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August 31, 2013

Simonton Says: Five Final Thoughts

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    On a hot and muggy Saturday afternoon, No. 10 Florida physically battered Toledo 24-6 in the 2013 season opener.

    Here are Five Quick Thoughts on Florida's 24th consecutive season opening win.

    Florida's secondary may be the top unit on the team, but the heart and soul of the defense belongs to Dominique Easley and the rest of the line. Easley & Co. (namely Jonathan Bullard, Dante Fowler Jr., Leon Orr and Ronald Powell) energized the entire unit with consistent pressure and push. Florida forced Rockets southpaw Terrance Owens into rushed throws, as Easley and Powell were constantly (six combined hurries) in the backfield. Toledo averaged just 3.1 yards per carry too.

    Although Florida's offense was largely vanilla Saturday, its redshirt junior tailback was anything but. Mack Brown, with tears streaming down his face as he ran out of the tunnel, finally delivered a breakout performance in place of starter Matt Jones (illness). 'The Forgotten Man' had a magnificent first half (97 yards and two scores) and finished the afternoon with a career-high 114 yards and two touchdowns. While Jones is still the definitive starter, Brown gave Will Muschamp confidence he can contribute moving forward.

    Well, that didn't take long to find out. Florida's penalty problem reared its ugly head again in Saturday's opener. The Gators finished 2012 ranked No. 114 nationally yardage per game (68.8), and it appears not much has changed. Although Muschamp emphatically promised benchings during UF's Media Day, such was not the case against Toledo's up-tempo offense. The Gators survived an onslaught of mistakes - 10 flags for 70 yards -- and no player was removed for a penalty. Florida extended several Toledo drives due to jumping offsides on third and/or fourth down. The Gators also had a touchdown drive go awry following a pair of holding calls.

    Florida's offense was hardly explosive Saturday -- the offense's longest play from scrimmage was actually Kelvin Taylor's 27-yard sprint in garbage time -- but the score wasn't exactly indicative of how it preformed. Points were left on the field. The Gators could've easily covered the spread (-23.5) had Solomon Patton not dropped the one deep pass; Austin Hardin not missed a rather easy kick; Jeff Driskel thrown to a receiver other than Quinton Dunbar on the third-down red zone opportunity; and of course, the two holding calls. It wasn't particularly pretty, but it wasn't awful either.

    The Demarcus Robinson hype-machine may need a little WD-40, but overall, lots of Florida freshman -- true and redshirt -- played well in their debuts. Vernon Hargreaves III did not disappoint, intercepting his first-career pass late in the third quarter. An enthusiastic Taylor ran wild (albeit against a tired defense) late in the fourth quarter (43 yards on five rushes), while safety Keanu Neal looked like a torpedo on special teams (2 tackles). Overall, nine true freshman - Robinson, Hargreaves III, Neal, Taylor, Ahmad Fulwood, Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis, Nick Washington, Chris Thompson -- saw action. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Marcus Maye (safety) and Hardin (kicker) were starters.

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