Gators dominate EKU 52-3
Kirsten Chuba, Florida Sports Talk/NBC Sports
The Gators wanted Will Muschamp to go out with a win at the Swamp, and that’s exactly what they did in the last home game of the season against Eastern Kentucky.
Florida dominated EKU 52-3 on a night that also honored the seniors in their last game at home. The win puts the Gators at 6-4 for the season, which therefore qualifies UF for a bowl game.
The game was also a major comeback for Jeff Driskel, who threw for three touchdown passes and 9 for 11 on completions.
This is the first-ever meeting of the two teams, but Muschamp served as the EKU defensive backs coach in 1999.
Florida led the game from the very early on, when Austin Hardin kicked a 48-yard field goal following a punt return from Andre Debose. Minutes later, Kelvin Taylor rushed for a 13-yard touchdown to make the score 10-0.
With less than a minute left in the first quarter, Eastern Kentucky’s Andrew Lloyd kicked a career-high 51-yard field goal to put EKU on the board. The team would try a number of trick plays throughout the game, including fake punts and field goals, but the Gators were quick to shut these plays down.
To round out the half, starting quarterback Treon Harris threw a 40-yard pass to Quinton Dunbar, who ran the remaining 30 yards for a touchdown. This was Dunbar’s first touchdown since the Florida vs. Florida State game in November 2012. With this score, the first quarter ended with the Gators up 17-3.
The second quarter began with failed conversions on both sides. Halfway through the quarter, EKU fumbled the ball in their own territory, which Florida recovered on the 19-yard line. Harris completed a 19-yard throw to Demarcus Robinson for a touchdown, bringing the Gators’ lead to 24-3.
Minutes later, Harris connected with Robinson again on a 54-yard bomb downfield. Jeff Driskel completed the drive, running the ball into the end zone. This would be the last score of the half, and the teams went into the locker room with Florida leading 31 to 3.
The second half started slowly, with both teams being forced to punt on multiple possessions. Harris was taken out of the game after suffering a contusion to his knee, and Driskel was put in for the remainder of the game.
With 6:10 left in the third quarter, Driskel connected with Robinson for a 38-yard touchdown pass. After another three-and-out by EKU, the quarter ended with a 38-3 UF lead.
Seconds into the last quarter, Driskel threw his second touchdown pass of the game to Dunbar for a 29-yard score. Minutes later he would do it again, with a 28-yarder to Michael McNeely, bringing the score to 52-3, which would be the final.
With Driskel’s three touchdowns, as well as one rushing touchdown, fuel is added to the Florida quarterback controversy. Muschamp said that at the moment, Harris will still start for the Florida State game next week.
Florida’s key to success here was holding EKU to constant three-and-outs. The Gator defense worked to force fumbles and did not fall for the various trick plays that EKU attempted.
With Senior Recognition Day and Muschamp’s last game in The Swamp, this was an emotional night for the Gators.
“We don’t have any control over what happened,” Driskel said. “As players, we really appreciate what Coach Muschamp has done for us, and we love playing for him and we love him as a person.”
Muschamp talked about a meeting he had with the players this week to discuss what would happen to the team next season.
“Sometimes change is good, and they need to be very open to the change,” he said. “I told them they’re going to hire a really good football coach, so why don’t you give the guy a chance and buy into what the guy is trying to do instead of going through a total rocky road the first year, which is bad for everybody involved.”
“It will hit me when the season is over, but I’ve already switched gears to next week,” Muschamp said.
Next Saturday, Florida takes on rival Florida State in Tallahassee at 3:30 p.m. Florida State has won 27-straight games, and has not lost since they were defeated by the Gators in 2012.
“We’re going to end that. I love our team and I love everything we’ve got going right now,” defensive lineman Alex McCalister said. “I love our chances. The whole team’s clicking, we just won and we’re going to roll from there.”