GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's first play of the game was a pass. Twenty-four of UF's first 31 first-down plays were passes. The Gators piled up 655 yards of offense in Saturday's 65-0 season-opening victory against Eastern Michigan.
To say the debut of Kurt Roper's new uptempo spread offense was a success would be a massive understatement. After three years of wallowing near the bottom of most FBS offensive statistical categories, Florida did a 180 and lit up the scoreboard for a change.
Here are the plays that stood out in what turned out to be a somewhat vanilla game plan against an outmanned opponent.
It probably wouldn't take long to count the number of times Florida has passed for a first down on fourth-and-short under coach Will Muschamp. On their opening drive Saturday, the Gators stalled after crossing midfield. On fourth-and-2 from the EMU 42-yard line, UF had receivers Quinton Dunbar and Ahmad Fulwood run shallow crossing patterns. Quarterback Jeff Driskel hit Dunbar at the 40, and Dunbar evaded a tackler to pick up 8 additional yards.
Muschamp: "We felt like we were going to see pressure in man-to-man, so we ran what we call a mesh concept and hopefully pick off a defender. Jeff reads it well. It's one of his routes he likes to run. That again is where I think Kurt really does a nice job of thinking about players, not plays, and what do they feel comfortable with. That's something that Jeff really likes."
Dunbar: "I feel like it showed the offense and the whole team that Muschamp does have faith in the passing game this year. It's a man- and a zone-beater. Driz is basically reading the corner and seeing if it's man or zone. If it's zone you just sit in the hole. If it's man, just run away from him. I feel like it's a first-down play."
Driskel: "We knew coming in that they were a man team on third-and-short. We got a great call. I went through my reads and Dunbar made a great play for me."
2. The Pistol
After three years of running a pro-style offense, the Gators are strictly a shotgun team now. That means running the ball from a slightly different perspective in the Pistol formation. Florida's most proven talent on offense remains in the backfield, so the Gators will continue to be a run-heavy team. They showed that in the first half, scoring all three of their touchdowns on the ground. The second TD run belonged to junior Matt Jones, who sprinted off left tackle and was virtually untouched on his way to a 40-yard score and a 16-0 lead.
Jones: "I saw the odd front. I knew they were going to slant their D-line and that's what they did. It just gave me a crease to hit, and after the linebacker it was just off to the races. It felt great. It felt good running out of the Pistol. They don't know what you're going to do. You can do a swing pass. In the I-formation they can tell what you're going to do. I feel great back there and in Coach Roper's offense. I think it's going to mess a lot of defenses up."
Center Max Garcia: "As soon as they called the play the defense actually shifted and made the hole like right there and made it even bigger. As soon as they called the play I was like, 'Man this is about to be a touchdown.' So we were all doing our job. I took a step to the left and looked right to the backer and saw [Jones] zip right by me. So it's going to be like that with Roper calling the plays. Schematically how we do things now on offense, it's going to be like that. Holes are going to be there. ... We're going to have playmakers all around. You have a stable of backs, so all of them are going to have a great season."
3. More backfield mayhem
Jones' second score of the day was Driskel's only passing TD of the game, and it capped Florida's first possession of the third quarter. The Gators lined up four wide receivers on a second-and-goal from the EMU 8. Jones released between the center and right guard and was wide open in the flat where Driskel hit him in stride. Jones cut back to his left and fought through a tackle to make the score 36-0.
Jones: "We catch a team playing man coverage. They got a look at me at running back, try to catch me from the back side, and I just kind of go the other way and slip under the O-line and catch the ball. We'll probably run that a lot."