VIDEO: Florida Gators Throttle No. 3 Ole Miss 38-10 In ‘The Swamp’
By Chris Harry, GatorZone.com Senior Writer // October 4, 2015
ABOVE VIDEO: Watch as the Denkins family gets the surprise of a lifetime in The Swamp! (Florida Gators Video)
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA (GatorZone.com) – The Ole Miss offense and quarterback were all the talk last week, having steamrolled through the first month of the season to lead the Southeastern Conference in scoring and total yards.
So enter the red-hot Rebels, ranked third in the nation, to face a Florida defense that was staggered a week earlier in that escape-act win over Tennessee.
Hotty toddy, gosh almighty, what in the hell just happened?
Will Grier threw four first-half touchdown passes and set the tone that eventually surged 25th-ranked Florida to an improbable 38-10 drubbing of Ole Miss in their Saturday night Southeastern Conference showdown before a deafening house of 90,585 at The Swamp.
Grier, the redshirt freshman who was one of 20-plus Gators who fought off the flu bug late this week, hit junior Demarcus Robinson for a 36-yard score, tight end Jake McGee for a two-yard touchdown, Brandon Powell for 77 yards and Antonio Callaway for 15 to give the Gators a big — and stunning — 25-0 halftime lead in the battle of unbeatens.
The Florida defense finished the job with a couple second-half turnovers, as the Gators (5-0, 3-0) are now unbeaten through five games for the first time since 2012. Coupled with Georgia’s 38-10 home loss to Alabama, UF moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC East Division.
And surely into the national conversation.
“That’s for everybody outside our locker room,” junior linebacker Jarrad Davis said.
“In our locker room, we know who we are. And we’re going to stay humble and hungry.”
Ole Miss (4-1, 2-1) was the highest ranked opponent to fall at Florida Field in 16 years, dating to an upset of No. 2 and defending national champion Tennessee in 1999.
“That was sure a lot of fun,” McElwain said of a night his team jumped early and often on the Rebels and played off the energy of a fired-up prime-time crowd.
“Really happy for our fans and and for these kids who have accepted the challenges that we have put forth and really invested in themselves and each other.”
Perspective: Just two weeks ago, the Rebels went into Alabama and rolled the mighty Crimson Tide 43-37, gaining 433 yards and forcing five turnovers. They did not lack confidence coming in.
The Gators, meanwhile, did not lack attitude.
“We had something to prove,” UF senior defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard said.
A week after leading his team from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to a pulsating 28-27 defeat of Tennessee, Grier completed 24 of his 29 attempts for 271 yards, the four scores and no turnovers. Ole Miss came into the game topping the SEC in scoring (54.8 points per game) and total offense (543.5 yards per game).
The Rebels left with 328 yards and one measly touchdown.
At one point in the second half, Ole Miss had a first down inside the UF 1, but the next three plays netted minus-1 yard, minus-2 yards and minus-2 yards, forcing Rebels coach Hugh Freeze to kick a short field goal. It was that kind of night.
“That [sequence] didn’t happen today. It was our preparation all last week,” said defensive end Bryan Cox Jr.
“All that paid off today.”
And it was evident instantaneously.
The two teams swapped punts to start the game, then the Gators struck first when Grier bombed the Rebels’ secondary with a perfectly thrown deep post route to Robinson. Grier had a great pocket for his throw down the center of the field, where Robinson, the junior, beat Rebels cornerback Tony Bridges and nickelback Zedrick Woods on a deep post pattern. Robinson leaped for the ball and came down with it in the end zone.
“We drew it up in practice and they gave us the look,” Grier said.
“You have to execute it.”
On the Rebels’ second possession, tailback Jaylen Watkins fumbled away an inside handoff from quarterback Chad Kelly. The ball spilled right into the arms of Cox at the Ole Miss 24.
Five plays later, including a 12-yard to the Ole Miss 2 by tailback Kelvin Taylor, Grier play-faked into the line and hit a wide-open McGee, the sixth-year senior and Virginia transfer, who snuck out uncovered in the back of the end zone. The point-after attempt by Jorge Powell hit the upright.
But it was 13-0 barely eight minutes in and the Rebels were on their heels and Freeze knew it.
“I hope we have a bunch of guys get the flu next week,” Freeze said.
The Rebels had a chance to get on the scoreboard in the first half, with Kelly driving for a first down at the UF 18. But on first down, linebacker Antonio Morrison smothered Watkins for a 2-yard loss. Three plays later, Gary Wunderlich attempted a 29-yard field, but the ball sailed wide right.
On Florida’s second possession of the second period, the Gators started at their 19. On third-and-6 from the UF 23, the Rebels blitzed the house, but Grier hit Powell, his slotback, on a slant.
The timing was perfect, as Powell fired through a crease in the Ole Miss defense, hit the sideline and outran everybody to the end zone, doing 70 of the yards on his own.
The 77-yarder marked a career-long for Grier. An attempt at a two-point conversion failed and kept the score at 19-0.
That’s where it stood when UF forced an Ole Miss late in the first half and took over at its own 9 with 4:50 to go in the half.
Conventional wisdom — and certainly past UF coaching philosophy — would have been to sit on the lead and avoid a mistake late in the half that might give the opponent momentum; especially after a penalty pushed the Gators back to their 6.
Instead, UF stayed in attack mode, working for a first down, then chipping away, for a 13-play, 91-yard drive that ended when Grier hit Callaway slanting right to left. The true freshman wideout and hero in last week’s epic comeback against the Volunteers scooted into the end zone with just 20 seconds left in the half.
“I’m not used to that,” Bullard said of his offense’s aggression.
“Me neither,” Cox added.
They could easily have been reference the 25-0 lead at the half.
Ole Miss finally got on the board in the third quarter, but not until that phenomenal defensive stand led to Wunderlich’s field goal. The Gators, though, cancelled that scored with three points of their own, as walk-on redshirt freshman Jorge Powell, who hit the difference-making point-after in last week, made his first career field goal. His 31-yarder at 12:46 of the fourth period made the score 28-3.
UF proceeded to one-upp the Rebs — and then some — six minutes later with another Powell field goal, a 22-yarder following an interception by Vernon Hargreaves III, to push the score to 31-3.
And on the very next Ole Miss play from scrimmage, Kelly was sacked by defensive end Alex McCalister. The ball shot into the air, with true freshman defensive end CeCe Jefferson catching it and returning it inside the Ole Miss 1, where classmate Jordan Cronkrite scored on first down to make it 38-3.
The Gators snuck up on the Rebels.
They won’t sneak up on anybody else the rest of the season, including on the road at two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri next week.
“We’ll be able to handle it,” offensive guard Trip Thurman said of UF’s new-found prosperity.
“We haven’t had it too much, so it’s going to be different. But we’re just going to prepare the same way we have week in, week out.”
Only with a lot more external respect.