GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10: Players for the University of Florida Gators hold American flags before a game against the UAB Blazers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Previously in Rapid Recaps: Florida Atlantic.
Florida defeated UAB Atlantic, 39-0, on Saturday night. We'll look back at the game in at multiple parts: The Rapid Recap, which reacts to the game in short order, comes first.
Florida's win over UAB was, perhaps, easier than its win over Florida Atlantic. The Blazers scored zero points to the Owls' three, were even more futile on third down, never crossed the Gators' 25, and gave the ball away instead of forcing three turnovers. Let's run down the initial takeaways from that victory.
How Florida Won
The Gators had this game wrapped up from about the moment John Brantley connected on a 40-yard flea flicker to Quinton Dunbar. That established the passing game and gave John Brantley enough confidence to have one of his best nights as Florida's quarterback, and it also meant UAB would have to play from behind throughout the game.
From there, Florida's defense spent much of its night bending but not breaking, and occasionally coming up with tackles for loss, while the Florida rushing attack churned up 300 yards (first time since Appalachian State last year, though it happened three times in 2008 and 2009) and helped the Gators keep the ball throughout. Chris Rainey looked as quicksilver-y as ever, and ran for 119 yards on a career high 16 carries.
Rainey had maybe the best game he has had as a runner for Florida. He's scored more often and had more big plays, but he's only rarely looked harder to tackle than he did last night, and certainly hasn't showed the vision he had except in flashes. With Jeff Demps (side note: SB Nation's auto-tagging won't tag Demps' name unless I write Jeffrey Demps) sidelined for much of the game with a shoulder injury sustained early on, Rainey got a chance to run everything Charlie Weis looks likely to call for his running backs, and acquitted himself nicely both in space and between the tackles. His lone touchdown run, a 19-yard scamper in the third quarter that ended with him diving backwards into the end zone, summed up Rainey's night and career beautifully: He's a Panamera, not a McLaren, and though he is fast, it is much more aesthetically appealing to see him slaloming between obstacles than it is to see his straight-line speed.
Matt Elam forced the Gators' first turnover of the year in the third quarter with a strip of UAB receiver Darrin Reaves. I think Reaves was probably down before the ball squirted out to be recovered by Marcus Roberson, but there was no conclusive angle on the ball from any of the many cameras trained on the play. Still, Elam's got a nose for the ball and a hitter's mentality, and it's hard to imagine he won't be forcing more fumbles.
Jon Bostic made the best defensive play of the night, snuffing an attempted reverse for a loss of 13 yards.
Brantley made a couple of the finest throws he has made as a Gator in a mostly nondescript 12-for-19 performance. The first was a corner route dropped over a defender's arm; the second was a crossing route dropped over a defender's arm. Neither throw was a laser, but both had some steam on them, and Brantley definitely put them where only his receiver could make a play on them.
The entire offensive line made mincemeat of UAB's front seven well into the fourth quarter. That helped Mike Gillislee (11 carries, 79 yards) have an impressive night, and it helped keep Brantley upright and unhurried.
Brantley, early on, seemed very quick to look for his checkdowns and receivers in the flats, at one point telegraphing a throw to the flats so blatantly that it resulted in a loss of four yards. He rectified this later, and showed more willingness to throw the ball downfield, but that sort of uncertainty leads to jumped routes and pick-sixes against teams better than UAB and Florida Atlantic.
Florida's secondary played a lot of vanilla zone coverages that allowed UAB receivers to get past one defender and into a pocket beneath the safety. Despite throwing for just 141 yards, UAB quarterback Bryan Ellis had four completions of 16 or more yards. Against a team like Tennessee, which comes equipped with Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter, and Da'Rick Rogers, this is a weakness that could spell doom.
The Florida pass rush has yet to materialize. No sacks from the Gators tonight bodes poorly for a future that includes SEC offensive lines.
Could Demps stay healthy for more than a couple weeks at a time? Maybe? Failing that, could Weis see past Trey Burton's vaunted versatility to Gillslee's history of better production?
Will Muschamp's fury at what he perceived as a sloppy first half full of penalties was well-earned, despite the Gators leading 25-0 at halftime. Florida seemed content to play in second or third gear and strut, rather than locking down fully. And though the Gators cleaned up the penalties in the second half, Florida's first defensive series featured a third down offsides penalty that gave UAB a first down and two completions of more than 15 yards before Elam's forced fumble.
Stats and Miscellany Dump
Florida leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense, giving up 1.5 points per game so far in 2011. Flip side of that stat: UAB has only played Florida, and Michigan State shut out Florida Atlantic on Saturday, so Florida's opponents haven't scored on anyone else, either.
This was John Brantley's first game without an interception since Florida's November 2010 win over Vanderbilt.
Solomon Patton did not block a punt for the third consecutive game. Slacker.
The #FreeSharrif chant was apparently attempted, then scuttled, as Florida honored the 2010 national champion indoor track team between the first and second quarters.
No Florida player had more receptions than Rainey's three.
Florida ran the ball 55 times, its most since at least 2007.
Walk-on Jesse Schmitt had one carry for zero yards in the fourth quarter.
Dominique Easley dancing is among the most delightful joys this Earth has provided me in 2011, and is in a dead heat with Schmitt's extracurricular activities (ROTC training and, assuredly, zombie-killing) for Meaningless Tidbit That Will Be Run Into The Ground By Verne And Gary Of The Year.