The final score was 42-29, which is a wide margin, but the game was very competitive for a better portion of the match-up. This was one to be circled on the calendar because not only is it the first conference game of the season, but it followed one of the biggest games we’ve seen against Alabama last week.
After playing with so much aggression in a dog fight last week against the Crimson Tide, the hope for all Bulls fans was that this wouldn’t be a rewind of Louisville in 2022. We all know how catastrophic that was after playing a very talented Florida team the week before, and the season never recovered from that point on. But this game against Rice showed everyone that we are not the same team as last year, and they fought.
Throughout this game, there were several ups and downs, and few moments where I felt like last year’s team might have backed down and gave up. One in particular was on the first drive where our defense had Rice in a 3rd and long situation and Rice quarterback, JT Daniels, throws a strike down the field for a 27 yard gain to keep the drive going. Knowing that the flaw of this defense has been the big plays, that play was concerning. But after a few big stops, the drive ultimately ends with a sack by one of my predicted impact transfers, Lloyd Summerall, getting the Owls out of field goal range and having to punt.
Again, the defense held their own and made a statement for a majority of the game. Although we were not as successful stopping the passing game against Rice, the Bulls defense made up for it by completely minimizing Rice’s running game. The Owls were held to a total of ONE single yard on twenty rushing attempts for the whole game. Standout performances from DJ Gordon (LB), Jonathan Ross (DE), Tramel Logan (DE), and Doug Blue-Eli (DL), were major factors in the Bulls’ rushing shutdown. We also saw a few big time plays made in the open field by Braxton Clark (CB) and last week’s star, Daquan Evans (DB). This type of production is a good sign to see going into next week’s game against a run-heavy Navy squad, and we hope to keep it up.
The other side of the ball for the Bulls was a movie; one that started out slow, but when it picked up, there was no looking back. It was a very efficient and electric game from quarterback, Byrum Brown, as he was 8-8 with 71 yards through the air after the first quarter, and finished the game going 22-29 with over 500 total yards and 3 total touchdowns. He now ranks 25th in rushing yards in the country and leads all quarterbacks with 357 yards on the ground through just four games.
The Bulls trailed by one point, 14-13, going into the half, and for a majority of the first half, the offense was very stagnant and couldn’t get much of a rhythm going. But, knowing we were receiving the ball to start the second half, Coach Golesh’s plan was to get the offense rolling immediately. That mindset led to my favorite play of the game, which was a 52 yard bomb to one of my other predicted impact transfers, Naiem Simmons, on the first play of the half. Immediately after, Byrum Brown (@byrumbrown17) scrambles for a 20 yard gain, and scores two plays later to take the lead. From that moment on, the entire offense got comfortable, and we got to see a historic performance the rest of the way.
Wide receiver, Naiem Simmons (@naiemsimmons) could not be stopped, and flat out embarrassed Rice’s secondary. He would finish Saturday’s game with 8 catches for 272 yards and a touchdown, breaking the school’s record for receiving yards in a game, which was also the most by any wide receiver at a Florida university. It was one of the all-time Bull performances we will ever see, and his efforts rubbed off on his teammates as well.
We would later see big plays from other guys such as: wide receivers, Sean Atkins, who caught an 8 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and threw for a 2 point conversion as well, and Khafre Brown who had a one handed catch that might’ve been the catch of the day.
This second half performance was promising to watch as a fan of this team because you could see the confidence building up in our guys. We saw Byrum Brown make throws that we haven’t seen up until that second half, and we should be excited to see how he carries that confidence into the rest of the season. To complement Byrum’s big game, we also saw the beginning to what could be the first 1,000 yard season by a wide receiver in school history. This offense has made huge strides in just the few games we have played and we are heating up just in time for what will be a “conference heavy” block of the schedule.
All Bulls fans should be elated for the rest of the season ahead of us. We got the burden of last year’s misfortune out of our heads, and we can look forward to winning more games. Although we had our worries against Rice, our guys handled adversity well and countered it with dominance. We follow Saturday’s win against another conference opponent, Navy, which will be an aggressive and hard-nosed game. I’m excited to see how this team performs after such a big win, and hope to get a winning streak rolling at the right time!