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Orange 60, Blue 35: Feleipe Franks leads Florida’s air show in spring game

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Fans came for a spring game. They got fireworks.

NCAA Football: Florida Spring Game Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators entered the second spring game of the Dan Mullen era with their fans feeling great about the direction of the rising program.

After a couple of hours of an air show in The Swamp, those fans might be even more excited.

Feleipe Franks threw for 327 yards and four touchdowns and made no mistakes — outside of an intentional one that gave Gator great Lito Sheppard a pick-six for nostalgia’s sake — in leading his Orange team to a 60-35 win over the Blue team largely quarterbacked by Kyle Trask.

The bulk of that yardage for Franks came on connections with Trevon Grimes, who set a spring game record with 195 receiving yards on his four catches. Kadarius Toney had another 94 receiving yards and a touchdown for the Orange, while Chris Doering snuck out of the SEC Network booth to catch a touchdown pass from Nick Sproles in the game’s second half.

And if Sheppard and Doering scoring touchdowns a year after two other Florida stars of yesteryear got a bit of the spring game limelight was not enough of a clue that this was mostly an unserious offensive showcase, the Gators distributing pass attempts to nine different players — beginning with a Toney throw to Franks on the game’s first play and including a Tyrie Cleveland pass not officially recorded thanks to a penalty — should have given that away.

Most of those throwers did fine, although Cleveland and Lamical Perine might have things to work on. Trask lofted a late throw to the flat that John Huggins turned into an easy pick-six early, but settled in and completed 11 of 16 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Emory Jones went just 6-for-13 on the day, but showed his mobility, and still threw for 117 yards and two scores of his own despite the few completions.

But this day belonged to Franks, who appeared utterly comfortable against a clearly toned-down pass rush and made throws that would have been impressive even with no defenders in sight. His touchdown throw to Toney was a perfectly lofted corner route; a couple of his throws to Grimes were big-time strikes to the sideline.

One of the storylines of Florida’s spring was the reported improvement of Franks — even over what had been a fine close to his 2018 campaign. What we saw in this spring game lends a lot of credence to the theory that the Gators’ field general could be making a leap to a higher tier of play.

Of course, a critic might fairly say Florida leaves this game with concerns, too, especially given that a few unplanned coverage busts contributed to the eight passing touchdowns that were not the engineered deep ball to Doering. No single scholarship defensive back stood out, save perhaps for Huggins, and walk-on Patrick Moorer may have had the best day of any Florida DB. Florida’s defensive line struggled with generating pressure against the Orange team, though Trask and Jones had to deal with more rush as Blue QBs. And the running game was an afterthought on the day, with QBs Emory Jones (38 yards) and Jalon Jones (63 yards and a touchdown) — who only played very late in the second half, long after a running clock was put into place with the score standing at 45-28 in Orange’s favor at halftime, and did so in an orange jersey rather than the white tops the other QBs wore to declare them off-limits to tacklers — leading their respective squads in rushing yards.

It would seem, though, that Dan Mullen wanted another day of offensive excellence for a fan base that craves it, and got that. And in that sense alone, this spring game was yet another one that Florida has won.