COLLEGE GAME PREVIEW: North Texas Mean Green vs. No. 23 Florida Gators
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Associate Editor // September 16, 2016
Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
ABOVE VIDEO: Highlights from the North Texas win over Bethune-Cookman 41-20.
• WHEN: Saturday, September 17 – 7:30 p.m. ET
• WHERE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, FL
• TV BROADCAST: ESPNU
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA- The Florida Gators look to stay hot following a 45-7 home win over SEC foe Kentucky last Saturday night at Steve Spurrier Filed at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (did I say that right ?).
The North Texas Mean Green are also coming off of a win in which they put up forty plus points defeating Bethune-Cookman 41-20 at Apogee Stadium in Denton, Texas.
North Texas is 1-46 in its history against ranked teams from the Associated Press Top 25, and this week’s opponent Florida, is currently ranked No. 23. The lone win for the Mean Green program came in 1977 in a 14-9 win over No. 20 San Diego State in Denton on Nov. 2, 1974.
North Texas rushed for 329 yards in its win over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday, after mustering only 83 last week against SMU.
The Mean Green also rushed for four touchdowns, after junior running back Jeffrey Wilson scored a pair, and fellow juniors Andrew Tucker and Willy Ivery each added touchdowns on the ground. The four in one game is the most any team in Conference USA has had thus far through two week.
Freshman quarterback Mason Fine made his first collegiate start against Bethune-Cookman Saturday. He became the first North Texas true freshman quarterback to start a game since Giovanni Vizza did so in 2007. Fine found nine different receivers and completed 11-of-22 passes for 108 yards, while also rushing for 46 yards on eight carries in the victory.
The defense was stout surrendering just one score. Bethune-Cookman took an early lead via an 88-yard punt return, and later registered a pick-6 for their second score of the game. Were it not for an 83-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Akevious Williams with 2:42 remaining in the fourth, North Texas’, the defense would have pitched a shutout of sorts.
ABOVE VIDEO: The Gators are back in the top 25 after a dominating performance against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Following a sluggish win UMASS in Week 1, many Gators fans feared the worst about their offense once again in 2016. But, Luke Del Rio settled in early and often against Kentucky and took advantage of mismatches all day. The Junior passed for 320 yards and four touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway caught five balls for a career-high 129 yards, including a 78-yard scoring bomb. Freshman tailback Lamical Perine carried 17 times for 105 yards to lead a ground attack that went for 244 yards.
The Gators racked up 564 total yards against the Wildcats, which was its highest mark in an SEC game since the Gators totaled 571 total yards against Vanderbilt on Nov. 3, 2001. UF’s 45 points were the most in an SEC game since the Orange and Blue scored 48 against Kentucky on Sep. 24, 2011. In addition, Florida’s 14 third down conversions were its highest single-game total since at least 1996.
Florida converted 14 of its 20 third downs against Kentucky, becoming the only SEC team since 1996 to convert at least 70 percent of its third downs when it faced at least 20 of them in a game.
The defense continues to be the staple of “The Swamp.” Only a 2-yard scoring run from UK’s Jojo Kemp with 4:27 remaining prevented what would have been UF’s first shutout of the Wildcats since a 38-0 blanking in 2012. Florida forced four turnovers in the 38-point win. The outcome marked the 30th consecutive win for the Gators in the series, which is the longest such active run by one FBS program over another.
Defensively, UF’s 14 points allowed this season are the fewest it’s surrendered in its first two games of a season since 2011. In addition, the Gators have held consecutive opponents to less than 200 total yards for the first time since 2009.
Florida is the only team in the country ranked in the top 20 in scoring defense (t-6th), rushing defense (17th), passing defense (6th), total defense (2nd), sacks (t-3rd), interceptions (t-16th), and opponent third down percentage (15th).
Florida’s defense recorded three interceptions and held Kentucky to less than 60 yards passing, which is just the ninth time since 1996 that’s been done by an SEC team. With the win, the Gators are now 2-0 for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons.
ABOVE VIDEO: Florida Gators Coach Jim McElwain addresses the media at his weekly press conference.
ODDS AND ENDS…
• OFFENSE: Florida. If the offense that showed up against Kentucky is here to stay, the Gators will be difficult to beat.
• DEFENSE: Florida. Teams are going to have an extremely tough time throwing the ball against the Gators.
• SPECIAL TEAMS: Florida. He proved he was human with a miss, but Eddy Piniero still has Gator fans giddy.
• COACHING: Florida. McElwain is on his way to building Florida into a power again.
• INTANGIBLES: Florida. Don’t expect a let-down after the Gators saw what almost happened to rival Georgia last week.
Matchup To Watch
Antonio Callaway vs. North Texas secondary. Now that he seems to have his head directly focused on the field, Callaway is a threat that Del Rio will lean on every week.
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