Many who entered The Swamp on Saturday were probably expecting to sit back and enjoy a nice, relaxing afternoon and a comfortable Florida victory.
After all, this was Towson, an FCS school on the schedule sandwiched between two SEC teams, one that will be in the top 10 in the nation next Saturday.
So, it was natural to relax, a chance for everyone to catch their breath — a breather. But it ended up being more of a breathless-type experience for much of the afternoon, breathless especially for the UF defense from chasing quarterback Tom Flacco and the Towson offense all over the field.
There were all kinds of uneasy moments for the Gators and their fans, even though the final score belies that fact.
The No. 9 Gators took down Towson 38-0, recording their second shutout in three weeks, to move to 5-0 on the season. But this win and that zero came with plenty of anxious moments, and some concern with Auburn and LSU up next on the schedule.
UF coach Dan Mullen warned everybody throughout the week that Towson was a good team with a talented quarterback and a good roster from top to bottom.
And that’s what everyone in attendance saw Saturday.
“This was a team that was lighting up scoreboards,” Mullen said of the Tigers. “Their only loss is a 50-something overtime loss to another top-10 team. But they were a great offense and like I said, a lot of times guys come in and you look at the balance they had. (They had) different guys running the ball, different guys catching the ball, spreading it around.
“They are a quality, a very quality, complete team. They have a great quarterback that can beat you with his legs, beat you with his arm. You saw that early. Give them a lot of credit. I thought they played really well.”
While the Tigers played well, the Gators were just OK for much of the afternoon, and maybe below average in some areas, like say, on the offensive line.
But, in the end, everything turned out just fine.
Quarterback Kyle Trask set a school record for consecutive pass completions (18), the Gators rolled up 38 points and 422 total yards, the defense produced three turnovers and UF moves on to the Auburn game undefeated and on a nine-game winning streak.
“I thought we played solid,” Mullen said. “You know, first half we didn’t do a good job getting off the field. That’s something we’ve got to get better at. Even for the day, we gave up 8-of-15 third-down conversions and didn’t do a great job of getting off the field in the first half.
“They had a good plan, though, well-executed. They did a good job slowing the game down. We wanted to get a lot of plays in, try to play with some tempo. We only had 60 plays in the game. It was a quick game.
“We created turnovers. We bent but didn’t break defensively. Second shutout at home. Good, great crowd here today. They were like us at times. Maybe not at our best. We played well, (the fans) were solid. Next week I expect everybody to be a little bit louder. They’re going to have to be louder, we’re going to have to play better and execute cleaner.”
Flacco and the Towson offense silenced the crowd over several stretches, especially in the first half, by flying up and down the field and making plays that created multiple anxious moments for the Gators and their fans.
The Gators led only 17-0 at the half, and had Flacco not lost a fumble on the UF 25 in the first quarter, the score could have been much closer. The Gators managed to distance themselves from the Tigers in the third quarter with a Trask 1-yard TD run and a 7-yard TD pass from Trask to tight end Kyle Pitts, their second scoring connection of the game. They hooked up for the game’s first score on a 5-yard pass on UF’s first possession of the game.
While the defense had its hands full trying to contain Flacco in the first half, Trask was completing all 15 of his attempts and then added three more to open the second half to pass Chis Leak’s school record of 17 consecutive completions.
“It’s pretty cooI (to set the record),” Trask said. “I didn’t know about it until Coach’s wife told me about it. It’s pretty cool to be a part of history like that when you think about all the great quarterbacks who have played here.”
In only his second career start, Trask completed 18 of 20 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought he did pretty good,” Mullen said. “ He managed the game pretty well. They were playing off us a little bit and I think he did a good job of taking things. I think he could have pushed the ball down the field a little bit more at times, but we didn’t. But you know what, we still executed and that’s fine. I thought he played well.”
Overall, the Gators played well. It’s a 38-point win and a shutout.
Well was good enough against Towson. That probably won’t be the case next Saturday against Auburn.
Who: No. 7 Auburn vs. No. 9 Florida
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850