Tonight’s storylines: UT Martin at Florida

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The Florida Gators offense lines up against the Miami Hurricanes at the Camping World Kickoff against the Miami Hurricanes at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, FL on Saturday, August 24, 2019. Florida Gators defeated the Miami Hurricanes 24-20 in the season opener. [Matt Pendleton/Correspondent]

Tonight

Who: Tennessee-Martin (1-0) vs. No. 11 Florida (1-0)

When: 7:30

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: ESPNU

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Series record: First meeting. Since 2000, Florida is 25-1 against first-time opponents.  Florida has won 19 consecutive games against first-time opponents, with five of those wins coming against FCS foes.

What’s at stake?

For Florida, the embarrassment of losing to a Football Championship Subdivision team (see Tennessee). It’s expected to be the final year Florida plays two lower-division teams in the same season as athletic director Scott Stricklin wants to schedule 10 Power 5 opponents annually.

Big stage for a small school

This figures to be the biggest and most hostile crowd any of the UT Martin players have played before, but don’t expect the Skyhawks to be intimidated by The Swamp. Playing in an SEC stadium is nothing new to these guys. They did it once in 2017 (Ole Miss) and once last season (Missouri), and they’ll be doing it twice this season (UF and Kentucky), so they know what to expect and how to prepare for what they’re going to face tonight. That, of course, does not mean the Skyhawks will get a favorable result. They lost the Ole Miss and Missouri games by a combined score of 96-37. Overall, the Skyhawks are 0-9 against the SEC. UT Martin is getting $500,000 to play in The Swamp, the kind of payday that helps fund the school’s entire athletic department.

Time to pound the rock

Florida’s young and inexperienced offensive line played OK in the opener against Miami. We say OK because the big guys gave up only one sack. What they did not do is get any push in the running game and it gave the backs little or no room to run. The result was a paltry 50 yards rushing and an average of just 1.8 yards a rush. That is not OK. The Gators will attempt to establish the run early in tonight’s game. If they can do that, it will give Feleipe Franks and the UF receivers a chance to make a bunch of big plays in the passing game. But heading into the game, that huge question mark lingers for this inexperienced offensive line.

Key matchups

Florida’s run defense vs. UT Martin running back Peyton Logan: Logan definitely has caught the attention of the Florida defense after rushing for 149 yards and averaging 11.4 yards a carry in the Skyhawks victory over Northwestern State last Thursday. It was quite a performance for a back making his first college start, and it certainly took the pressure off quarterback John Bachus, who also was making his first start. UF’s No. 1 defensive goal tonight will be shutting down Logan and making UT Martin one-dimensional. That likely would not be a good look for the Skyhawks. Bachus threw for two touchdowns in the opener, but he completed just eight of 20 passes for only 130 yards. And he will face a UF defensive front coming off a 10-sack performance in the win over Miami. So, if Logan and the Skyhawks can’t make anything happen in the running game, it likely will be a long, brutal night in The Swamp for UT Martin.

Florida’s defensive front vs. UT Martin’s offensive line. The Gators recorded 10 sacks in their opener against Miami, the most by an SEC team since 2008. UT Martin coach Jason Simpson insists he won’t let Florida repeat the feat. “They could have had more,” he said. “They won’t get 10 against us because we’ll just hand it off for about the last 40 plays of the game if that’s what happens. … We won’t tie that record. We’ll just keep handing it off on those third downs.”

Players to watch

UT Martin: Senior Terry Williams totaled 199 all-purpose yards in the team’s opener against Northwestern State. He had 28 yards receiving, 98 on punt returns and 73 on kickoff returns.

Florida: Pass-rushers Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga, who were menaces against the Hurricanes. They combined for five tackles for loss, including three sacks.

Facts & Figures

The Gators should be able to play a number of backups and freshmen, but more importantly for coach Dan Mullen, he would like to see improvements on offense that include fewer turnovers and more rushing yards. … Florida will honor its most famous cheerleader before the game. George Edmondson Jr., better known as Mr. Two Bits while riling up crowds at Florida home games for 60 years, died in early July at age 97. His grandchildren and great-grandchildren will lead the renowned two-bits cheer at midfield.

Tonight’s game questions

• Will the Gators be able to establish a running game after failing to do so in the opener against Miami?

• Can the UF defense create its first turnover of the season?

• After a week off, will the Gators get off to a slow start or will they come out hot?

• UT Martin’s offense had a good balance between the pass and the run in the opener last week. Can the UF defense make the Skyhawks one dimensional?

• UT Martin wide receiver/returner Terry Williams accounted for 199 all-purpose yards last week, including a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. Can he inflict some damage on the UF special teams?

Click back Monday for Andreu’s answers

Andreu’s pick

Florida 51, UT Martin 9

(Season record: 1-0)


Mark Long of The Associated Press contributed to this report.

6 COMMENTS

  1. * They’d better, or else it’s going to be a long season, even if our QB steps it up if he can.

    * No reason why they can’t get several turnovers against this team.

    * Probably hot — smokin’ hot — depending on which Gator team shows up. Somebody should tell ’em Dooley will lobby them out of the Top-25 if they don’t win by 60!

    * The Gator defense can make the Green Bay Packers one dimensional if they want to. The only question is whether or not they will want to.

    * Not unless the Gators think this is a flag football game again.

    • 6- I have a lot of confidence in this team…there is certainly an abundance of talent at every position on this team and we have an excellent coaching staff in place….a formula for success…however, every game I pose the question…which QB is the mostly likely to make a critical mistake at a critical time in the game…especially in all of of our big games…and the answer is always Franks…UF always matches up even or better at all positions, except QB…I just wish Mullen would have a tighter reign on Franks and pull him when he makes dumb mistakes and would put Trask in, for a series or two, he is the much more accurate passer than Franks… QB is our weakest position on the team…and if we lose in most cases it will be because of the QB…just like our 3 loses last year…and that is a shame, because we have such great RW’s and such great dept at the position…and you are exactly right about Dooley…he is like a poison, when it comes to ranking the gators, with the poison he spreads to his colleagues around the country…even though UF beat a rivalry Miami team by 4, his AP vote for UF was at No.11 from no. 8…let’s see if he keeps Michigan at no.7 or votes them out of the top ten like he did UF.