Franks ral­lies Ga­tors to win

Em­bat­tled QB flips the script, en­er­gizes of­fense for huge win

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Edgar Thomp­son egth­omp­son @or­lan­dosen­

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.”


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