Toledo vs. Florida: 10 Things We Learned from Gators' Win
The Florida Gators defeated the Toledo Rockets, 24-6, early Saturday afternoon.
Although the Gators kept everything relatively simple, there were quite a few things learned about the team.
Florida's defense is expected to carry the squad this season—as it did last year—and the group did not disappoint.
Offensively, the Gators showed some promise, but they have plenty of improvements to make before heading south to take on the Miami Hurricanes Sept. 7.
Jeff Driskel Does Enough
Jeff Driskel's stats are not mind-blowing.
But they aren't mind-numbing either.
Driskel completed 17 of 22 passes for 153 yards and tossed a single touchdown to Gideon Ajagbe. He also ran eight times and picked up 19 yards.
The junior quarterback did lose one fumble, and it could have been avoided if he stepped up into the pocket with two hands on the ball.
Driskel played a decent overall game, and he even showed nice touch on over-the-top passes. Florida needs him to be just as efficient against better competition, but a couple big plays would help, too.
Mack Brown Is Rather Difficult to Tackle
Mike Gillislee moved on to the NFL, and Matt Jones was supposed to be the starting running back for the Gators.
Jones, however, has been dealing with a viral infection, so Mack Brown earned the start and made the most of his opportunity.
But he put his head down and bulldozed his way to an impressive 14-yard score late in the second quarter, and Brown finished the day with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Granted, Brown missed a block on Cheatham Norrils who then forced Driskel's fumble.
Bleacher Report's Allison Banko says Brown's performance suggests the Gators' running back are among the SEC's best.
With that being said, Brown had his day against a simply decent Toledo team, so he still has plenty to prove against top-tier conference opponents.
Kelvin Taylor Needs Touches
Kelvin Taylor was a coveted prospect during the 2013 recruiting cycle, and he showed why on Saturday.
He only carried the ball during one possession, but he ripped off a 27-yard run and gained 42 yards on the drive.
With Jones set to return and Brown emerging as the clear backup, Taylor will sit in a reserve role, but he showed quickness and power throughout the possession.
And really, Taylor needs to keep receiving carries because Florida must not waste the freshman season of a potentially special young kid.
Trey Burton Must Step Up
Trey Burton tied a career best with five receptions, and his 69 receiving yards set a career high, but he needs to do that more often.
Last season, Burton never had more than three catches in one game, so he started 2013 on a good note. But behind the senior, Florida did not have another receiver make a noticeable impression.
Yes, it was just one game, but if that trend continues, Burton will need to keep up the same production on a weekly basis.
Bleacher Report's Tyler Piccotti thinks the Gators need to keep Burton at wide receiver, and that is certainly apparent following Saturday's game.
The Offense Can Control the Clock
Toledo's offense wanted to play fast. Florida's defense didn't want to give up yards.
So, the Gators' offense decided to stay on the field.
The Florida offensive line cleared the way for 262 rushing yards and a 5.5 yard-per-attempt average, and the Gators held the ball for a staggering 39 minutes and 48 seconds, making 6 of 12 third-down conversions.
Basically, it's hard for an opposing offense to score when it doesn't have the ball.
Overall, the Offense Has to Improve
So, what have we learned?
Driskel was decent, but not special. Brown is a solid backup, and Taylor is an off-the-bench weapon. Burton needs to be the best receiver, but he's not a clear No. 1.
Florida had drives end at the 50- and Toledo's 36- and 22-yard lines. The Gators attack was effectively stalled on each possession, unable to capitalize on potential scoring opportunities.
Costly penalties hurt the team, too, including two holding calls—one of which negated a touchdown. The small mistakes will add up, especially in the SEC.
Florida's struggles on offense are not surprising, but it does not mean the difficulties are irrelevant.
The Defense Is Very, Very Antsy
The Florida defense wants to hit the quarterback.
Badly enough that the Gators committed a total of five offside penalties. Fortunately, however, Muschamp's defense was able to overcome those mishaps and outdo Toledo because of team speed and, simply, more talent.
It's a small, very correctable detail, but a team like Alabama or Georgia will make Florida pay for silly mistakes.
Dominique Easley Disrupts Everything
We all knew Dominique Easley was good.
But, man, was he a menace against the Rockets. Easley was constantly pressuring Terrance Owens and David Fluellen, forcing off-target throws, scrambles and short runs.
Easley will be a major factor next week against the Hurricanes' veteran offensive line.
He finished the day with one sack, but stats don't do justice to the disruption Easley incited throughout the game.
Third-Down Conversions Will Not Be Gifted
Florida's defense allowed a few big plays, but the Rockets made a sizeable gain on third down just once.
The Gators held Toledo to just 1-of-13 on third-down conversions, and 11 instances—yes, 11—were 3rd-and-7 or longer.
When Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin knew he could send a linebacker on a blitz to pressure an already rushed quarterback, he did.
And the Gators defense did not let him down.
Third-and-manageable situations are a nightmare for defenses, but as long as Florida keeps avoiding them, its opposition will have a difficult time moving the ball.
Overall, the Defense Is Fantastic
Even with a mediocre defense, Florida likely would have beaten the Rockets.
But the Gators do not have a mediocre defense in any sense of the word.
Dominique Easley, Dante Fowler Jr. and Jonathan Bullard were in Toledo's offensive backfield all day, and the final stats show it. The Rockets managed just 205 total yards of offense and 12 first downs.
According to Rivals.com's Brian Holt, Easley has just one thing on his mind: "beating people up."
Not a bad attitude for a defensive leader to have, though, is it?