Florida Gators wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (11) is congratulated by wide receiver Antonio Callaway (81) after scoring a touchdown against the Mississippi Rebels during the first quarter.
Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Will Grier was sick all right.
He was downright nasty.
Grier threw four touchdown passes to four receivers — 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.
Grier battled a stomach virus for two days before the game, feeling so ill that the Gators (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) thought there was a chance Treon Harris might get the nod. Grier started anyway and was sharper than ever.
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.
Grier’s start was the difference in the latest victory. His four-touchdown first half gave him six TD passes in his last three quarters.
With All-American Robert Nkemdiche draped all over him, Grier found Demarcus Robinson on a 36-yard score in the first quarter. He hooked up with Jake McGee for a 2-yard score 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, the hero of last week’s come-from-behind victory against the Volunteers, with 20 seconds remaining in the half.
In the span of two games and three quarters, Grier completed 28 of 37 passes for 370 yards and six touchdowns — and no turnovers.
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.
Robinson caught eight passes for 98 yards.
Florida’s defense, meanwhile, dominated the line of scrimmage. Chad Kelly was sacked three times, burned timeouts because of crowd noise and confusion, and took a beating when he scrambled.
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 late in the game, but the Gators settled for a field goal that got the celebration started.
CeCe Jefferson returned a 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.
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.