Northern Colorado at Florida

Sports Xchange

September 06, 2017 at 5:37 pm.

GAME SNAPSHOT
KICKOFF: Saturday, noon ET
SITE: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
TV: SEC Network
SERIES: First meeting
RANKINGS: Florida No. 22

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Gators

–QB Feleipe Franks had an up-and-down game in his starting debut against Michigan. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound redshirt freshman completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards and showed some scrambling ability before being pulled after losing a fumble while going for a first down in the third quarter. He’ll start again this week.

–WR Josh Hammond finished with a team-high 91 yards receiving on four catches against Michigan, including a 36-yard catch on UF’s opening drive that led to an Eddy Pineiro field goal. The 6-foot-1, 187-pound sophomore is coming off a strong preseason camp and is considered one of the surest-handed receivers on UF’s roster.

–LB David Reese finished with a team-high 11 tackles, including one for loss, against Michigan. Reese will be counted on as a run-stuffer at the MLB spot on defense throughout the season.

–CB C.J. Henderson was impressive in his college debut, returning an interception 41 yards for a TD. Henderson, a true freshman from Miami, also had two tackles against Michigan.

Bears

–QB Jason Knipp passed for 238 yards in the opener, completing 17 of 27 attempts. His long gainer was a 46-yarder to WR Alex Wesley.

–RB Trae Riek scored three rushing touchdowns in the 41-14 win over College of Idaho. He finished the game with 71 yards rushing on 18 carries.

–LB James Riddle led the Bears in tackles with six stops. Riddle has been the go-to guy on the defense after starting the last six games of the 2014 season.

–DB Isaiah Swopes led the pass rush with a sack for a 4-yard loss among his five tackles. He also had one of the team’s two interceptions in his Northern Colorado debut. He played last season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi.

KEYS
TO THE GAME

Quarterback continues to be an issue for No. 22 Florida as the Gators get look to their home opener Saturday against Northern Colorado.

Kickoff was moved up to noon ET at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., with an SEC Network television audience looking on.

Gators coach Jim McElwain is sticking with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks as his starter, but there are no guarantees beyond that.

Franks completed 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards against Michigan last week before being pulled in the third quarter after losing a fumble while trying to scramble for a first down.
Notre Dame grad transfer Malik Zaire replaced Franks and completed 9 of 17 passes for 106 yards in the 33-17 loss in the AdvoCare Classic in Arlington, Texas.

“Both guys did some good things and both guys did some things they obviously want back,” McElwain said.

Franks connected on a 34-yard pass play on the game’s second snap but the rest of his performance was uneven. McElwain noted that Zaire sometimes bailed out of the pocket too quickly.

“It’s something he’s got to get better at,” McElwain said.

Junior Luke Del Rio, who started six games last season, is a third option. McElwain said he had planned to use Del Rio last week if the Gators were in a two-minute drill.

Visiting Northern Colorado beat visiting College of Idaho 41-14 in its season opener.
Junior quarterback Jacob Knipp helped the Bears score 28 first-quarter points en route to their easy victory.

Running back Trae Riek ran 18 times for a team-high 71 yards and three touchdowns — all the scores coming in the first quarter.

Two of the first-period touchdowns were set up by interceptions.

“We knew we had to be a little more aggressive,” said Northern Colorado coach Earnest Collins, whose FCS team went 6-5 last season. “Until our offense gets it going and our O-line gets a few more games under its belt, we have to be aggressive on defense. So we have to hold them on the back end and put a little more pressure on the quarterback up front.”

Knipp completed 17 of 27 passes for 238 yards in his first game action since suffering a shoulder injury in the second game of last season.

“He commanded the offense,” Collins said. “He had some overthrows. He had some underthrows, but that’s the rust. He’ll get the film. He’s a studier of the film, and he’ll get in there and look at it and see what his footwork was like, why he was over on the overthrows, why he was under on the underthrows. He’ll get it fixed.”

Florida has won the past two Southeastern Conference East titles but had been hoping the offense would take a positive turn in McElwain’s third season. But the Gators managed only 192 yards of total offense — including 11 on the ground — in the loss to the Wolverines.

Florida failed to score an offensive touchdown, with both touchdowns coming on interception returns by cornerbacks Duke Dawson and C.J. Henderson.

“One thing I want you to know is I believe in these guys,” McElwain said. “They believe in themselves. We’ve made corrections.”

One of those “corrections” will not be who calls plays. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was a big target on social media after the game, but McElwain said he didn’t see play-calling as an issue. Nussmeier will continue to call the plays against Northern Colorado.

“I’ve seen what he can do. I’ve seen what he’s done,” McElwain said. “Getting the people the ball with the ability to make plays, that’s the biggest piece of it. We’ll continue to work at it.”

Ultimately, McElwain blamed the loss on the inability to physically handle Michigan. Florida’s offensive line was unable to protect the quarterback, allowing six sacks. The Gators were out-rushed 215-11.

The status of leading running back Jordan Scarlett (889 yards last season) and leading receiver Antonio Callaway (721 yards receiving last season) remain in question. Both were among 10 players suspended for the Michigan game due to their role in a debit card fraud scheme that’s still under investigation.

Neither Scarlett nor Callaway were on the depth chart released Tuesday by Florida.
Gators starting safety Chauncey Gardner II underwent an MRI after suffering a leg injury last week.