Florida’s victory over Miami two weeks ago wasn’t pretty.
Nine penalties for 100 yards. Four turnovers. Plenty of missed tackles. Nonexistent running game.
The Gators desperately needed a solid performance against Tennessee Martin on Saturday night in Gainesville, and they delivered on all fronts. Although it wasn’t against top competition, the 45-0 victory was a huge step forward and should serve as a big confidence-booster for coach Dan Mullen’s team.
“We cleaned up some things,” Mullen said.
The most marked improvement for Florida was in the turnover department. The Gators couldn’t get out of their own way against Miami, losing two unforced fumbles and throwing two interceptions.
The script flipped against UT Martin. The Gators didn’t have any turnovers, and there wasn’t even a close call with the starters on the field. The opponent has to be taken into account, but Gators fans should be encouraged by this – after two self-inflicted fumbles against Miami, UF didn’t put the ball on the ground once on Saturday.
“That’s the emphasis of every game. You never want to turn the ball over,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “I felt I made pretty good decisions.”
Mullen’s squad was much more disciplined against UTM as well. Florida committed just three penalties for 30 yards.
Crucially, none of those penalties were against the defense. Florida had a few inexcusable pass interference penalties on Miami’s final drive two weeks ago, so the improvement in that area from the secondary is a step in the right direction. Also encouraging is the fact that all of UF’s penalties came on first down, not in big spots like against UM.
UF also tackled better against UT Martin than it did against Miami. Safety Shawn Davis led the way in that category, registering six total on the night.
Florida’s rushing attack – led by Lamical Perine – also made strides on Saturday. The Gators more than quadrupled their total output on the ground from Week 0 – from 50 yards to 231. Perine earned his first rushing touchdown of the season with a 5-yard run in the third quarter on his way to a 51-yard, 10-carry performance. UF had eight players register double digit rushing yards and the team averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
Things won’t get any easier for UF with SEC play beginning next week in Kentucky. On Saturday, though, Florida made the necessary adjustments to prepare itself for the rest of the season.
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected].