Franks, Ga­tors hit record 95 points in spring game

QB scores on trick play, passes for 327 yards, 4 touch­downs

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Edgar Thomp­son Fol­low our Ga­tors cover­age on Twit­ter at @os­ga­tors |and on Face­book at https://www.face­ os­ga­tors. Edgar can be reached at egth­omp­[email protected]­lando sen­

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.”

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