The Florida Gators still haven’t received a true and meaningful test of their abilities. A team that’s still finding its way around a football field on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage will soon step into the waters of its SEC schedule. For now, though, the biggest source of comfort for the Gator Nation is the fact that its defense is getting the job done.
Chris Rainey ran for 119 yards on 16 carries, helping Florida to a convincing win over the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. What was more noteworthy about this contest at “The Swamp,” however, is that the Orange and Blue flexed their muscles on defense. Florida held UAB to 212 total yards and only 71 on the ground. One shouldn’t jump to too many conclusions based on a thorough waxing of a middle- to lower-tier Conference USA club, but as far as it goes, Florida’s defense seems set for the arrival of conference competition.
The key for Florida as it moves forward this season will be its offense – that’s no surprise to anyone who saw the Gators in 2010. Florida’s ability to finish drives is manifestly subpar, a fact reaffirmed when the Gators had to settle for short field goals on their first two scoring marches. A converted flea flicker and some dazzling pitch-and-catch plays did nothing to help Florida crack the goal line… not in the first 10 minutes of this contest, at any rate.
After a three-and-out by UAB, the Gators – leading by a mere 6-0 margin – gained a small measure of rhythm. Quarterback John Brantley opened the drive by connecting with receiver Andre Debose for 14 yards. Moments later he found Rainey, one of the two speed merchants on the team, with a short pass that Rainey turned into a 21-yard chunk of real estate. A few snaps later, Brantley found receiver DeonteThompson over the middle for a 24-yard gain, and that was the bolt of brilliance the Gators needed to feel really good about themselves. Moments later true freshman Hunter Joyer barreled into the end zone from three yards out, giving the Gators up 13-0 lead and allowing everyone on the Florida sideline to breathe.
It’s true that Florida scored only one more touchdown in the first half of play, making the 39-point total somewhat misleading. Florida scored only four touchdowns despite its defense’s complete and utter dominance of this game. UAB’s defense is not robust, so it’s clear that Florida has more to work on. Nevertheless, the vigor and consistency of coach Will Muschamp’s airtight defense is something that will anchor Florida when it finds itself in a tight spot against SEC foes over the coming weeks and months.