Just like everybody else in a Gator uniform, quarterback Feleipe Franks had his share of struggles in the loss to Kentucky. But he also appears to have taken another step forward in his development.
The obvious sign of that was how he handled himself when the Gators really needed a score late in the fourth quarter. Franks came up clutch in leading UF on a 99-yard touchdown drive that put the Gators back in the game with 3:34 left to play.
Along the way, he kept the drive alive by checking down to running back Lamical Perine for an 18-yard gain to convert a fourth-and-seven from the UK 32.
“I thought he made a couple poor decisions, but overall, I did not have a big issue with his performance for where he’s at with this development,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “A couple things where, ‘Hey, they gave you this read.
Just get across your progression, check it down over here, just take that throw and go play the next play.’
“Just take what they give us. And you saw him do that on the big fourth-down conversion. He didn’t throw it 7 yards, but we were able to get the first because he made the right read, got it to the guy that could get 7 yards instead of forcing it to a guy that was double or triple covered 10 to 12 yards down the field.”
Franks struggled some with his accuracy and he failed to see a wide-open Malik Davis in the right corner of the end zone on the failed two-point attempt.
Overall, though, his numbers were solid: 17 of 38 for 232 yards and two touchdowns, along with an interception.
Wide receiver Josh Hammond said Franks has become a much more mature player in the huddle and on the field.
“Completely different quarterback from last year,” he said. “He’s grown a lot. Him going through last year definitely helped him excel and take those steps to being a leader, to being a true quarterback, to help him make those drives at the end of the game, to pull the offense together in rough times.
“And just let everybody know that things are OK. He keeps everybody calm. He stays calm, and just having that calmness allows everybody to relax and focus on what they need to do to succeed.”
Defense moving on
The secondary has been hit hard by injuries, the latest casualty being starting cornerback Marco Wilson, who is out for the season after tearing his ACL early in the UK game.
But the defense isn’t using the state of the secondary as an excuse.
“We’re fine,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Everybody has issues. Everybody has problems. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us on that. To use that (as an excuse) is never going to happen. The guys who are there, available, are going to play. They’re going to play their tails off and execute, and we’re going to find a way to be productive.”
As poorly as the defense played in the UK game, the Gators did put themselves in a position to come up with some big stops. But they ultimately failed on the money down, allowing the ’Cats to convert 9 of 13 third-down plays.
The biggest problems occurred when the Gators let quarterback Terry Wilson scramble around and make big plays with his arm and his legs.
“You can’t lose contain on the quarterback,” Grantham said. “Two things on third down when you face an athletic quarterback. You can’t let him make plays with his feet, and you can’t let him extend drives with his feet. So that’s No. 1.
“And then, you’ve got to understand third down is a sticks-element down. So if it’s third-and-three it’s going to be this kind of route or this kind of play. Third-and-seven or 11 is going to be this. When it’s longer than that then obviously the ball has to go to the sticks. All that’s an educational process to allow us to be better as we move forward.”