Franks rallies Gators to win
Embattled QB flips the script, energizes offense for huge win
GAINESVILLE — Fresh off the go-ahead touchdown run, UF quarterback Feleipe Franks raised his right index finger to his facemask to silence the crowd at the Swamp.
By then, there was no chance.
A delirious, deafening crowd would not be denied, just like the Gators’ embattled quarterback who suddenly had become a fan favorite Saturday against South Carolina.
“That’s how it works,” Franks said, with a smile.
Even before his 1-yard plunge on fourth-and-goal completed a 21-point blitz during final 16 minutes of Florida’s 35-31 win, Franks had won over an announced crowd of 82,696 that booed him earlier and had abandoned him all too often the past two seasons.
Running with a mix of aggression, attitude and even a bit of anger, Franks energized the Gators’ offense and flipped the script Saturday in the Swamp.
Leading 31-14 with 4:41 left in the third quarter, South Carolina was poised to run away from the No. 15 Gators (7-3, 5-3 SEC).
Instead, Florida ran all over the Gamecocks (5-4, 4-4) to bounce back from a one-sided homecoming loss to Missouri and hand former coach Will Muschamp’s another demoralizing loss in the Swamp.
“I think a week ago, I didn’t know what team that was,” Mullen said. “I think you saw that today from a group of guys out there. They expect to win the game. I thought great mental toughness.
“We battled back to find ways to win. [It] was amazing for our guys — just the effort.”
Behind 100-yard days by Jordan Scarlett (careerhigh 159) and Lamical Perine (107), the Gators pounded out 372 yards on the ground against Muschamp’s defense, long his calling card as a coach.
UF finished with 528 total yards to outrace a South Carolina attack that got off to a strong start but ran out of gas down the stretch to finish with just 386.
An interception by UF cornerback CJ Henderson on third-and-11 with 3:21 remaining ended South Carolina’s hopes of a comeback behind Jake Bentley, who had been brilliant until the fourth quarter.
“We made the plays we needed to make when we needed to make them,” Mullen said.
The day’s biggest surprise, though, was Franks’ big runs. Known for his passing skills, the 6-foot-6,
240-pound redshirt sophomore transformed into a battering ram with the football tucked in his right arm.
The fickle Florida fan base helped fuel Franks a week after he was benched against Missouri.
Franks spent the early part of the week in a starting quarterback competition until Kyle Trask broke his foot during Wednesday’s practice. Franks then spent the early part of Saturday’s game blocking out a swell of nay-sayers among the Swamp crowd.
“I’m an emotional player, I’m a physical player and whatever’s asked of me to do, I’m gonna do it,” Franks said. “This team deserves [it].”
Franks found his stride with the Gators trailing 14-0 and on the verge of collapse.
He highlighted a 13-play,
75-yard scoring drive with a
6-yard run around right end on first-and-15 that ended with him delivering a vicious hit to a South Carolina defender on the Gamecocks’ 47.
The Swamp cheered the effort. Franks, though, was just getting started on a day that ended with a careerhigh 16 rushing attempts for
50 tough yards, excluding sacks.
Franks knotted the game Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks runs for a 10-yard touchdown during the Gators’ win over South Carolina on Saturday.
at 14-14 on a 10-yard run that featured a bruising pair of broken tackles and ended with a bold statement. Overcome with emotion, Franks let the crowd know he was fed up, raising his index finger to hush the crowd in the south end zone.
“A lot of people are gonna like me and a lot of people are not gonna like me,” Franks explained. “And maybe that’s something I shouldn’t have done. But at the same time I’m emotional player, I wanna win as much as anybody in the world.
“I’m a competitive guy, emotional guy, and that’s the way I play my game and,
you know, so I do apologize for that, but it’s just great to get another ‘W.’ ”
UF fans earned a shushing this time.
Few Gators have received a rougher ride than Franks during his two seasons in Gainesville.
Saturday was no different.
Less than eight minutes into the game, the boos began after Franks missed a wide-open receiver on third down with the Gators trailing 7-0.
South Carolina scored again on its next drive as UF’s defense left open a Gamecocks receiver for the second time.
Coming off demoralizing losses to Georgia and Missouri, the Gators looked like a team ready to mail it in.
Mullen, though, saw something different in his team — and especially his quarterback — against South Carolina.
“I’ll be honest… it was a whole different mindset than last week,” Mullen said. “We ran out of he tunnel, we took the field and I think there was a different edge to us.”
The Gators’ performance once again exposed plenty of warts, including missed tackles, killer penalties and coverage breakdowns.
Franks was 15-of-21 passing
and found nine different receivers, but he did not complete a pass of even 20 yards and finished with just 161.
The Gators still have much work ahead. But for the first time since an Oct. 13 comeback win at Vanderbilt, Mullen’s team can do it as winners.
“Are all our problems fixed? No,” he said. “But we just get to fix them with a smile on our face. Last week, you get to fix them with a frown on your face and this week with a smile on your face.”