In typical fashion, the Florida Gators defeated the Jacksonville State Gamecocks yesterday with dominant defense, solid special teams, and just enough offense. In an odd twist of fate, though, the offense actually started well this time before sliding back into their usual inconsistent ways.
The game started on a wacky play. On the Gamecocks first offensive series they turned a short pass completion into a 76 play and a first down inside the Gator ten yard line. On the play, Gator defensive back Marcus Roberson attempted to tackle receiver Kevin Cooper by taking out his legs rather than wrapping up. Cooper in the process rolled over Roberson’s body and was able to get back on his feet to continue running without his knee ever being down. Quick thinking senior Jon Bostic, who played great in his last game in the Swamp, ran the receiver down from behind for a touchdown saving tackle. From there the Gator defense held and the Gamecock kicker Griffin Thomas missed a 25 yard field goal. Crisis averted, and stunned Gator fans could relax. Who says this team isn’t exciting? They sure do make it interesting at times.
The Gators offense actually came out on it’s first series, behind the powerful running of Mike Gillislee, and drove the field to a quick touchdown. Gillislee had 35 yards rushing on the drive, Matt Jones also had 35 yards rushing, and Trey Burton had a 21 yard reception. After that, the offense, who played decent overall, cooled down struggling to maintain any kind of consistency. For Gator fans, this one was more of the same offensively as they’ve come to expect in the last few weeks.
Senior Mike Gillislee in his last game in the Swamp played well, running hard and moving piles. He finished the game with 122 yards on 20 carries a 6.2 ypc average with the lone touchdown. Seeking to become the Gators first 1,000 yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason in 2004, Gillislee fell just short sitting at 964 yards on the season. Matt Jones in a backup role added 65 yards rushing on only 8 carries.
Jacoby Brisset, in his first complete game of the season filling in for injured starter Jeff Driskel, played well completing 14-22 for 154 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, but did nothing spectacular. Once again, however, he was the victim of a conservative game plan, dropped passes, and receivers that couldn’t get open consistently. Overall, the receivers played better than they have been recently, but just couldn’t seem to get it done on third down as the team struggled once again converting only 2-11.
Special teams played well as senior Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals but did have one blocked. This was the second consecutive game special teams have allowed a blocked kick after having a punt blocked against Louisiana-Lafayette last week. All of Sturgis’ misses this season have come on blocked or partially blocked kicks. The coverage teams played their usual great game consistently keeping the Gamecocks pinned deep in their own territory throughout the game with Kyle Christy averaging 42 yards per punt mostly because he was punting for accuracy rather than distance.
Defense, once again, was the star of this show. After that first big pass play, the Gators defense pretty much shut down the Gamecock offense. Taking out the 76 yard pass play the Gators gave up only 166 yards total the rest of the game. Senior Jon Bostic led the way with a pick six that made the score 17-0 and removed any uncertainty there may have been. The defensive line, while only racking up one sack on the day by Dominique Easley, was consistently getting pressure on the Gamecock quarterback, Marques Ivory, forcing him out of the pocket and causing him to throw several passes away. The Gators completely shut down the rushing game only allowing 48 yards rushing in the game on 29 attempts.
Overall, this one was never in doubt and was little more than glorified scrimmage for the Gators as they prepare for the season finale against hated rival the Florida State Seminoles. This will be the first time in recent memory that both teams come into this game with top ten rankings, and with losses last night to the BCS one and two ranked teams, Kansas State and Oregon, this one certainly has title game significance for both teams.