Florida Football: Grading the Gators' Season-Opener Against FAU
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Following his official debut as Florida's football coach—a 41-3 victory against visiting Florida Atlantic Saturday night—Will Muschamp said he was very pleased with the energy level his team showed.
In fact, there wasn't a lot that had Muschamp upset at all.
He did say there are a few things his team needs to work on before next weekend's game against Alabama-Birmingham, but for the most part, it was a positive way to open the season.
On to the grades...
John Brantley started well and made some tremendous throws.
However, he did toss two interceptions, and backup Jeff Driskel added another.
The pair combined to go 25-of-36 for 271 yards with three interceptions and a touchdown.
Jeff Demps (12 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns) and Chris Rainey (11 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown) were stellar carrying the ball.
The speedy veterans were also a major part of the passing game, as Rainey led all players with six receptions for 67 yards and a score, while Demps added three catches for 21 yards. Rainey added a touchdown following a punt block by Solomon Patton.
Who was Florida's MVP in Saturday's season-opening victory against FAU?
It was a quiet evening for these guys, who were led by Deonte Thompson (three receptions for 34 yards) and Andre Debose (three receptions for 32 yards).
But while there were no big plays made, the receivers and tight ends did nice work blocking downfield to spring a few running plays and swing passes to Demps and Rainey.
The big men up front controlled the contest, opening large holes for Demps and Rainey, and giving Brantley a lot of time to make his reads.
At times, the Gators' offensive line manhandled the Owls.
Even with the pregame news that starting end Sharrif Floyd had been declared ineligible (he has a hearing with the NCAA scheduled for Tuesday, according to the Palm Beach Post), the Gators' front four delivered a dominant performance.
The Owls averaged just one yard per carry and only 7.6 yards per completion. Jaye Howard and Ronald Powell each recorded sacks, and reserve Earl Okine made three solo tackles (tied with Powell and safety Matt Elam for the most on the team).
It was a pretty steady evening for this crew, devoid of huge plays, but basically mistake-free.
Jelani Jenkins (team-best five total tackles, one pass break-up that should have been intercepted) and Lerentee McCray (four tackles, including 1.5 TFL) were particularly active.
Again, nothing spectacular, but certainly nothing wrong here.
The defensive backs didn't force any turnovers (and if there is one gripe with the Gator D, it's that no one did), but led by Elam (four tackles), they delivered a nice effort.
If any unit was up and down all night it was the special teams, which saw the game's opening kickoff returned by Demps for a touchdown only to have it called back on a penalty.
Caleb Sturgis returned from an injury that cost him most of the 2010 season to make both of his field goals (from 51 and 29 yards), but the kickoff team also gave up a 37-yard return in the first half.
The biggest highlight was Patton blocking a punt and Rainey scooping it up for a score in the third quarter. Florida did not punt all game.
The competition wasn't all that good, but the Gators played hard and with enthusiasm. Muschamp and his staff obviously had this team ready to play.
Grade: Give 'em an A-, and give Rainey the nod for Player of the Game.
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