Franks, Gators hit record 95 points in spring game
QB scores on trick play, passes for 327 yards, 4 touchdowns
GAINESVILLE — Knowing spring games are about entertainment and not winning, UF coach Dan Mullen wants the Gators’ annual Orange & Blue Debut to be fun.
It kind of depended on what side of the ball you were on Saturday in the Swamp.
The Gators’ offense had its way against a defense lining up in a vanilla scheme, running just four schemes and choosing not to unleash coordinator Todd Grantham’s aggressive and deceptive pass rush.
By the the time the fourth quarterback arrived during a
60-35 win by the Orange squad, UF had thrown for
762 yards and scored 88 points — just the way Mullen wanted it.
“Our players work hard. We push them. We demand a lot out of them,” Mullen said. “We let today be more of a celebration, where they can have fun in front of their friends and family and all our fans. We want to make it a fun day.”
While the Gators’ offensive explosion essentially was scripted, it also was a sign of the times.
For anyone still wondering, quarterback Feleipe Franks continued to make it clear he has a stranglehold on the starting job entering the offseason. The redshirt junior opened the game by catching a 40-yard pass from Kadarius Toney on a trick play. It was the first of many big moments for Franks, who finished 13-of-18 passing for 327 yards and four touchdowns.
“You could see Feleipe today was just on target,” receiver Van Jefferson said. “I think he’s been that way all spring throwing balls left and right. You can see he’s just really matured.
“He took a more serious attack this spring and he’s been going crazy.”
Plenty of Gators joined in on the offensive insanity. In the end, UF’s attack made 14 plays of 25 yards or longer.
Receiver Trevon Grimes, in his second season since transferring from Ohio State, caught touchdowns of 65 and 61 yards en route to a game-record 195 receiving yards.
Meanwhile, Freddie Swain finished with 115 yards on five catches and had two touchdowns; Toney had 94 receiving yards and a score on four catches; and tight ends Kyle Pitts and Kemore Gamble combined for six catches for 121 yards.
“It was fun, just going out there, playing with confidence,” Franks said, “but at the same time, executing. I think the offense did a good job. Players were stepping up — offensive line, receivers — and just getting the job done.”
The Gators’ offense did not have to work as hard as usual.
Mullen said Franks, for one, was told Friday what four defensive alignments he would face. Star cornerback CJ Henderson also sat out, putting the team’s secondary at an even bigger disadvantage.
“When you keep it really simple schematically and you have a veteran quarterback, he’s going to say, ‘I know what they’re doing; I’m going to look you off and throw it here,’ ” Mullen said.
Even so, Franks might not have been able to execute with such ease and aplomb a year ago.
Franks entered his first spring under Mullen having to learn a new offense while also rebuilding his confidence and blocking out the soul-crushing negativity from the fan base.
Franks, 21, made significant strides last season, tossing 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions. But he also did not always play his best in big games, totaling two touchdown passes and three interceptions in 2018 against ranked SEC foes.
This spring, Franks has continued to grow and assert himself as the Gators’ leader on offense and clearcut starter under center.
“He’s just a determined young man and he’s out to prove people wrong,” Jefferson said. “That’s what drives him, what motivates him.”
Franks is not all business, either.
Franks’ one bad throw was a staged interception to former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard, who returned it for a touchdown.
Franks joked later he could have caught the 38-year-old Sheppard, who clearly has lost more than a step since his days as a Gators’ All-American and NFL Pro Bowler.
Following a touchdown pass to Jefferson, Franks orchestrated a game of duck, duck, goose in the end zone.
The defense happily went along with the charade.
“These type of games, they’re really just for the fans,” veteran defensive end Jabari Zuniga said. “You got fans coming up to the field, catching balls and stuff. It’s really just for the fans.
“I mean, we only ran like four plays.”
Watching his defense get gouged is not something the fiery Grantham normally would take lightly. At a recent practice, he lit into firstyear freshman cornerback Chris Steele following a blown coverage like he had just cost the Gators’ the national title.
Mullen said Saturday was different. Grantham was prepared for what was to come.
In a game where nobody is a loser, fun was had by all.
“He knows that on a day like today,” Mullen said. “I think he comes to grips before he gets here that that’s going to happen.”