Head Coach Dan Mullen’s first season has seen him repair the misfiring
engine that was Florida’s offense for the past eight seasons.
The Gators rank 47th nationally in total offense, boasting their highest
yardage average (426.7 per game) since 2009 and cracking the top 80 for
the first time since that same year. In the eight seasons before Mullen’s
arrival, Florida finished outside the top 100 nationally six times. Scoring is
also up for the Gators, whose 34.5 points per game rank 32nd nationally,
their highest average since 2009 and first time in the top 100 nationally
Florida enters the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl having amassed 500-plus total
yards in each of its last three games. The last time it pulled that off? The
same exact three-game stretch of the 2008 season, Mullen’s last as UF’s
Florida’s offensive uptick has been a product of Mullen’s offensive scheme,
which has produced the nation’s 26th-ranked rushing offense (209.5 yards
per game). The Gators’ rushing attack boasts the program’s third-highest
game average since 1990, trailing only the 2008 Gators (231.1 per game) and
2009 Gators (221.8 per game). Florida also averaged 200 rushing yards per
game in SEC play for only the fourth time since 1996.
Moreover, Florida’s 5.2 yards per carry rank 22nd in the FBS and is on pace
for the fourth-highest average in school history, with the three ahead of it
coming from 2007-09.
Junior Lamical Perine and redshirt junior Jordan Scarlett are the running
backs leading the charge for Florida. They are the first Gators duo with 700
rushing yards apiece since Tim Tebow and Jeff Demps eclipsed that number
in 2009. Each averaging 5.9 yards per carry, they are also the first Gators duo
with 100-plus carries and rushing averages of at least 5.5 yards since Fred
Taylor and Elijah Williams in 1996.
But the passing game has seen the most improvement in Mullen’s debut season.
Florida ranked 111th in touchdown-interception ratio last season, with
Feleipe Franks, who started eight games, ranking 107th nationally among
qualifying FBS quarterbacks. This year, the Gators rank 13th nationally in
that statistic, tossing 27 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Franks has
23 touchdowns to six interceptions, with his ratio ranking 16th among
quarterbacks with 295-plus attempts.
Franks also has the highest passing yardage total (2,284) since Tim Tebow’s
2,895 yards in 2009, the most 200-yard passing games in a season (six) since
Tebow had seven in 2009, and the most games with three-plus passing
touchdowns in a season (four) since Tebow had that many in 2008. For
added perspective, Florida quarterbacks combined for five games of threeplus
passing touchdowns in UF’s 50 games from 2014-17.
Florida’s receiving corps is led by Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson, whose six
touchdown receptions this year are the most by a Gator since 2014.
Not far behind Jefferson are Josh Hammond, who has four touchdown
receptions, big-play producer Freddie Swain, and Ohio State transfer Trevon
Grimes. Swain has five touchdown receptions, along with an 85-yard punt
return touchdown in what has been a breakout year for the junior. Swain
is one of eight FBS players with a punt return touchdown and receiving
touchdown of at least 65 yards this year. Grimes, a sophomore, is coming off
the best game of his career, as he amassed 118 yards and a touchdown on
five receptions in Florida’s rout of in-state rival Florida State.
Together, the trio of Hammond, Jefferson and Swain mark the first time
since 2009 three different Gators have at least four touchdown receptions.
And what has made all this possible are Florida’s improvements along the
offensive line, led by senior two-time All-SEC Second Team honoree Martez
Ivey and highly-touted NFL Draft prospect Jawaan Taylor. The Gators ranked
118th, 71st and 128th nationally the last three seasons in sacks allowed.
This year, Florida has surrendered just 15 in its 12 regular season games,
tying them for 18th nationally.
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