It’s been a dismal season for Florida, a team bruised and battered and cast out of the postseason for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. But of all the problems in Gainesville this year, the secondary wasn’t one of them.
At least, it wasn’t until Kelvin Benjamin took the field Saturday.
Florida State’s sophomore receiver had a career day, torching the Gators’ defense for 212 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 37-7 victory that assured the Seminoles of a perfect regular season and, after Alabama lost later that day, a No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings.
Benjamin’s numbers were impressive by any measure. He became the first Florida State receiver in 11 years to top the 200-yard mark, and the crazy part is that it could have been even more. He had two costly drops on potential big plays, and quarterback Jameis Winston narrowly overthrew him on yet another play that appeared destined for the end zone. Five touchdowns and nearly 400 yards wouldn’t have been out of the question if Benjamin had simply reeled in every pass he had his hands on.
Florida entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation in pass defense with a secondary stocked with NFL-caliber talent. In the past five years, 44 teams had failed to compile as many yards through the air as Benjamin corralled by himself Saturday.
During his first two years in Tallahassee, teammates raved about Benjamin’s practice-field highlights. This season, he’s finally translated that success to Saturdays. This season, Benjamin leads the ACC with 12 receiving touchdowns, is fifth in yards per catch (18.6) and 10th in receiving yards (838).