It was ... interesting. Actually, that's too nice: It was ugly. Excruciating, even.
But another thing it was? A win.
Florida had to go to overtime with Florida Atlantic to get it, but managed to emerge victorious on a Saturday that went from dreary to a downpour, 20-14.
In a game in which Florida was favored by 31 (!) points, the Gators spent the afternoon in a dogfight with Florida Atlantic. A scoreless first half saw the Owls' defense living in the Gators' backfield, holding Florida to only 69 yards of offense, their lowest total in a half this season.
The offensive line performance we all feared finally came to be on this day. Florida's running game was non-existent and the offense struggled mightily to move the ball. Both teams squandered scoring opportunities with missed field goals and went into the locker room with goose eggs in the score column. Treon Harris was sacked 5 times and pressured all day behind Florida's collapsing offensive line.
In the second half, the scoreless stalemate was finally broken, thanks largely to Antonio Morrison forcing a Jason Driskel fumble, which was recovered by Taven Bryan and returned 48 yards to the FAU 2. From there, Kelvin Taylor punched in a touchdown for the first score of the game, giving the Gators a 7-0 lead.
On their next offensive series, Treon Harris tossed a beautiful pass 53 yards to Antonio Callaway to put the Gators up 14-0. It seemed for a moment that Florida finally found some breathing room, and might pull away, but the Owls responded with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 10 yard Jaquez Johnson pass to Kalib Woods for a touchdown to pull within seven.
After Harris was intercepted in the end zone to end a promising drive, Jalen Tabor took a ball out of an FAU receiver's hands (credited as an interception) to give the offense another opportunity. But the offense was unable to get a first down and Austin Hardin tried, and missed, his second field goal attempt from 34 yards out. Disaster struck again when Harris was stripped while trying to throw: The ball rolled into the end zone, where it was recovered by the Owls for a touchdown to tie the game at 14-14.
The Gators' defense got the ball back for the offense as Marcus Maye recovered a fumble by Johnson, on what would have been a first down for FAU, with five minutes left to play. But, yet again, the offense was unable to get a drive going, forcing Johnny Townsend came on to punt, downed by Chris Thompson at the FAU. This led to another drive on which Florida's offense had the ball back with great field position again but was unable to convert, again; eventually, FAU took a knee to send it to overtime.
Florida only converted two third downs all day.
But in overtime, Florida scored on a Harris pass to Jake McGee, which the Gators' super-senior tight end turned into a touchdown by making two FAU defenders miss on his way to the endzone. hardin's extra point was blocked, continuing the frustrating kicking woes that have plagued the Gators all season, but the game was in the hands of Florida's defense from there.
And in the pouring rain, it came down to fourth and goal for the Owls and Jenson Stoshak could not hang on to a pass in the endzone from Johnson.
Florida's win makes 10 for the Gators this year, and those 10 wins for Jim McElwain make him the first Florida coach to win ten games in his inaugural season. This was undeniably the worst performance from these Gators so far this year, taking that crown from the Vanderbilt game.
But as McElwain quipped postgame, "We've got 10 wins, don't we?"
There is much to be concerned about with this team moving forward. The schedule gets much more difficult the next two weeks. But, once again, Florida "found a way to win," and boasts a double-digit win total in the first year of the McElwain era.
They weren't able to exhale until FAU's final pass hit the soggy turf of The Swamp in overtime, sure. These Gators are still breathing rarefied air.