Franks silences critics in near flawless performance for Gators

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Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks throws a pass Saturday against UT-Martin at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

At least for one night, for one game, his many critics had to remain silent. Not a word. Not a single complaint.

They had no choice. Because beleaguered Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks put on a performance that was pretty close to flawless in leading the No. 11 Gators to a 45-0 rout of UT Martin on Saturday night before 80,007 in The Swamp.

Spreading the ball around to his many different playmakers and efficiently moving the offense, Franks completed 25 of 27 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns. One of those two incompletions came on a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half. He also rushed for 37 yards, averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

If his many critics — all those who came storming out of the woodwork again following his three-turnover effort in the win over Miami two weeks ago — find fault in those numbers, then it’s become personal.

Franks’ coaches and teammates have always had his back. On Saturday night, he gave them all kinds of reasons to stay solidly where they are.

“He showed his maturity of taking what they were giving us,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “They’ve got eight guys dropping all over the place, guys going deep, five guys underneath in zone coverage.

“He did a good job of really not forcing things. He might have missed one or two thrown down the field that he had, but no need to force it. Check down. He played pretty well. It was a good night.”

Franks would have had a perfect first half — 15 for 15 — if two more seconds weren’t put back on the clock by the officials, giving the Gators (2-0) an opportunity to throw a Hail Mary pass into the end zone that fell incomplete.

Other than that, no pass attempts by Franks hit the ground. What they did is fall into the arms and hands of his receivers.

He threw a picture-perfect deep ball to Van Jefferson for a 69-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. A few minutes later, he found a wide-open Tyrie Cleveland and hit him in stride for a 39-yard TD pass that gave the Gators a 17-0 halftime lead.

In the second half, Franks led the Gators on touchdown drives in their first two possessions to put the game away at 31-0.

“I thought it was good, everything was clicking,” Franks said. “I try to take what the defense gives me. I want to be smart. I’m never going to be perfect. I try to learn every day from (quarterbacks) coach (Brian) Johnson and Coach Mullen.

“I feel like I made pretty good decisions. I think we can roll with that.”

Franks did not play in the fourth quarter, turning the game over to Kyle Trask and Emory Jones, both of whom accounted for touchdowns — Trask on a 9-yard TD pass to Jacob Copeland and Jones on a 16-yard run.

In his three quarters of work, Franks effectively spread the ball around to UF’s playmakers, completing passes to nine different receivers.

“I believe Feleipe is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” senior wide receiver Van Jefferson said. “I’ve said that and I still believe it. He did a great job tonight.”

Even though the 41-point underdog Skyhawks were technically in the game going into the second half, Mullen felt comfortable enough to insert numerous true and redshirt freshmen and some other younger players who have not played much, if any.

“It was great,” Mullen said. “We played (young guys) throughout the game. That’s one thing we went in wanting to do. I wanted guys rolling right from the beginning. It seemed that we were rolling a lot of players though. They were getting reps with the one defense. Same offensively.”

While Franks and the offense were amassing 45 points and 543 total yards, the defense was shutting down UT Martin (1-1) for most of the night, holding the Skyhawks to just 194 yards of offense, only 54 on the ground. The Gators also had five sacks, 10 tackles for losses and produced their first defensive turnover of the season on true freshman cornerback Kaiir Elam’s interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Things will now start getting tougher for the Gators, who open SEC play Saturday at Kentucky.

“We’ve got to crank it up, and it starts on Monday morning when we show up,” Mullen said. “We have a good attitude. We just have to have more of a grind it sense of urgency now.”


Up next

Who: No. 11 Florida (2-0) vs. Kentucky (2-0)

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lexington, Ky.

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

12 COMMENTS

  1. Well sports fans, I won’t pat myself on the back for saying that Texas wasn’t actually back, that the hype about Miami was just that, and that Michigan was severely over-rated — that would be off topic. I will just say that since I’ve managed to acquire Dooley’s magic decoder ring, I can now safely predict his next AP ranking votes. Michigan, of course, moves up; so does Auburn, naturally, but Florida moves down again to #18 in order for Texas not to drop toooo far, and of course to get to the ultimate goal of getting UCF ranked above Florida. I think I can also safely predict that with one more win next week, he’ll vote those pesky Gators right out of the Top-25 and the we’re off to the races to somehow get FSU back in. But I digress.

    After a first quarter if dinks and dunks, and 3 whole points against an FCS team, during which I’m sure the rest of the SEC-East, minus UT, was licking their chops — Franks actually stepped it up and showed us what he can do. It won’t silence his most vocal critics one iota since, again, it was against an FCS team, but if he can replicate that performance next week against Kentucky and sustain it? And the OL gels into a unit? Lord have mercy! It’s gonna be a special season that nobody saw coming. GO GATORS.

    • I’m not so sure 6. I’m no more comfortable with our OL’s performance yesterday than I was two weeks ago vs. Miami. They couldn’t get any more push in the first half vs. an undermanned FCS D than they did vs. Miami. And the Canes just showed us they’re nothing to write home about. As for Mr. Franks, all those dinks and dunks he threw outside the hash marks were OK vs. less talented FCS DBs taking deep drops, but won’t work vs. speedy SEC DBs that are not worried about our running game between the tackles. I guess we’ll get a better idea about the Gator OL this Saturday vs. Kentucky. We already know what we have in Mr. Franks.

