Posted: 3:56 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013
Florida defeated Toledo 24-6 in a game that both provided a glimpse of progress and the same old stuff for the Gators.
First things first: even without suspended starters Antonio Morrison and Loucheiz Purifoy, the Florida defense was overall outstanding in the opener. Toledo has a good quarterback in senior Terrance Owens, and it is one of the better outfits in the MAC. It's not a disaster. Yet, Florida's D held the attack down to just 3.8 yards per play and a success rate of 24%. Toledo is also one of those teams that likes to go quickly and run a lot of plays, but they got just 58 snaps off throughout.
On offense, Florida had its ups and downs. The best news is that Jeff Driskel looked accurate, completing 17 of 22 passes with at least one of the incompletions being a drop. The bad is that he still doesn't have good pocket awareness, as he fumbled while being sacked twice. With that said, Mack Brown did just fine filling in for the still-recovering Matt Jones, going over 100 yards on the ground on the day. The two converts from defense, LB-turned-FB Gideon Ajagbe and S-turned-RB Valdez Showers, had good games, with the former even catching a short touchdown pass. It looked a lot better through the first half than it did at any point in last year's opener.
As the final score indicates, however, the offense didn't look like a well oiled machine. It struggled in the second half especially as it turned conservative and Driskel lost his first half sharpness. It's unclear whether Will Muschamp planned to ride his 17-3 halftime lead to the win, it was a reversion to the mean, or Brent Pease ran out of stuff he was willing to reveal the week before Miami (FL). It's clear that the defense will have to carry this team again, but we all knew that anyway.
That defense may just be able to do it, though. The secondary didn't look like it missed Purifoy at all, despite him being the team's best corner. The pass rush was terrific when it wasn't jumping offsides. Once it's back to full strength next week, we might see a unit capable of the level of play that last year's team and all of its now-departed NFL players attained.
Overall, it was a drama-free opener. Things felt a little dicey after the offense sputtered and Toledo score to pull within 11 in the third quarter, but the defense shut the door and the offense scored an insurance touchdown. That's probably all Muschamp was hoping for, and penalties aside, he's probably pleased with this one.