Ga­tors get a spe­cial teams boost

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Colleges - By Edgar Thomp­son Or­lando Sentinel egth­omp­[email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com

GAINESVILLE — Ken­tucky left the Florida Ga­tors and coach Dan Mullen shell shocked and in search of an­swers.

Colorado State ar­rived a week later to give the Ga­tors a much­needed boost of con­fi­dence and some­thing to build on.

With an SEC gaunt­let loom­ing on the hori­zon, UF was far from flaw­less, es­pe­cially on of­fense, dur­ing a 48-10 win over its over­matched Moun­tain West Con­fer­ence foe.

“We have a lot of things to work on,” Mullen said. “This week we get to do it with a smile on our face.”

The Ga­tors (2-1) were op­por­tunis­tic.

UF scored 17 points against the Rams off spe­cial teams, a phase of the game that has re­ceived re­newed em­pha­sis un­der Mullen. The Ga­tors’ resur­gent pass rush tal­lied five sacks to rat­tle a Colorado State pass­ing of­fense av­er­ag­ing 369 yards.

Tyrie Cleve­land re­cov­ered a blocked punt in the end zone dur­ing the se­cond quar­ter to ex­tend UF’s lead to 27-0. Freddie Swain’s

85-yard punt re­turn early in the fourth quar­ter pushed UF’s ad­van­tage to 34-10 and ended CSU’s re­mote hopes of a late come­back.

The Rams ral­lied from an

18-point deficit to beat Arkansas in Colorado, but they wilted against the Ga­tors in the swel­ter­ing Swamp.

A Ken­tucky hang­over and the Florida heat led to a slug­gish start for the Ga­tors be­fore an an­nounced home crowd of 80,021.

The heat in­dex at kick­off was

116 de­grees dur­ing a steamy day in the Swamp. The Ga­tors’ of­fense came out ice cold be­hind quar­ter­back Feleipe Franks.

Colorado State en­tered the game al­low­ing an av­er­age off 550 yards. But UF man­aged just 27 dur­ing the first quar­ter and set­tled for a pair of Evan McPherson field goals when the Ga­tors failed to cap­i­tal­ize on turnovers deep in CSU ter­ri­tory.

A bob­bled punt and forced fum­ble by fresh­man linebacker James Hous­ton gave UF the ball on the CSU 11. The Ga­tors set­tled for a

24-yard field goal af­ter gain­ing just four yards, with a false start penalty by guard Fred John­son ef­fec­tively Florida quar­ter­back Feleipe Franks is up­ended by Colorado State cor­ner­back Dar­ius Camp­bell dur­ing the first half Satur­day’s 48-10 win in Gainesville. Franks fin­ished 8-of-15 pass­ing for 119 yards, two touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion.

short-cir­cuit­ing the drive.

Two se­ries later, UF de­fen­sive tackle Eli­jah Con­liffe re­cov­ered a fum­bled snap on first down to give the Ga­tors the ball on the Rams’

29. This time, UF’s of­fense ac­tu­ally went backward, los­ing two yards on three plays be­fore McPherson hit a 48-yard field goal.

Franks’ fin­ger­prints were ev­ery­where on the ill-fated drive. Fol­low­ing a two-yard loss on first down af­ter a mis­read on a run­pass op­tion, he threw con­sec­u­tive in­com­plete passes. He ended the first quar­ter 0-of-6 pass­ing, with an in­ter­cep­tion and a QB rat­ing of

mi­nus-33.3.

“He’s got to do a bet­ter job of

get­ting in the flow of the game,” Mullen of Franks’ rough start, not­ing the quar­ter­back was play­ing just his third game run­ning a new of­fense and im­proved as the game con­tin­ued.

The Ga­tors’ of­fense fi­nally found its foot­ing dur­ing the se­cond quar­ter.

Mullen went to a two-back set with Jor­dan Scar­lett and Ma­lik Davis on UF’s first se­ries and the Ga­tors drove 65 yards on five plays to take a 13-0 lead, cul­mi­nat­ing with a 30-yard touch­down run by Scar­lett. Franks also com­pleted back-to-back throws, in­clud­ing a 24-yard hookup with Van Jef­fer­son.

Franks ended the Ga­tors’ next

drive with an 18-yard touch­down to Swain, who was wide open in the end zone. Trail­ing 20-0, CSU be­gan to fal­ter in the Florida heat and in the face of UF’s pass rush.

A week af­ter fail­ing to record even a quar­ter­back hurry against Ken­tucky, UF had three sacks dur­ing the se­cond quar­ter — 2.5 by Jabari Zu­niga. Af­ter Zu­niga dumped Rams’ quar­ter­back K.J. Carta-Sa­muels for a 7-yard loss at the CSU 28, UF fresh­man Amari Bur­ney blocked a punt re­cov­ered in the end zone by Cleve­land.

The Ga­tors’ hopes for a shutout ended with Wy­att Bryan’s 53-yard field goal limped over the cross­bar on the fi­nal play of the first half.

Down 27-3, CSU cap­i­tal­ized on

a de­pleted UF sec­ondary for a

48-yard touch­down catch by fresh­man tight end Trey McBride. But the Rams’ rally ended there.

Franks later found Jef­fer­son for a 38-yard touch­down to give UF a

41-10 lead. Franks fin­ished 8-of-15 pass­ing for 119 yards, two touch­downs and one in­ter­cep­tion.

Fresh­man tail­back Dameon Pierce added the Ga­tors’ fi­nal score on a 68-yard touch­down run on first down, but UF’s of­fense still has room to im­prove af­ter fin­ish­ing with just 341 yards.

JOHN RAOUX/AP

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