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ORLANDO, FLORIDA – Experience matters in college football and that showed itself on Saturday night at Camping World Stadium as Florida defeated Miami 24-20.
First, give Florida’s Dan Mullen, entering his 11th year as a head coach, all the credit for a number of critical decisions, particularly early in the contest.
All fake punts could be filed under the term “gutsy” but Mullen’s decision to fake a punt on the first drive of the season in Florida’s own territory might embody the very definition of the word.
Still, the bold gambit worked and a play later, the Gators’ electric wide receiver Kadarius Toney traversed 66 yards to help give Florida a 7-3 lead.
Florida also converted all four of its fourth down conversion attempts.
“You know what? There were situations and within the game that we felt,” said Florida head coach Dan Mullen.
“And you know, we thought we had a good play call and we had veteran players and so I didn’t mind putting the ball in their hands to let them go make those plays and they were able to do it. I didn’t think any of them – I mean, they kind of seem high risk but, for us, we felt pretty good with those calls and there wasn’t any question or doubt in what we were going to do.”
Experience also manifested itself when comparing the two starting quarterbacks.
Miami redshirt freshman Jarren Williams played well in his first start, completing 19 of 29 passes for yards and a touchdown despite being under constant duress.
But his lack of in-game repetitions perhaps contributed to conservative play-calling in the second half, which seemed to hamper the Hurricane offense at times.
Conversely, Florida junior quarterback Feleipe Franks, who was starting his game at Florida appeared to have full command of the Florida offense, even throwing a deep seam route for 65 yards to Josh Hammond immediately after throwing his lone interception of the contest.
“I don’t know if I would have put him in that situation that last year,” Mullen said of the throw after the interception.
“Hard for me to say if I did that. But I think it shows the confidence we have in his ability and our wideouts.”
SPACE COAST DAILY TV: Space Coast Daily’s Zach Clark and Chris Bonanno break down Florida’s 24-20 victory over Miami on Saturday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando.
Franks completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for 254 yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns and two interceptions. Additionally, he added a 3-yard rushing touchdown that ultimately proved to be the game-winner.
“When you throw a pick, sometimes it doesn’t go your way,” Franks said.
“Like I said, adversity hits, and our team and our offense did a great job of picking me up. And the next drive coming out and scoring, Josh made a great catch and did a great job running the route. And adversity is the game of football. That happens all the time. And I think that we did a great job of just responding and coming out with a great win.”
“You know, one of the things I kept seeing from him is, even if things didn’t go right, if we made a mistake, he came right back firing,” Mullen said.
“There wasn’t a hesitation. There wasn’t concern or lack of confidence in him in what he was going to do. And I was really pleased in that.”
And certainly a lack of experience showed itself in Miami’s offensive line as freshman left tackle Zion Nelson and redshirt freshman right tackle John Campbell, Jr. struggled mightily, allowing an astounding 11 sacks from Florida.
“I mean, they have a young quarterback and a young offensive line,” Mullen said. “We have some veteran guys up front on defense, and we kept the pressure on them and kept the pressure on them at the end of the game situation – kind of forced where they’re having to throw the ball a little bit and we can get after them.”
“Obviously, we have a young offensive line,” said Miami head coach Manny Diaz. “They’ve got an experienced front that we knew would give us some trouble.”
Florida will once again rely on that veteran experience in three weeks when they travel to Kentucky for their conference road opener against the Wildcats, who defeated Florida last year 27-16.
– Chris Bonanno, Space Coast Daily Senior Editor and Reporter