Following an awful start on both sides of the ball, the Gators defeated USF 38-14. UF moves to 2-0 ahead of the SEC opener at Tennessee.
The Gators finally looked like the team we know in the second half. Halfway through the 3rd quarter, Jeff Demps gave the Gators a spark with his 62-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7 for UF. After a three-and-out, Florida got good field position following Janoris Jenkins' 30 yard punt return. Four plays later, Mike Gillislee scored, which was followed by a pick-six for Justin Trattou and a 28-7 Florida lead. USF was able to score before the end of the 3rd quarter, as the 28-14 Gators lead likely caused some acid reflux for Urban Meyer.
Any momentum the Bulls had was zapped by Demps' 54 yard kickoff return. That set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal. Sturgis had missed one earlier in the game and did not look to be 100 percent. Jenkins' interception set up the final score, John Brantley to Jordan Reed for the 38-14 final.
In the first half and throughout the game, USF's run game handled the Gators. The Bulls finished with 244 on the ground. B.J. Daniels was awful throwing (5/20, 84 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT) but gained 107 rushing. In the first half, the Bulls controlled the clock, scoring on a 17 play, 9:08 minute drive to open the scoring. The Bulls gained 244 on the ground, testing the depth of the Gators, who were without Dominique Easley and Will Hill. But William Green, Josh Evans and Jeremy Brown each made plays to make up the difference. Linebackers Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic were often fooled by the Bulls option packages, but were much better late in the game. The Gators first touchdown was set up by Ahmad Black's first interception just before the half. Had that not happened, UF probably would have been shutout in the first half.
Black finished with two picks, with Trattou and Jenkins each having one. The defense started out by getting shoved around by USF's experienced offensive line. But the Gators dared USF to throw, and the Bulls took the bait. The Gators must improve their interior line play, but today they had enough to survive.
On offense, Mike Pouncey played very well and the offensive line protected Brantley well. Against USF's blitzing defense, Brantley got expected pressure. He stood in and took the blows, opening the offense and making a decent day for the much maligned Deonte Thompson (six catches for 83 yards) and Carl Moore (five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown). Brantley was wild and finished 18/31 for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
Demps was the offensive standout. His 255 total yards was the difference maker. Demps had 11 carries for 139 yards as the Gators finally got enough blocks to open up Demps on offense and special teams. Demps has a little bit of Percy Harvin in him in that Demps does not make cuts, he swerves. It's like watching a BMW commercial when Demps is in the open field. UF ran the ball for 251, with Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee getting touches following Chris Rainey's concussion in the first half.
Winning by 24 definitely provides comfort, but USF was toe-to-toe with Florida for 40 minutes. If USF had the depth of Florida or a quarterback that could throw, USF could have won this game. The Gators should not be happy with this performance, at least if you're talking about guys not named Demps, Jenkins or Black.
The real season begins next week at Tennessee. The Gators will need a compete performance next week and the rest of the season. Otherwise, it will be a long 12 games.