Gators handle outmanned Jacksonville State
Published: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 7:47 p.m.
Florida scripted a near-perfect Senior Day in The Swamp on Saturday.
The Gators enjoyed a comfortable win — at least for this team, anyway — and seniors scored all the points in a 23-0 victory over Jacksonville State.
The victory moves the No. 7 Gators to 10-1 on the season and completes a perfect 7-0 season at Florida Field. This team is only the seventh in school history to win 10 of its first 11 games and only the third to go 7-0 at home.
It was an excellent, and fitting, way for these 19 seniors to go out.
“Personally, I'd like to thank the 19 seniors and the job they've done at the University of Florida,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “All those guys have represented our university in a first-class manner.
“I really appreciate them going through a coaching change, going through a 7-6 campaign, certainly questioning a rookie coach and his staff and where we were headed with the program. They certainly could have walked the plank, so to speak, on us and they never did.
“I'm very appreciative of this bunch. And last year's bunch as well.”
How's this for the seniors representing on Senior Day:
— Senior tailback Mike Gillislee scored the only offensive touchdown on a seven-yard run in the first half.
— Senior middle linebacker Jon Bostic returned an interception seven yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
— Senior place-kicker Caleb Sturgis kicked three fields goals and two extra points.
That adds up to all of UF's 23 points being scored by the seniors.
“That's awesome. That's really neat,” said Sturgis, who made field goals of 21, 44 and 47 yards.
As the Gators have done for most of the season, they won with strong defense and by doing just enough on offense to win the game.
It was another one of those performances that does not get a lot of style points, but ends with a win just the same.
It sure looked pretty to the seniors.
“I love it. I wouldn't want it any other way,” senior defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. “The defense played hard, tough-nosed defense and the offense grinded and pounded the ball and special teams (played well.) That's how you gut those wins out.
“It's not pretty, but I'll take it. A win is a win.”
The Gators only led 10-0 at the half on Gillislee's TD run and a 21-yard field goal by Sturgis, both coming in the first quarter.
Early in the third quarter, Bostic pretty much sealed the deal with his pick-six to give the Gators a 17-0 lead.
Bostic said it was the first time he's scored a touchdown since his senior season at Palm Beach Dwyer High School.
“I couldn't tell you (who it was against),” he said. “It definitely was (a fitting play on Senior Day).”
Sturgis put the senior exclamation point on the victory with field goals of 44 and 47 yards in the fourth quarter.
“It's crazy to think it's my last time (playing in The Swamp). I don't think it's hit me yet,” Sturgis said. “I have a lot of memories here. It's good to finish it off with a pretty good game.”
After the seniors, the other big story line Saturday was the play of the UF defense. After giving up a 76-yard pass on the game's first offensive play, the defense pretty much dominated the rest of the game and recorded its second shutout of the season.
The Gators gave up only 38 yards and three first downs in the second half.
“I don't know if there's a better defense in the country,” Muschamp said. “We're playing really well right now.”
The same cannot be said of the offense. Although Jacoby Brissett threw for 154 yards playing for the injured Jeff Driskel, and Gillislee rushed for 122 yards and a score, the Gators struggled on third down (2-of-11) and had problems sustaining and finishing drives.
After the game, Muschamp was asked if the Gators could win next Saturday at Florida State with the offense the Gators have shown the past two weeks against Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State.
“No, we need to get better,” he said. “We need to be more consistent. There's no question (FSU) has done a really good job recruiting defensive players. They've played well all year. They played well last year.
“We need to get more production offensively. More than anything, we need to be more consistent. We can't continue to self-inflict wounds on ourselves as far as the penalties and different mistakes we're making and blocking assignments. We've got to go back and coach better.”
As poorly as the offense has played at times, the Gators have put together a special 10-1 season that includes a top-10 ranking and an undefeated fall in The Swamp.
Some will complain about it. The seniors, who went 7-0 in the Swamp in their final season, certainly won't.
“It's a big achievement,” Hunter said of going 7-0 at home. “That's not something we talked about in the beginning of the season, but the more realistic it became, we started talking about it and we wanted to finish up the season undefeated in The Swamp.”
The seniors made it happen on Senior Day.
Veteran JSU coach Jack Crowe (6-5) was impressed with what he saw from the Gators.
“I understand quality when I see it, and they are a very well-trained football team,” Crowe said.