Gators avoid meltdown, beat Miami (Ohio) 34-12By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer Saturday, Sep 4, 2010
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—Just minutes after Florida’s season opener ended, even before players and coaches walked off the field, the scoreboards went blank.
Even with a victory, the Gators were more than ready to erase the memory of this one.
No. 4 Florida opened the post-Tim Tebow era with a resounding thud, maybe the sound of high expectations crashing to the ground. Yes, the Gators got four interceptions, several red-zone stops and two late touchdowns to pull away from heavy underdog Miami of Ohio 34-12 Saturday.
But the real story was coach Urban Meyer’s anemic offense, the one quarterback John Brantley had hoped to “keep rolling” after waiting three years behind Tebow.
Instead, Brantley and the Gators spent most of the game in reverse.
“I didn’t imagine the offense’s incompetence that we experienced today,” Meyer said.
There were a bunch of fumbles, several bad snaps, some poor throws, six penalties and a whole lot of frustration in The Swamp.
Brantley completed 17 of 25 passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 10-yarder to Omarius Hines that was the offense’s longest play of the day until speedster Jeff Demps’ got loose for a 72-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter. Brantley also threw a 25-yard TD pass to Chris Rainey with 1:21 remaining. That fourth-and-21 pass bounced off a teammate before Rainey grabbed it in the end zone.
The offense had few other highlights.
“I’m not embarrassed at all,” Brantley said. “It was one those days, I guess you could say.”
Florida finished with eight fumbles (three lost) and 212 yards, 187 of them in the final 13 minutes. There was plenty of blame to go around, too.
Deonte Thompson, who was miffed by the perception that he had bad hands last year, dropped a perfectly thrown deep ball in the end zone. Mike Pouncey, who moved from guard to center this year, airmailed one snap over Brantley’s head and chunked two others into the ground.
The offensive line looked every bit like a patchwork unit. Starting left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) and backup Matt Patchan (wrist) missed the game, and left guard Carl Johnson didn’t play because of an apparent suspension.
Demps and Emmanuel Moody were mostly bottled up at the line of scrimmage, Brantley seemed to check down early and often, and every deep pass fell to the ground.
Florida was more concerned with the turnovers.
“It’d be tough to win with those turnovers against an SEC school,” Brantley said.
The Gators managed a measly 25 yards, including minus-16 rushing, through three quarters. Nonetheless, they led 21-12 thanks to interceptions by Jon Bostic, Janoris Jenkins and Ahmad Black. Jenkins returned his 67 yards for a touchdown that put Florida ahead 7-3 in the second quarter.
Black’s pick set up backup quarterback Trey Burton’s 2-yard run, which put Florida ahead 21-3. Many figured that would spark the offense in the second half. Instead, the Gators stalled on three consecutive drives in the third quarter, failing to convert on fourth down, fumbling two more snaps and punting, then missing a field goal.
“Frustration? I know I’m beyond that,” Meyer said. “Frustration? You’ve just got to get a little better. We’ll fix those things. If you keep seeing them over and over again, then you’ve got to make changes. We’re certainly not going to hit that mode yet. We need to get a lot better.”
Zac Dysert completed 25 of 44 passes for 191 yards for Miami, which got a career-high four field goals from Trevor Cook. He was Miami’s best weapon.
The RedHawks had opportunities to make it even closer. Not only did they settle for three short field goals, they turned the ball over four times and made two other costly errors. Linebacker Ryan Kennedy missed an open receiver on a fake punt deep in Florida territory and running back Thomas Merriweather was called for a personal foul penalty that gave the Gators a first-and-goal at the 2.
“I think turnovers and a lack of discipline cost us the football game,” said Miami coach Michael Haywood, whose team finished 1-11 last year and came to Gainesville as five-touchdown underdogs. “We can’t make mistakes on offense and we have to keep pressing forward and eliminating the mental errors.”
Merriweather was ejected for apparently punching defensive tackle Dominique Easley in the helmet. Merriweather was booed as he walked to the locker room.
But the 90,178 on hand saved the loudest jeers for Florida’s offense, which had just one starter (left guard James Wilson) in the same spot as the 2009 opener.
“Once the other team has momentum, and you’ve got all negative momentum, it just goes downhill from there,” Pouncey said. “When we did get stuff going I (messed) up the snap, and then when we did get stuff going again … we just kept fumbling. It won’t happen again.”