The Florida Gators sent this year’s senior class out today in style with a victory over FCS foe Jacksonville State 23-0. With today’s victory the Gators moved to 10-1 on the season and finished their home schedule as only the third Gators team in history to go a perfect 7-0 in the Swamp. While the victory was certainly never in doubt, they did take a familiar path to victory: a smothering defense, strong special teams, and just enough offense to come away with a win.
Gator fans have seen this script before. Groundhog Day. They just keep reliving a bad day over and over and over. Not that this was a bad day by any means. Senior day. Senior Day with seniors scoring every point for the Gators. Mike Gillislee, the quiet tough inside runner vying to become Florida’s first 1000 yard rusher since 2004 (he ended just shy), scored the games first points on the Gators first possession. Jon Bostic scoring the only other touchdown in the game on a pick six. Caleb Sturgis kicking 3 three field goals. All great Gators, all great leaders, all will be sorely missed but all leading them to victory on Senior Day.
For the most part, though, the game was a real yawner. After the first possession where the offense drove the field for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, they pretty much laid an egg, moving the ball only sporadically on one of the worst defenses in the nation… in FCS. Four times after that first drive they got into the red zone and came away with only 3 field goals. To make matters worse they were a mere 2 of 11 on third down, an attrocious 18 percent conversion rate.
The defense, however, as has been the case all season came to the rescue. Other than the opening play from scrimmage where the receiver caught a short pass, was tackled, but rolled over the defender and landed on his feet turning a short gain into a 76 yard reception. From there though the defense completely shut the overmatched Gamecock offense down. Oddly, the defense only got one sack for a one yard loss and one turnover, the Bostic INT for a TD, but it didn’t really need them. They consistently pressured the quarterback, entirely shut down the run, and held them to 4-16 on third down.
The offense just couldn’t capitalize on all the three and outs the defense was putting together. They moved the ball well averaging over 5 yards per carry and rushing for 202 total yards, they just couldn’t provide any semblance of consistency from play to play or first down to first down. Different week, same old song and dance.
Just like Al Davis used to say, “just win baby” that’s all that matters and that’s what they’ve done. It ain’t pretty, it ain’t sexy, but it is effective. One more regular season game to go against their biggest rival the 10th ranked FSU Seminoles next weekend in Tallahassee. If they win that there’s a good chance they’ll play in a BCS bowl and they still have an outside shot at the BCS Championship game if things fall their way.
That’s tomorrow, though. Today it was all about the seniors. It was their day and they went out in style.