Tedarrell Slaton is a mammoth human being. At 6-foot-4, 358 pounds, the true freshman is the heaviest player on Florida’s roster. His belly protrudes from his extra-large No. 56 jersey like a warning to would-be blockers: Don’t try it, because I will fall on you. The Gators needed that size on Saturday.
With starting nose tackle Khairi Clark limited by a calf injury and wrapped in what looked from the press box like a paper towel roll and backup Kyree Campbell out with tweaked knee, Slaton was forced into the most action of his first collegiate season.
It’s somewhat expected for a player who, coming out of Plantation’s American Heritage, was Florida’s top-rated recruit in the class of 2017, per 247Sports, to see the field. But despite playing an increased role in Saturday’s game against LSU, the Tigers ran away from Slaton and his counterparts in the middle of Florida’s defensive line, opting instead for sweeps and other outside runs.
That strategy was largely effective for LSU, which ran for 209 yards. That effort was led by wideout Russell Gage, who amassed 52 yards on the ground. It was also punctuated by Gage, who took a sweep down the left side of the field untouched for a score in the first quarter.
UF’s defensive line saw some success rushing LSU quarterback Danny Etling, though, with defensive end Jabari Zuniga recording a sack to bring his season total to 2 ½. Last season, Zuniga led the Gators with five sacks.
And while the middle of the defensive line didn’t have a huge impact, it was interesting to see Clark and Slaton — a combined 673 pounds of muscle and fat — on the field together in limited packages.
THIS AND THAT
▪ The Gators set an NCAA record on Saturday for most consecutive games without being shut out. Florida hasn’t put up zero points since a contest against Auburn on Oct. 29, 1988. That’s good for 366-straight games, which broke the previous mark of 365 games set by Michigan in 2014.
▪ Two championship teams were honored during Saturday’s game. The men’s swimming and diving team was honored for its Southeastern Conference championship during the first quarter, and the men’s track and field team was honored between the first and second quarters for earning back-to-back outdoor national titles. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel was also honored on the field during the second quarter, drawing some of the loudest applause of the day.
▪ Gainesville native Tom Petty, who passed away on Monday aged 66, was honored with a playing of his classic “I Won’t Back Down” after “We Are the Boys of Old Florida” following the third quarter, with many fans across the stadium belting it out. Another one of his songs, “Free Fallin’,” played early in the first quarter. LSU’s band started playing around the same time, drawing a chorus of boos from Florida’s fans.
▪ Former Florida pitcher Alex Faedo was in attendance against LSU to serve as Saturday’s honorary Mr. Two Bits. Faedo, a first-round pick of the Detroit Tigers in the 2017 MLB Draft, whirled his million-dollar arm every which way to hype up a sellout crowd ahead of its homecoming game. It seemed to work, as Faedo got one of the loudest ovations of the day. In addition for being a first-round draft choice, Faedo set a school record with 157 strikeouts in 2017 and led the Gators to their first-ever College World Series title.