ORLANDO, Fla. -- The 2019 season has kicked off on Saturday night, and the first game of the 150th year of college football between No. 8 Florida and Miami was as messy as one might expect for a Week 0 matchup. Ultimately, despite a turnover-filled game and penalty-heavy second half, the Gators managed to top the Canes 24-20 by outscoring their in-state rivals 17-7 in the second half. It was just the second time UF defeated its in-state rival since 1986.
Florida led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter in large part because it went 3-for-3 on fourth downs to open the game. (It would finish 4-of-4 on the down in the game.) However, the Gators fumbled twice in the first half, once inside the Canes' 10, and both were recovered by Miami. While the Canes started with a pair of field goals, redshirt freshman quarterback Jarren Williams carved up UF for chunk yardage on a 12-play, 90-yard touchdown drive to take a 13-7 advantage with less than a minute to go until the half. That gave Miami the chance to debut anand .
Florida responded after the half with 10 straight points, including a touchdown following a muffed punt by Miami. The Canes answered back immediately, taking advantage of two disastrous penalties to jump back ahead of the Gators following a 50-yard touchdown run by DeeJay Dallas. It did not take long for Florida to bounce back as QB Feleipe Franks dropped a beautiful 65-yard pass to wide receiver Joshua Hammond and eventually ran in a score to put UF back in front 24-20.
That score would hold but not without plenty of mistakes by both sides. Florida stopped Miami on fourth-and-9 with 4:30 to play, but Franks inexplicably threw an awful interception on the very next play, giving UM ball back on its 40. The series that followed was almost inexplicable.
The ensuing drive by the Canes lasted 10 plays but only moved 14 yards by the time it concluded. How? Miami fumbled three times on the drive but recovered all of them. When it was not trying to give the ball away, Florida was looking to keep it in its opponent's hands. The Gators committed two pass interference penalties -- one on fourth-and-34, another on third-and-12 -- before ultimately stopping the Canes for good.
Let's take a look at five key takeaways from the Florida-Miami game.
1. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy: Despite the entertainment -- and absurdity, at times -- created by the constant miscues of both teams, ultimately Saturday night's season opener was another reminder that Week 1 (or in this case, Week 0) is too early to expect teas to appear in midseason form. The Canes committed penalties all night (14 for 125 yards). The Gators saved theirs for the second half (nine for 100 yards on the evening). Florida had four turnovers in the game (two fumbles lost in the first half, two interceptions in the fourth quarter), while Miami coughed the ball up three times on the final series alone but was lucky enough to recover all of them, only committing a turnover on a muffed punt. Totaling those up, there were 25 penalties for 225 yards, five fumbles (three lost) and two interceptions in the game.
2. Miami's offensive line is a problem / Florida's pressure may be, too: The Gators on Saturday registered 10 sacks, the most for Florida in a game since 1987 and the most for an SEC team since Ole Miss over Mississippi State in 2008. UF pushed UM back 60 yards due to those sacks and totaled 71 yards on 16 tackles for loss in the game. The fact that the Canes' offensive line struggled clearly wasn't too surprising to the coaching staff. Williams was under pressure every time that he dropped back, which partially explains a game plan that included swing passes, screens and safe tosses early. Sure, part of the reason was Williams' inexperience, but it became abundantly clear that the coaching staff didn't trust the offensive line enough. Three Florida players had 1.5 sacks in the game with defensive end Jabari Zuniga registering three tackles for loss, which could well speak to the Gators being perfectly fine up front despite losing Cece Jefferson and Jachai Polite in the offseason.
3. Williams was (probably) the right choice for the Canes: It's tough to take too much away from Williams' first performance considering his offensive line play and how often the Gators saved him from extremely difficult down and distances, but the redshirt freshman looked at times like a seasoned-veteran in his first meaningful college football action. Despite being sacked 10 times, the former four-star prospect went 19-of-29 passing for 214 yards with a touchdown and no turnovers lost; if not for sacks, he likely would have put up a solid rushing total as well. The game plan was conservative, but he often made plays when he had no other choice, particularly when stepping up in the pocket or forced outside. No, he didn't necessarily show that he is a difference-maker, but he didn't need to do that in his first major action. His ability to manage the game in a difficult spot should signal to the rest of the ACC that "The U" could actually be back(ish) in 2019.
4. Franks once again confuses with his play, but he never quit: Whether Franks was scared to attack the Miami secondary -- or coach Dan Mullen felt tentative with calling deep passing plays -- the redshirt junior quarterback did not do much of it on the evening. He had his moments, including a picture-perfect 65-yard pass that led to a touchdown, but also fumbled a zone read and threw two interceptions -- one on tough tipped pass that may have been his receiver's fault, and another in a panicked throw to no one that Mullen will lambaste him for in film review. This was certainly not the Franks who ended the 2018 on a high, but it was also not the worst we have seen from him -- even if that interception was horrid. Mullen will likely give him every chance to rebound, as the Gators did ultimately win with Franks facilitating or scoring all three of the team's touchdowns.
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