Unlike last year's ugly, mistake-plagued season opener against Miami of Ohio, almost everything ran smoothly for Florida in coach Will Muschamp's debut with the program.
The Gators dominated Florida Atlantic at both ends of the field for a 41-3 win in front of 88,708 fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"It was a good opening night," Muschamp said. "If you had a script of what you wanted to occur in the night, for the most part it did."
The Gators surged to a 24-0 lead by scoring on their first four possessions, a much stronger start than they had in the 2010 opener when they began with two straight turnovers and the offense went scoreless for the first 20 minutes.
In addition to a solid night by quarterback John Brantley, the Gators got 272 total yards and five touchdowns from running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Demps ran 12 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns.
Rainey had 79 rushing yards, 67 receiving yards, and scored on a catch, a run and a blocked punt recovery. He called coordinator Charlie Weis' pro-style offense the best thing that has happened to his career.
"We were very confident before the game and we were ready to try it out," Rainey said. "I guess you're going to see a lot of rushing yards this year."
Brantley connected on 21 of his 30 passes for 229 yards with a touchdown. It was his fourth 200-yard passing game out of 14 career starts.
Defensively, Florida did not allow the Owls' offense to cross midfield in the first half. Florida Atlantic's only trips onto the Gators' side of the field during the first half came off a pair of interceptions.
Tight end Nexon Dorvilus was the only Owls player to exceed 20 yards rushing or receiving. Dorvilus caught three passes for 55 yards. Starting quarterback Graham Wilbert completed 14 of 26 passes for 107 yards.
The Gators made some mistakes against Florida Atlantic, but they were isolated and did not derail them.
Demps returned the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, but the play was negated by Dee Finley's holding penalty. The Gators rebounded by driving 47 yards to set up Caleb Sturgis' 51-yard field goal.
Brantley and back-up quarterback Jeff Driskel combined to throw three interceptions, but none were overly costly. Driskel, a true freshman, entered late in the second quarter and his first collegiate pass attempt was snared deep in the middle of the field by Florida Atlantic's Marcus Bartels. The Owls converted the takeaway into a 27-yard field goal by Vinny Zaccario.
Brantley started the next series by throwing an interception on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. He threw another one when he fired a pass into triple coverage in the end zone late in the third quarter. Florida already was up 31-3 at that time.
Despite Brantley's two interceptions, the game offered some validation – temporarily, at least – to what his coaches have been saying since spring. Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis praised Brantley's play during practices, maintaining that his poor performance in the Gators' spring game in April was an aberration.
"My confidence is pretty high right now," Brantley said. "Not only me, but the whole team feels great right now."
He completed seven of his first nine passes and hit Rainey on a short throw for a 14-yard touchdown with 2:41 left in the first quarter.
Florida pulled Driskel immediately after his early interception, but he looked sharper when he re-entered with 8:01 remaining. He drove the Gators 52 yards to set up a 29-yard field goal by Sturgis. In that series, he went 4 for 5 for 42 yards, and hit Andre Debose on a 20-yard pass.
Overall, Muschamp was encouraged by the progress his team demonstrated in its first game, but is anxious to see how the Gators play as the schedule gets more difficult.
"We need to be realistic here – we'll face better opponents throughout the season," he said. "We need to make improvements and adjustments.
"As we roll through this season, we're going to get to know our team a lot better."
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