Gators get feel-good victory but pay ($2 million) for win
GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Dan Mullen strolled to the middle of the locker room and waved his arms.
Then he started moving the rest of his body. A few seconds later, his players joined in and created a fullteam dance party.
r last week’s debacle against Kentucky, the Gators needed a feel-good victory.
Freddie Swain scored twice, including on an 85-yard punt return, and Florida beat Colorado State 48-10 Saturday in a game dubbed the “Buyout Bowl.”
“Sometimes we’re looking at the guys’ eyes and they’re coming into this program and they fear losing and they’re relieved by winning,” Mullen said. “You can’t be successful that way. You can’t play that way. You can’t act that way. You can’t even think that way.”
Feleipe Franks also threw two touchdown passes, giving him nine in three games and matching his total from last season.
“That’s a big step forward,” Mullen said.
The Gators (2-1) were far from perfect offensively, though, finishing with 341 yards — or more than 200 fewer than the Rams (1-3) had been giving up this season.
Next Saturday, they play their first road game of the season at Tennessee, the first of seven straight Southeastern Conference games for the Gators.
Franks had a few highlights, including an 18-yard strike to Swain in the second quarter and an even better deep ball to Van Jefferson in the fourth.
Jordan Scarlett had a 30-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, his first trip to the end zone in nearly two years.
The Gators were otherwise mediocre on that side of the ball, managing just 44 plays and 14 first downs.
Special teams were a different story. Tyrie Cleveland recovered a blocked punt for a score, and Swain delivered the fourth-longest punt return for a touchdown in school history.
That was enough to put away the Rams in a game that served as a reminder of ex-coach Jim McElwain’s success at Colorado State and his failure at Florida.
The Gators will pay the
Rams a whopping $2 million for the game, part of McElwain’s $7 million buyout to leave Fort Collins for Gainesville late in the 2014 season. McElwain didn’t last long enough at Florida to be around for the game against his former team. He is now receivers coach at Michigan.
Franks completed 8 of 15 passes for 119 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. He was 8-of-9 passing after missing his first six throws.
Scarlett ran six times for 56 yards. Freshman Dameon Pierce went untouched for a 68-yard score late in the game and finished with 87 yards on the ground.
K.J. Carta-Samuels was 21 of 34 for 217 yards and a score.
The Rams lost three of their four fumbles and also missed two field goals. They managed 310 yards on 83 plays and picked up 22 first downs.
“Our guys need to hold their heads high,” said CSU coach Mike Bobo, who fell to 6-13 all-time as a player and coach against Florida. “The score is not indicative of how we played or how close the game was.”
Colorado State did get the largest single-game guarantee that any school has ever paid another, a huge payday to come cross-country and play in draining heat and humidity. The Gators still owe the Rams $1 million of the $3 million they agreed to pay to lure McElwain from Fort Collins in 2014.
Florida got a much-needed victory, but showed little, if any, progress on both lines of scrimmage. Kentucky dominated the Gators in the trenches in their Southeastern Conference opener last week.
Meanwhile, Florida linebacker David Reese, who led the team in tackles in 2017, missed his third consecutive game because of a knee injury. Reese was hurt during fall practice and Mullen talked earlier this week like Reese would make his debut.
Senior defensive end CeCe Jefferson did make his debut. He missed the first two games of the season because of academic issues.
Colorado State punter Ryan Stonehouse fumbles the ball as he is hit by Florida linebacker James Houston IV during the first half Saturday in Gainesville. The Gators rolled to a 48-10 victory.