But they didn’t have a definitive edge in the tug of war over total yardage until the fourth — and even that was almost given back to the Rams in the waning moments of a 48-10 win that was at once a genuine blowout and closer than the score indicates.
Consider this: Florida scored 17 points because of superlative special teams, with a recovery of one fumbled punt leading to a first-quarter field goal, another smothered one becoming a Tyrie Cleveland touchdown before halftime, and Freddie Swain taking a third 86 yards to the house for a touchdown in the final stanza.
Consider also: Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks started his day 0-for-6, finished it 8-for-15 for just 115 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, and got more than a third of those yards on one fourth-quarter throw to Van Jefferson.
And consider, third, that Colorado State’s wretched defense bent all day, but only really broke in the fourth quarter on a 68-yard sprint by Dameon Pierce. Prior to that touchdown run, the Gators had mustered under 300 yards — and fewer than the Rams had tallied against the Gators — on what was one of the nation’s worst defenses coming into the day.
They finished with 341, maybe half a drive more than Colorado State’s 310, but Florida had just 14 first downs to the Rams’ 22, and held the ball for under 22 minutes to Colorado State’s more than 38. Part of that was the product of a trio of fumbles and a fair bit of good work by Swain as a punt returner — he had a 21-yard return to go with his touchdown — setting up Florida with short fields.
But those closer-than-expected tallies also owe plenty to Florida’s young and growing secondary still having painful breakdowns, Florida’s defense continuing to miss tackles, and Franks missing many passes to begin the afternoon. Florida led 27-0 in the second quarter after its blocked punt, but gave up 10 straight points on long drives that bookended halftime, and never quite had the sustained success other teams — like noted powerhouses Hawai’i and Colorado — have had against Colorado State.
That all leaves Florida not far from where it stood after both of its previous games this year: These Gators have potential, and they have talent, but they also have much to learn and much growing to do.
With two SEC road trips up next, they’ll either be growing up or suffering some growing pains in short order.