No. 25 Florida shuts down third-ranked Ole Miss at The Swamp
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Will Grier was sick all right.
He was downright nasty.
Grier threw four touchdown passes — all in the first half — and No. 25 Florida upset third-ranked Mississippi 38-10 on Saturday night to give coach Jim McElwain a signature win in his first season in Gainesville.
"You don’t downplay it," McElwain said. "That was a good football team we beat. That was really a good football team, and our guys took it to them."
Grier was one of more than 20 players who battled a stomach virus during the week. Grier was feeling so ill Thursday and Friday that the Gators (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) considered giving Treon Harris the nod. Grier made enough progress to start and was sharper than ever.
"It’s a game of adversity," Grier said. "You’ve got to deal with adversity and move on."
The freshman completed 24 of 29 passes for 271 yards against the Rebels (4-1, 2-1). He was poised in the pocket, precise with every throw and even closer to perfect than he was down the stretch against Tennessee last week.
"We’re growing up offensively," McElwain said. "We’re getting a little bit better. That’s what we want to do."
Grier’s start was the difference in the latest victory for Florida (5-0, 3-0). His impressive first half gave him six TD passes in a span of three quarters.
With All-American Robert Nkemdiche draped all over him, Grier found Demarcus Robinson on a 36-yard scoring play in the first quarter. He hooked up with Jake McGee for a 2-yard TD strike a few minutes later, five plays after Ole Miss running back Jaylen Walton fumbled.
Grier added two more TD passes in the second quarter, beating a third-down blitz with a quick slant to Brandon Powell. Powell slipped a tackle and outran two defenders down the sideline for a 77-yarder. Grier added a 15-yarder to Antonio Callaway with 20 seconds remaining in the half.
Grier got plenty of help.
Florida’s offensive line, which was widely considered overmatched against Ole Miss’ vaunted defensive front that features Nkemdiche, gave Grier enough time to make reads and deliver accurate passes.
And the unit opened up holes for Kelvin Taylor, who ran 27 times for 83 yards.
Florida’s defense, meanwhile, dominated the line of scrimmage. Chad Kelly was pressured early and often, burned timeouts because of crowd noise and confusion, and took a beating when he scrambled.
"They beat us in every facet of the game," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "We didn’t play with the intensity that we needed to and we didn’t take care of the football. We had a solid plan, but we didn’t execute it."
The Rebels had four turnovers, missed a field goal early and settled for a field goal after getting to the 1-yard line while trailing 25-0.
"We needed to get some momentum on our side, and I thought we could do that with some points," Freeze said. It would have been deflating enough if we had gone for it and not gotten the seven. If we make the field goal, then we’re only down three scores."
Kelly finished 26 of 40 for 259 yards, with four sacks, two fumbles and an interception.
Vernon Hargreaves III returned the pick inside the 10-yard line midway through the fourth, but the Gators settled for a short field goal that got the celebration started.
CeCe Jefferson returned Kelly’s second fumble to the 1-yard line on the ensuing possession, and Jordan Cronkrite punched it in from there — long after most of the disgruntled Ole Miss fans had left the Swamp.
"Being the leader of the offense, it starts with me," Kelly said. "I’ve just got to do a better job for our team. Losing is the worst feeling ever."
Florida hadn’t beaten a team ranked this high at home since knocking off No. 2 Tennessee in 1999.
McElwain became the first Florida coach since Steve Spurrier in 1990 to open his first season 5-0.
More importantly, he moved a step closer to "restoring the order" at Florida. It’s been McElwain’s message to his team since Day 1, wanting them to get back to winning at home and playing for conference and national championships.
"You get a sense in that locker room that these guys really care about each other," McElwain said. "I’m kind of excited about it."