GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- John Brantley looked comfortable in
Florida's revamped offense, Chris Rainey scored three different
ways and the 22nd-ranked Gators opened the Will Muschamp era by
beating Florida Atlantic 41-3 Saturday night.
Brantley completed 21 of 30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, showing marked improvement in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense. He threw two interceptions, but the first was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Rainey touched the ball 18 times, scoring on a 14-yard reception
and a 14-yard run. He also scooped a blocked punt and sprinted 22
yards for a score that made it 31-3 early in the third quarter.
Muschamp, admittedly anxious before his Florida debut, enjoyed a
relatively stress-free night. Although the Gators ruled defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd ineligible before the game, the only other negative on this night was an injury to versatile Trey Burton.
Jeff Demps ran 12 times for 105 yards and two scores as Florida's offense racked up 468 yards. It was a considerably better showing than Florida's last opener, which set the tone for a disappointing 2010 season.
The Gators had botched snaps, penalties and turnovers against Miami, Ohio, finishing with 212 yards and hearing more jeers than cheers. Little went wrong against the Owls.
The Gators scored on their first four possessions and led 24-0
before Florida Atlantic even got a first down. Florida's defense dominated the Owls, controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game.
FAU finished with 137 yards, a rough start for coach Howard
Schnellenberger's retirement tour. Schnellenberger, who is calling it quits at the end of this season, watched the game from an upstairs coaching box following a hospital trip Friday.
The 77-year-old coach experienced severe discomfort in his
surgically repaired hip during a bus ride to Gainesville. He said
the trouble began when he started doing some hip rehabilitation
exercises while the bus was stopped for repairs.
Schnellenberger got a leg cramp he couldn't knock and ended up calling for medical help. He was transported by ambulance to a hospital near Port St. Lucie. X-rays were negative, and Schnellenberger eventually rejoined the team in Gainesville.
"No damage done; it's in great shape," said Schnellenberger, who had hip replacement surgery three weeks ago. "I'll be out there. Not going on the field today. I'm going upstairs because only an idiot would take two chances in two days. From then on we'll be on the sideline."
His team's performance wouldn't have looked good from any
vantage point. Demps took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. That was a minor setback, though.
Brantley, Demps and Rainey quickly moved the Gators into FAU
territory. Brantley repeatedly hit Demps and Rainey with swing
passes. A snap over Brantley's head stalled the drive, and Florida
settled for a field goal.
But the fast start was just what the Gators needed after last year's confidence-crushing season. Florida failed to score points in the first quarter in six of the team's first seven games in 2010.
So when Brantley got the ball back, the Gators were on the move
again. Frankie Hammond made a nice catch near the sideline, Jordan Reed made a great grab in traffic and then Brantley found Rainey in the flat for the touchdown.
Rainey made one cut and slipped across the goal line. Rainey's TD run was even niftier. He used a spin move to escape a defender in the backfield, picked up two blocks and scampered in to make it 24-0.
The Gators cruised from there. Demps went untouched on a 35-yard
TD run, then added a 20-yard score.