The contrast between Florida’s two lines on Saturday in Orlando was evident. No. 8 Florida came out on top against Miami, 24-20, with the help of its defensive line and its aggressiveness at the line of scrimmage, but the offensive line still remains a huge question mark.
The dominance of the UF defensive line was a result of the persistent run stuffing and the constant pressure it put on Miami redshirt freshman quarterback Jarren Williams.
Make no mistake: Florida does not beat Miami without the superb performance from its defensive line, which combined for five and a half of the defense’s 10 sacks on Saturday. The final one of which by Jeremiah Moon late in the fourth quarter iced the game for the Gators.
The defensive line was constantly in Williams’ face, making it difficult for him to take long dropbacks and look deep downfield. He instead was forced to opt for short plays, screen passes and yards after the catch to keep the ball moving. The constant pressure also resulted in Miami’s young offensive line, which started four underclassmen, to commit seven penalties totaling 62 yards, adding to Williams’ problems.
The dominance of the Gator defensive line was an absolute difference maker in a game where defense ruled for most of the night.
But it wasn’t as glorious on the other side of the ball.
A big question mark entering the “Week 0” matchup was Florida’s offensive line, which lost four starters from the year previous. In their place stood young and inexperienced linemen, and they did not impress.
Florida’s offensive line struggled to get a push on Miami’s sturdy defensive front that consisted of four upperclassmen starters.
The Gators were unable to produce any semblance of a run game, ending the night with just 52 yards on 27 rushes. The longest run play of the night for Florida was a 15-yard scurry by running back Lamical Perine in the second quarter. Miami, on the other hand, had four rushes longer than that, one a 50-yard touchdown run by UM running back DeeJay Dallas, the biggest headache for the Gators’ defense on Saturday.
Mullen realized early that he would not be able to run between the tackles, instead electing to try to run around them with toss plays, jet sweeps and screen passes. While it worked early on — most notably the 66-yard catch and run by wide receiver Kadarius Toney on a screen pass in the first quarter — Miami eventually keyed in on that as well, resulting in UF’s offense stagnating for the remainder of the contest.
Due to its inability to generate any run game, Florida was also incapable of generating any explosive plays from the play action, a major component of coach Dan Mullen’s scheme.
One bright spot for the offensive line, despite the inadequate protection and push at the line of scrimmage, was that it committed just one penalty during the game: a holding penalty by left tackle Stone Forsythe in the second quarter.
The unit remained disciplined, but it will need to work on its technique and communication if it wants to help the team win against tough SEC defenses that still remain on the year’s schedule.
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida's offensive line struggled on Saturday. The Gators managed just 52 rushing yards.