GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For three quarters in a game that was supposed to be about a quarterback battle, it looked like the best passer on the field was Matt Schilz of Bowling Green. If not for missed field goals of 31 and 29 yards by Stephen Stein the Falcons would have been ahead.
Instead, with Florida clinging to a three-point lead, Schilz dropped back on third-and-3 from the Gators' 23 on the first play of the fourth quarter. His pass was tipped and Marcus Roberson returned the ball 31 yards to the Gators' 47.
Sophomore Jeff Driskel, battling Jacoby Brissett for the starting quarterback job, then hit Franke Hammond on a short pass. The senior dodged a defender and sprinted 50 yards for the touchdown. In a matterof seconds, Bowling Green went from dreaming of a huge upset, as better than 30-point underdogs, to going down 10 points as Florida went on to a 27-14 victory on Saturday.
It was the longest pass play of Driskel's career. Driskel (10-of-16 for 114 yards) and Jacoby Brissett started the game battling for the job. Brissett took the first snap, with Driskel at receiver. But after Saturday, it's obviously Driskel's job to lose.
And Bowling Green can only wonder what could have been.
Mike Gillislee of Florida, who had a career-best 148 yards on 24 carries, scored on touchdown runs of 15 and 38 yards in the first half, matching his total a year ago while playing behind current NFL backs Jeff Demps (New England) and Chris Rainey (Pittsburgh).
It was 14-7 at halftime and still a tense three-point game despite Stein's two misses after three quarters. Then came the mistake by Schilz (24-of-49 for 204 yards), Hammond's sprint to glory and the game was suddenly all but over.
Caleb Sturgis was another Florida hero with two field goals, including a 34-yarder that gave the Gators a 17-14 lead at 6:05 in the third. Special teams killed Bowling Green hopes, a short punt also setting up Sturgis' first score.
NOTES: Florida has won 23 consecutive season-opening games, No. 2 nationally going into the season behind Nebraska (which made it 27 with a 49-20 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday). ... Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson were the starting corners on defense, for Florida, another intensely competitive position. ... There weren't many Bowling Green fans around to see the Falcons take the early lead. The school sold only 660 tickets. Florida traditionally holds 4,000 to 8,500 tcikets for visiting teams. That left a huge chunk of empty aluminum seats in the upper corner of one of the end zones, with attendance announced at 84,704. ... Sturgis has made six field goals longer than 50 yards in his career, a school record.