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Florida 24, Miami 20: Gators outlast ‘Canes in unfathomably wild Week Zero opener

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One of the weirdest games we’ll ever see ended the right way — with the Gators on top.

NCAA Football: Florida at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Feleipe Franks threw two terrible interceptions and put the ball on the ground on a fumbled snap in the red zone.

Florida’s tackling woes on the night were only barely eclipsed by a penchant for mind-numbing penalties.

Florida ran for 1.8 yards per carry and had two offensive snaps of the final 18.

But the second of those offensive snaps was the last one of the game. And when Franks took the final knee in Camping World Stadium on Saturday night, it was to preserve a 24-20 Florida win that will stand as one of the wildest in program history.

Consider this: Franks threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns, ran for a third, and delivered a beautiful and clutch strike leading to the game-winning touchdown — but will absolutely remain reviled by much of the Florida fan base after this game, in which his errors were even bigger than his big plays, and in which he was shown declaring “I DO THIS! STOP PLAYIN’ WITH ME!” directly to a camera and described as punting the ball into the stands at game’s end.

Consider this: Florida had 10 sacks and controlled the line of scrimmage against Miami’s inexperienced and largely overwhelmed offensive line, but missed at least twice that many tackles, could not capture even one of the five fumbles Miami put on the carpet on offensive plays, and extended Miami’s final drive with two separate pass interference penalties.

Consider this: Florida responded to a strong Miami drive to begin the game with a first drive that featured a fake punt on its first fourth down of the game and a 66-yard catch-and-run by Kadarius Toney, but would not score another touchdown until 30 seconds before the fourth quarter — and only got the chance to score that one on a short field because Van Jefferson covered up a muffed punt by Miami’s Jeff Thomas.

Consider this: Florida finished the night with a -3 in turnover margin — and +4 on the scoreboard.

This was not what Florida coaches, players, or fans wanted from this game, which many viewed as a chance to assert the Gators’ status as the dominant power in the Sunshine State. The Hurricanes fought as hard as they could and spun gold out of Florida’s mistakes, and redshirt freshman Jarren Williams will leave this game as the quarterback more fans are impressed with, not least because he failed to make the major miscues Franks did.

But it’s a win, and one over a foe that might be feister than expected under first-year head coach Manny Diaz than many expected.

Florida coach Dan Mullen, who praised Diaz postgame — “You see what kind of coach he’s going to be,” he told ESPN’s Maria Taylor — might have been prepared for this kind of fight, though, and must be pleased that his Gators were left standing at the end of it.

With a wild Week Zero behind them, Florida has the Football Bowl Subdivision’s first 1-0 record for the 2019 season — and two weeks to work on any and all of the many problems that nearly cost them this game.

But they might do well to take Sunday to celebrate and exhale.

Gator Nation certainly will.