      As for the Gator D, they did a fine job of cleaning up the poor tackling and stupid penalties from two weeks ago. They looked ready to take on ALL comers until… they lost CJ 😱! Hopefully, that was NOT a dreaded “high ankle sprain,” because our secondary can ill afford not having him at full speed vs. Auburn and LSU.

      The Gators are 2-0. That’s good, BUT before we start looking for a spot on the south end zone wall of the Swamp for the Gators’ next SEC Championship, let’s keep in mind so are Kentucky, Auburn, LSU and UGA. And ALL OF THEM will get a say on how special this Gator season will be.

      • No — I didn’t say the OL was great, STL. I just said, “if” they gel into a unit. They need game experience and to be coached up some more — I think you said by Auburn, not too long ago — I’m just saying that if they can at least hit the marker of “SEC Average” by next week, we’ll be OK. In fact, if Franks can indeed step it up consistently by SEC play, we’ll be more than OK. If. I’m not holding my breath, but I am crossing my fingers. Just think this team could get to Atlanta this year…..if all the ifs fall into place. One of the biggest of them being “if” the team as a whole can find its sense of urgency. When they finally did that last year, it was magical.

    • It was impressive for LSU to go to Austin and get a “W”, but Texas sure scored a lot of points and threw for a lot of yards against a good SEC defense that also calls itself “DBU”. Burrow may be better than we thought, but maybe our DL can keep him in check enough to give our offense a chance to outscore them.

      As for the Gator OL, they whiffed on enough blocks in the first half to make CDM go all potty mouth on the Gator Radio Network sideline reporter at half-time. They were better in the second half, but it’s hard to make an assessment that the OL is OK based on a decent performance against UTM. It’s different starters this season, but UK dominated both of UF’s lines last year. I’m confident the DL will be fine, but the jury’s still out on the OL. There’s another week of practice to get better, though, so Go Gators!

    • Wait for it…. Wait for it… Wait.. what are you waiting for?
      I saw some things start to look like the semblance of an offense coming together. They needed that after the UM game where emotion and pressure of the history lessons they got put too much pressure on them. They still haven’t loosened up (last year didn’t happen until the Mizzou game) UTM tried to force the passing game and covered it hoping we’d make turnovers. Franks made some decent throughs last weekend to receivers in stride. Not perfect as the receivers had to adjust but not where they flow of the route was disrupted. He needs to be able to hit the middle stuff in traffic and we’ll be more rounded in the passing game. Our OL is starting to get things together though it is taking longer than one game. Theirs is a timing issue and there are a lot of moving pieces (300 lb guys) that have to learn the rhythm of the OL to not get in each others way. Getting that push is something they are learning. Saw something in the Patriots last night on OL play that I think would work good here. They let the DL and whoever was pass rushing move into the line which pushed them into each other. Used moving mass to their advantage. Worked almost every time. left few gaps the defense could attack through and forced them to go the around route which them made the choices for Brady. I am no Patriot fan but you have to admire good execution. Penalties were under control. If FF can perform against SEC teams like he did last weekend and I think he can we will be just fine. I say that because he did against Michigan, SC, I’d say FSU but.. and MI.
      As for those with concern (I am one) we haven’t been tested against a quality foe. I do think UM played much above their current level because of who they were playing.
      For anyone wanting a laugh at the expense of the vol’s (small case intentional) go to fansided and look at their poll story watch the fan meltdown video. Thing is it aint gonna get much better there.

      For the few Dolphin fans left evidently they came out with a “We Ready” intro yesterday. I guess that meant we ready for a as- whoopin.

  2. Stellar on-field performance and no sideline “histrionics,” as Pat has described some of FF’s actions. Well done FF. Great to see Malik Davis find the end zone, that must have felt really good after the past two years. On a side note, Tennessee, wow, and (uh oh) looks like LSU finally has an offense.

  3. Franks certainly has the arm and always has. He had time last night to scan the field and found his receivers. That is what Florida needs is to block for long enough for Franks to find the guy and use his arm strength to deliver. It is never just the quarterback when something goes wrong but it easier to blame one person instead of 11. Franks needed all of last year to get on board with Mullen and he needed adversity in the Miami game to get this year going. An easy victory over Miami and it could of given false confidence. He is a Gator and he is our quarterback so all the best to him. If he and the line can continue to work well together, he can have a great year. Go Gators!

  4. I agree that Franks performed admirably in the UT Martin game. Bet you are waiting for the “but”, so here it is – BUT, this was against UT Martin. We will be playing against a much better team (than UT Martin) next week, and the game is at UK. It will be a hostile environment that will hopefully help forge the Gators into a more solid football team. Franks can credit for a solid performance last Saturday night. As he has often said, he is continuing to improve. Our O-Line must give him enough time to execute, and not just to the first check. I said that his performance against UM was mediocre – he did make some big plays in that game, but our O-Line did not provide enough protection to allow Franks to do what he has shown wat he can do when protected. GO GATORS!!!