One of my best friends goes to a school a couple hours northwest of Gainesville that has a propensity for a certain tomahawk chant that has been generating some controversy lately.
I’m sure you’ve heard it.
This friend of mine, needless to say, has not been sold on UF’s football team this year.
Here are a couple of his group-chat highlights from the week leading up to No. 10 Florida’s 24-13 win over No. 7 Auburn on Saturday:
— “What has UF done at all in (its) five games to show (it) deserves to be in the top 10? Nothing.”
— “34-16 Auburn.”
(Thanks to my other buddy Trevor for digging those gems up while I was busy in the press box, by the way)
His sentiment was echoed by plenty of opposing fans and pundits nationwide — Florida had yet to face an elite opponent and looked shaky in wins against Miami and Kentucky. Many believed UF was not worthy of its ranking.
The critics were silenced on Saturday.
The Gators’ defense, in particular, proved itself to be one of the best in the country.
Auburn’s freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who led his team to a 56-23 blowout win over Mississippi State last week, looked like a deer in the headlights against Florida. The Gators were in the backfield all day, forcing the inexperienced signal-caller to make mistake after mistake. He finished just 11 of 27 passing with 145 yards and three interceptions.
‘That’s the type of defense we expect to play around here,” coach Dan Mullen said after the game. “I’m really proud of those guys.”
UF also (finally) improved in the running game against Auburn’s vaunted defensive line. Lamical Perine rushed for 130 yards (Florida’s highest-total this season), including an 88-yard fourth-quarter score to bury the Tigers. That was UF’s longest run since an Emmitt Smith score in 1988.
Perine, who has struggled all season, later said the run “almost brought tears to my eyes.”
Of course, there are still some things Florida needs to work on.
The Gators lost four fumbles on the afternoon. Three of those were by quarterback Kyle Trask, who needs to do a better job protecting the ball going forward.
Trask and the offense, however, were otherwise effective, another encouraging sign. Wide receiver Freddie Swain was the star, racking up 146 yards and reeling in one of Trask’s two touchdowns.
Florida made a statement on Saturday. ESPN has taken notice, selecting next week’s LSU-UF game in Baton Rouge as its College GameDay location, foregoing Texas-Oklahoma.
As for my FSU friend?
“I’ll apologize for doubting the Gators D. They’re for real.”
Follow Sam Campisano on Twitter @samcampisano. Contact him at [email protected]