ORLANDO — After much anticipation and fanfare, Florida kicked off the 2019 season Saturday night against Miami — although both teams were at anything but full strength.
Prior to making the trip to Orlando, Gators coach Dan Mullen suggested Monday the team would wait until just prior to kick-off to announce any suspensions. As it turned out, that inevitably did come to pass; with less than 10 minutes until the game commenced, UF revealed safety Brad Stewart, defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, wide receiver Rick Wells and athlete Patrick Moorer had been suspended for the season opener for “not living up to the Gator Standard”, according to a UF spokesperson. With the Gators down three scholarship players and Moorer, Donovan Stiner earned the start alongside Jeawon Taylor at safety, while defensive linemen Kyree Campbell and Adam Shuler started in the trenches for the Gators.
Co-starting Miami defensive back DJ Ivey was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules, per UM.
Toney takes off
When Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney received the vaunted No. 1 jersey, the comparisons to former Gators star Percy Harvin arrived in droves. While many cautioned the praise was premature, Toney apparently didn’t get the message. On his first reception in his new attire, Toney broke five tackles and took Feleipe Franks’ short pass 66 yards to the house for UF’s first points of the night.
Meyer in the house
Saturday served as a reunion of sorts for the Urban Meyer era of Florida football. With Tim Tebow on the broadcast for SEC Network, in addition to a multitude of former Gators throughout the years, Florida’s neutral site matchup with the ’Canes felt like a homecoming of sorts. The only thing missing was former Gators coach Urban Meyer, who stepped away from the game after last season — until he wasn’t, that is. Meyer, with wife Shelley by his side, was spotted on site in a private suite with Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, clad in a blue Florida shirt and all. After an eventful end to Meyer’s tenure in Gainesville, it appears time is well on its way to healing old wounds.
Shaky starts galore
If it wasn’t clear Florida’s matchup with the ’Canes marked the return of college football nationally, the miscues by both teams surely served as a reminder. Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks was 7-for-9 for 104 yards and a touchdown, but a pair of fumbles — both in Miami territory — proved costly for UF, as Miami pounced on both. Miami wasn’t much better, although many of the Hurricanes’ blunders were procedural penalties at the line of scrimmage. Miami committed seven penalties in the first half for 48 yards. Despite the costly errors holding onto the football, the Gators committed just two penalties in the first half
Gators struggle with freshman QB
Considering Saturday marked a first-year head coach making his debut, in addition to redshirt freshman signal caller Jarren Williams’ first start under center, many would have expected Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to throw the kitchen sink at the ‘Canes offense.
Yet Williams was seemingly unphased — in fact, judging by his performance in the first half, Williams was more than ready for the moment. He completed 12-of-14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown as the ’Canes took a 13-7 lead into the halftime break. Although the Gators were able to sack Williams four times in the first two quarters of play, it apparently didn’t affect the inexperienced quarterback’s accuracy from under center.