Gators Make All-Around Opening Statement
Mick ElliottGAINESVILLE - Hawaii got Five-0'd.
Published: August 31, 2008
Published: August 31, 2008
Actually, the Florida Gators hung a 56-10 cuffing on the visiting Warriors from the Pacific on Saturday.
Book 'em, Tebow.
Florida's season-opening victory Saturday afternoon in The Swamp was a jailbreak that would have made an old television police drama proud. On offense, defense and special teams, the Gators ran past the bewildered Warriors with high-speed flash and efficiency.
Florida's list of touchdown makers was so long and varied that quarterback Tim Tebow was all but edged out of the spotlight, completing nine of 14 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown. He ran for only 37 and for the first time in 14 games did not have a scoring run.
Today's news break! Tebow falls well off last year's Heisman Trophy-winning pace.
"Oh, shucks," he said.
The good news is that there's no telling how many of his teammates are demanding consideration.
Brandon James scored two touchdowns, one a 74-yard punt return. Freshman Jeffrey Demps took a handoff and went 62 yards for a touchdown, blowing past the final defender coming at him with the angle. Freshman Chris Rainey had a 33-yard scoring run. Tebow's one touchdown pass went to senior receiver Louis Murphy for 48 yards.
"Big plays take the wind out of your sails," UF coach Urban Meyer said of the opposition. "Can you expect that from us all season? I don't know. But there are some guys who any time they touch the ball, if you make a mistake, they can score."
Even Florida's defense, with six takeaways, struck from long distance. Strong safety Ahmad Black intercepted one pass in the end zone to halt an early Hawaii threat and later took his second pick back 80 yards for a score. Free safety Major Wright returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown.
"We kind of like fast people around here," Meyer said.
And they just kept coming.
"I have no excuses and thought we were outplayed in every phase of the game," said Hawaii coach Greg McMackin, who last year was defensive coordinator when the Warriors played their way into the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. "Florida is an excellent football team with great athletes.
"They are definitely as good as Georgia."
The Warriors had plenty of opportunity to make comparisons. Eleven different players carried the ball for Florida as the Gators dashed off 255 yards rushing. Florida had scoring drives of 22 and 38 seconds. Another went 80 yards in 2:44.
"Yeah, we got a lot of weapons," Tebow said. "And today we got out there and used all our weapons. We've got guys all over the field who can make big plays and can step up and have great games. Today it opened up to the backs. They each made some good plays. When they get the ball in their hands, they can go."
James, a 5-foot-7, 186-pound junior from St. Augustine, went like no other.
It was a strange start for a team that would put 56 points on the scoreboard. The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, and even after Florida took a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run by James, and a 14-0 advantage after Wright's interception return, Florida was far from having control.
And then Hawaii punted from its 32.
James fielded the kick off the bounce, broke two tackles to get outside and then went down his right sideline untouched.
"The guys did a good job holding up the gunners," James said. "I got some good blocks and just took it in. Pretty much, once you turn the corner and see some open field, you're kind of thinking you want to go ahead and take it in."
Meyer saw it as the play of the game.
Revitalized, the Gators struck again on their next possession and scored 28 in both the second and third quarters.
"All of a sudden here comes some little guy who returns it 70 yards on a punt return," Meyer said. "Then all of a sudden, Tim makes the right check on a blitz and we hit that inside zone and No. 2 Demps, a true freshman, steps up and once he gets out no one is going to catch him."
Reporter Mick Elliott can be reached at (813) 281-2534 or email@example.com.