Posted by Jerry Hinnen
FLORIDA WON: Nevermind the 8-5 disappointment, the coaching transition, the questions surrounding John Brantley: Florida against a bottom-rung Sun Belt team is still a total mismatch. The Gators scored 24 points over their first four possessions in Will Muschamp's debut, already feeling confident enough at that point to pull Brantley and give true freshman backup Jeff Driskel a series. Brantley finished 22-of-31 for 236 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions.
WHY FLORIDA WON: Playing an FAU team that went 2-10 last year and lost its quarterback has a lot to do with it. But the Gators nonetheless went a long way towards dispelling the doubts that a Charlie Weis offense combined with a green offensive line and backs recruited for the Urban Meyer spread wouldn't be able to find a running game. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey combined for 110 first-half yards on the ground on just 14 carries, with three long touchdowns (one a screen reception by Rainey) to boot. For the game, the Gators ran for 197 yards on a healthy 6 yards a pop.
Maybe it's not the offense Demps and Rainey were recruited for, but as long as the line can give them a crease -- and for a week, at least, they did -- they remain as explosive a running back tandem as there is in the SEC, and maybe the country. If Brantley can continue keeping defenses honest (and there will be defenses far, far more difficult to keep honest than the Owls'), the Florida running game could return to something approximating its 2007-2009 heyday.
And oh, the Gator defense--always expected to be the team's strength--performed to expectations, completely stuffing the Owl running game (30 yards on 30 attempts) and holding FAU to 137 yards overall.
WHEN FLORIDA WON: Like so many first-week paycheck games, any honest competitive drama was sucked out of the contest early. But after a second-quarter FAU field goal, we'll say an Owl comeback remained within the furthest realms of mathematical possibility until Rainey returned a blocked punt for a touchdown -- his third, via three different methods -- with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. At 31-3, things were well and truly over.
WHAT FLORIDA WON: A big boost of confidence for an offense that must have needed it after their various 2010 disasters (not to mention a spring game described by nearly all as just this side of unwatchable) and confirmation the hyped defensive line will be a load for future opponents to handle, even without Shariff Floyd. With another likely tune-up against UAB on deck, the Gator machine could find itself positively well-oiled by the time Tennessee visit Sept. 17.