The Florida Gators sent off their seniors in fine form on Saturday, blasting Idaho 63-10 in a game in which Florida’s defense outscored Idaho’s offense.
Don’t be surprised if the memories of this game are of the glimpses of the future that Florida gave, though.
Feleipe Franks completed 19 of 27 passes for a career-high 274 yards and three touchdowns and ran in a fourth touchdown on the ground, but his departure with the game well in hand in the second quarter made room for redshirt freshman Emory Jones to get extensive snaps at quarterback for the first time as a Gator.
And the future looked good.
Jones completed 12 of 16 passes for 125 yards of his own and threw the first two touchdown passes of his career in relief of Franks, also picking up 19 yards on the ground including sacks despite playing behind the porous second- and third-string Florida offensive lines. And his throws looked as good on average as the ones Franks made on the day, with a beautiful deep ball on his first play hitting a receiver’s hands before falling incomplete and a slew of other throws showcasing his touch and versatility as a thrower.
That performance is unlikely to jeopardize Franks’s status as a starter — Florida coach Dan Mullen called Jones “our backup” in a post-game interview on the field, but did note that Jones could play next week at Florida State — but does make clear that Florida has more than one talented quarterback on its roster.
And if the focus is on Jones and/or Franks this week, well, that’s because focusing on any other fallout from a game that was lopsided from its first play onward would be folly.
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson picked off a badly underthrown ball by Idaho’s Mason Petrino on that first play from scrimmage after a touchback on the opening kickoff and returned it for what is likely the fastest touchdown in program history, with the PAT making the score 7-0 after just six seconds of play.
Before three minutes had elapsed, Florida was up 14-0.
At the end of the first quarter, Florida was up 28-0.
At the end of the first half, that margin was 49-0.
The Vandals were able to do some scoring in the second half — their offense actually outscored Florida’s, thanks to one of the Gators’ two touchdowns after halftime coming on a Ventrell Miller pick-six of Petrino — against the reserves of Florida’s roster.
But the Gators still ended up with their first 60-point outing, 50-point win, and game with 600 yards of total offense since a 65-0 blanking of Eastern Michigan in 2014, and missed their first game with more than 400 passing yards since the 2010 Sugar Bowl by a single yard.
And while Petrino played most of the game for Idaho at QB and attempted 31 passes, his 70 yards through the air were actually fewer than his 87 on the ground with sacks included, as he frequently scrambled instead of forcing throws into tight Florida coverage.
This was a complete, dominant win by the Gators, one that allowed Florida’s coaching staff to experiment and get extended looks at freshmen like Jones and wide receiver Jacob Copeland — who had 16 yards on his only offensive touch and a 26-yard kick return — against live competition.
And though just how live Idaho truly was is up for debate, the Gators winning these games in this fashion has been rare over the last decade.
So we’ll take it.