Gators notebook: More players sit out due to injury

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida offensive lineman Michael Tarquin (70) pushes up running back Nay'Quan Wright after they thought he had scored a touchdown in the first quarter. Wright stepped out of bounds at the 1/2-yard line Saturday against Vanderbilt at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Ocala native Michael Tarquin made the first start of his collegiate career Saturday in Florida’s 42-0 win over Vanderbilt. 

The 6-foot-5 offensive lineman was in at left tackle for UF’s first drive of the afternoon in the place of the injured redshirt junior Richard Gouraige, and the redshirt sophomore ultimately played the majority of the contest before the Gators pulled the starters midway through the fourth quarter. 

UF coach Dan Mullen said he’ll have to get another look at the tape to assess how Tarquin played, though the lack of sacks allowed by the unit was certainly an encouraging statistic. 

“I’ll watch the film to see that. But we expect guys to be ready to go play. Get those opportunities,” Mullen said. 

He wasn’t the only missing starter either, as redshirt senior running back Malik Davis wasn’t dressed out during warm-ups, indicating he would miss the game. 

Mullen said the Gators will learn more information about the statuses of Davis and Gouraige as the team heads into its week of preparation for LSU. 

“We’ll find that out more after the weekend with the trainers, meet with everybody, where everybody’s at. See if they’re going to be ready to go. We’ve got a lot of guys down, a lot of guys not practice,” Mullen said. “Hopefully we’re going to get some more guys back next week, but next guy’s got to step up and be ready to go play.”

Sans Davis, the Gators would finish the game with 181 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground. 

Despite going through pre-game warm-ups, defensive back Kaiir Elam, the team’s starting cornerback, missed his third consecutive game as he continues to rehab from a sprained knee. Mullen, who added he was initially optimistic the Riviera Beach native would play Saturday, said Elam doesn’t plan on missing UF’s upcoming trip to Death Valley. 

“I was hoping. Week 1 didn’t turn around, today right on the edge. He warmed up. I think everybody saw him go out and warm up. It was going to be a game-time decision for us. Talking to him, he wanted to play. Talking to the trainers, they said we could get him out there if we had to, possibly, in an emergency and so, that gets on me,” Mullen said. “If a trainer says that to me, ‘get him out there in case of an emergency’, it’s not real confidence of what I’m looking for to get a guy on the field. We made the decision, I met with him after warmups. He’s like, ‘I’m ready to go.’ I said, “No, we’re not even going to dress you.’ As he said, he’s like, ‘coach, trust me, I will be ready next week’.”

Secondary further depleted

Late in the first quarter, Gators defensive back Tre’Vez Johnson was ejected for targeting after hitting the ‘Dores’ wideout Cam Johnson in the helmet. 

Cam Johnson was attempting to extend Vanderbilt’s drive on a trick play, throwing a pass, as the Commodores aimed to cut into UF’s 14-0 lead at the time. The 'Dores had the ball all the way down to the UF 31-yard line when Cam Johnson looked to fire a pass to wide receiver Ben Bresnahan on first down. The pass was incomplete, but Tre'Vez Johnson came in late – and high. Upon review, the call stood, meaning the Gators defensive back would miss the remainder of the contest. 

The Gators inserted fellow ‘Star’ Jadarrius Perkins in place of Johnson. Perkins would finish the game with seven tackles, including two solo tackles. 

"He played great. As a player, I'm pretty sure he didn't know that time was coming, just like last year versus Ole Miss when I didn't know I was going in,” sophomore safety Rashad Torrence, who had a career-high 15 tackles Saturday, said of Perkins, “but he definitely stepped up to the plate and proved that he was very well worthy of being a Florida Gator." 

In addition to the ejection, the ‘Dores picked up 15 yards on the penalty, moving the offense into the red zone for the first time Saturday. Vanderbilt would pick up a penalty of its own two plays later, forcing the visitors to settle for a 39-yard field-goal attempt by Joseph Bulovas. 

But the attempt was no good, keeping the first-quarter shutout intact. It would get worse for Vanderbilt’s kicker, too, as Bulovas would ultimately miss three field goal attempts throughout the afternoon. 

It wouldn’t be the only targeting call of the day either, as safety Trey Dean III was whistled for targeting in the second half. But replay overturned the call on the field, allowing Dean to remain in the game and avoid a first-half suspension against LSU. 

Impressive mileage

Dan Mullen may not always be over the moon with the execution, but Florida continues to rack up impressive statistics on the offensive end regardless.

With 479 yards of offense against the Commodores, the Gators passed the 3,000-yard mark, which is just the sixth time since 1965 that UF has eclipsed 3,000 yards through six games. The Gators also have rushed for 150 yards or more in the first six games of the season for the first time since 1993. 

Only nine times in Mullen’s 44 games as head coach have the Gators failed to exceed 100 rushing yards, though only one season – the 2018 campaign, Mullen’s first at the helm – has seen UF tally 100-plus yards in every contest. 

Crawshaw shows off speed

Jeremy Crawshaw took the snap and was off faster than lightning through a wet dog. 

Instead of punting it away to the awaiting Commodores, the redshirt freshman from New South Wales, Australia, executed a fake punt on 4th-and-15 and picked up 28 yards to get Florida into Vanderbilt territory and extend the drive. Emory Jones would hit Dameon Pierce for a long touchdown just four plays later, meaning the 6-foot-4 punter’s maneuver was critical in setting up UF’s first score of the second half. 

A week after the Gators couldn’t manage a play longer than 22 yards, Crawshaw’s fake marked UF’s seventh play of the afternoon to go for 25 yards or more. 

They’d seen the play in practice during the build-up to the contest, but Crawshaw’s teammates were still surprised by his breakaway speed. 

“I thought he was going to score, actually. I didn’t know he was that fast. He showed me something. I didn’t know he was that fast,” running back Nay’Quan Wright said. “We gotta put him on offense, maybe throw him at receiver or something. We don’t know.”

Mullen credited Greg Knox, the team’s running backs coach and special team coordinator, for recognizing the opportunity and calling the play instead of letting a drive that was critical to UF’s momentum fizzle out anticlimactically.

"Yeah, they were kind of showing a massive overload to one side and (they) didn't really have anybody on that side of the field. So just kind of saw that and Greg Knox saw it and took advantage of it and executed it,” Mullen said. “He had that ball high and tight, ran and got the first down for us. You can see why he's a good athlete. He's a great athlete."

Though it wouldn’t be the only impressive play for Crawshaw on the night. A week after tying his career-long with a 58-yard punt at Kentucky, the underclassmen set a career-high with a 69-yard punt at the end of the third quarter. 

"Well it's huge, and we talk about it all the time, the consistency of punts that he makes. It does put pressure on the coverage unit, because he does. He booms the ball,” Mullen said. “We see it in practice all the time. I think our team has great confidence in him. I think he's a great weapon for us."