see a sellout crowd this weekend. Townsend says that the crowd makes a huge difference for the team – the earlier fans can get there, he says, the better.
This weekend’s game kicks off a tough next couple of weeks for the Gators – after they face the Auburn Tigers, they’ll take on the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, and then Georgia on Nov. 2. We’ll see how “special” this Florida special teams can respond in this weekend’s huge game and beyond.