GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida got all of its points from seniors on senior day to finish 7-0 record at Florida Field. The Gators got their second shutout of the season -- only the second time that’s happened since 1988 (2006) -- and head into Saturday’s game at rival Florida State 10-1.
Here are the good and bad from the 23-0 victory over Jacksonville State:
Gillislee got back on track: RB Mike Gillislee hadn’t rushed for 100 yards since the LSU game on Oct. 6, but the senior put up 122 yards and a touchdown against the Gamecocks. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry and broke off a 46-yarder, which was his longest run of the season (previous long was 45 against Tennessee), and now needs just 36 yards to become the first UF player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. The Gators needed to get Gillislee going again heading into the matchup with FSU, which has the nation’s No. 1 rush defense.
Catching punts: It might not sound like a big deal, but with the way the Gators have struggled with the decision of when to catch a punt and when to let it bounce, what Marcus Roberson did on Saturday was impressive. He twice ran up and fair caught a punt in traffic. That was something Andre Debose and De’Ante Saunders struggled with all season. They let punts bounce and that cost the Gators plenty of yardage. When you have an offense that is struggling, field position is huge and Roberson saved the Gators at least 10-15 yards each time he made a fair catch. Not so much of a big deal against Jacksonville State, but it will be against FSU.
Smothering defense: With the exception of the first play of the game, the Gators shut down the Gamecocks’ offense. JSU had a 76-yard catch-and-run thanks to a missed tackle, but Florida allowed only 166 yards the rest of the game, including just 48 yards rushing. The Gamecocks passed their own 48-yard line just twice in the game and both times resulted in missed field goals.
Third-down efficiency stunk: Florida converted just 2 of 11 third down opportunities against a Jacksonville State defense that was allowing opponents to convert 46 percent of third downs. The Gators didn’t convert a third down in the second half (0-for-5). UF coach Will Muschamp said that’s his fault because he told offensive coordinator Brent Pease to be ultra conservative and run the ball to shorten the game. However, this is the third game in a row in which the Gators have been bad on third down. They’ve converted just 8 of 38 third downs (21.1 percent) in that span, which is even more disturbing when you consider two of those teams were Jacksonville State and Louisiana-Lafayette.
Offense struggled again: Muschamp’s directive to Pease in the second half is not enough to mitigate the offense’s inability to be successful on Saturday. Jacksonville State entered the game with one of the worst defenses in the Football Championship Subdivision (89th nationally or worse in the four major statistical categories), but Florida managed just 356 yards and 17 points. JSU had been allowing teams 440.8 yards per game and had given up more than 23 points to all but one team (Southeast Missouri). Eastern Kentucky scored 51 and Tennessee Tech put up 38. JSU’s defensive front had a lot of success pressuring QB Jacoby Brissett with delayed blitzes, which is something the Gators have struggled with most of the season.
Potentially troubling injury: FB Hunter Joyer left the game in the first half with what Muschamp said was a bruised thigh. Muschamp said after the game that Joyer would be fine and would be able to play against the Seminoles. But he has admittedly not been completely truthful with injuries. Not having Joyer would be a huge loss for the Gators against FSU. He’s a fantastic run blocker and backup Scott Peek isn’t capable of getting it done against an FSU front that’s allowing only 70.6 yards per game rushing. Joyer’s status will be updated Monday.