Saturday November 21, 2009No. 1 Florida Tops FIU, 62-3, Saturday
The top-ranked Gators improved to a school-record 11-0 Saturday afternoon with a 62-3 victory over in-state opponent FIU (3-8) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. A crowd of 90,473 came out to witness the Orange and Blue extend its nation-leading win streak to 21 games in the first meeting between the two Florida schools. With the victory over the Golden Panthers, the 2009 senior class became the winningest class in Florida history, marking only the second time in UF history the Gators have started 11-0.
For the fifth time in his storied career as a Gator, senior quarterback Tim Tebow (Jacksonville, Fla.) rushed for over 100 yards, tallying a total of 102 yards on seven carries and a touchdown in the first quarter, and connected on 17-of-25 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns.
After taking over for Tebow early in the third quarter, redshirt sophomore quarterback John Brantley (Ocala, Fla.) found three different receivers to complete the second half of play, finishing the day 9-of-13 for 146 yards and three touchdowns.
Redshirt sophomore Chris Rainey (Lakeland, Fla.) proved to be a dual threat for the Gators with a career-tying three receptions for a career-high 61 yards through the air and one touchdown, while running four times for 30 yards and a score. Redshirt sophomore Deonte Thompson (Belle Glade, Fla.) led the UF receiving corps with five catches for 66 yards.
The Gators held the Golden Panthers scoreless through nearly the first two quarters of play Saturday afternoon, putting up 35 points in the first half alone, while holding FIU to just three, a field-goal success with 29 seconds remaining in the half by kicker Dustin Rivest. The Gators scored on seven of eight drives in the first half to take a 35-3 lead in to the locker room at halftime.
Florida got off to its fastest start of the season with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown by senior linebacker Brandon Spikes (Shelby, N.C.) at the 13:10 minute mark of the first quarter, the sixth interception of his career, his fourth for a touchdown, that gave UF the early 7-0 lead. With the touchdown, Spikes became the only player in the country to have four pick-sixes in the last two years.
After forcing a three-and-out situation for FIU, the Gators gained possession again by way of a Golden Panther punt on their own 16-yardline. UF drove 84 yards down field on five plays as Tebow ran in a career-long 55-yard touchdown run to extend the UF lead, 14-0, at the 9:18 minute mark. Tebow’s touchdown run elevated him into sole possession of the SEC record for all-time touchdowns (54).
Following FIU’s second three-and-out of the first quarter, a missed 53-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Caleb Sturgis (St. Augustine, Fla.) gave the ball back to the Golden Panther’s on the FIU 36-yard line. Florida’s strong defensive talent didn’t falter, as FIU was forced to punt yet again.
The Gators’ next two scores belonged to Rainey, the first a Tebow shovel pass that Rainey took 27 yards to the house to give the Orange and Blue a 21-0 lead, and the second an option pitch from Tebow that allowed Rainey to find the end zone on a 22-yard scamper. Rainey’s first score marked his inaugural touchdown catch as a Gator, while his second rushing score marked his seventh of the season and gave UF a 28-0 lead.
With 9:41 left in the half, FIU found an offensive rhythm, starting on its own 50-yard line after a 47-yard kickoff return from Wayne Times. The Panthers drove to the UF 16-yard line and set up for a 33-yard Rivest field-goal, but the wide-right attempt put possession of the ball in UF’s hands.
One more score, a three-yard touchdown scamper for sophomore Jeff Demps (Winter Garden, Fla.), capped the 35-point first-half UF scoring rush following Sturgis’ extra point. The Panthers capitalized on their last scoring opportunity of the half with a Rivest 37-yard field goal with 29 seconds that put the first, and what would turn out to be the only, three points on the board for Florida International.
On the opening drive of the second half, the UF scoring domination continued as Tebow hooked up with senior wide receiver Riley Cooper (Clearwater, Fla.) on a 18-yard touchdown pass, Cooper’s seventh of the season, to give the Gators a 42-3 advantage.
With 13:38 left in the third quarter, Brantley took over for Tebow at quarterback, found a quick rhythm and immediately led the Gators 73 yard down the field for two scores. Brantley first connected with redshirt freshman wide receiver Omarius Hines (Corsicana, Texas) on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 4:06 to go in the third quarter as the Gators ate up 3:42 on the clock and took a 48-3 lead. For Hines, the score marked his first as a Gator.
Another strong defensive stand for the Orange and Blue gave Brantley and the Gators the go-ahead on a career-long 16-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior Justin Williams (Folkston, Ga.), his second receiving score of the season, which lengthened the margin, 56-3, with 11:10 to go in the game.
Brantley went on to hit his third receiver of the second half when he found redshirt freshman Frankie Hammond, Jr. (Hollywood, Fla.) on a career-long 31-yard deep pass to the end zone for the receiver’s first career score in a Florida uniform. With Hammond’s catch following a 12-play 83-yard drive, UF took a dominating 62-3 lead after the point-after attempt by redshirt senior Jonathan Phillips (Wellington, Fla.) was unsuccessful with 2:28 left in the game.
Redshirt junior quarterback Andrew Blaylock (Durham, N.C.) finished out the rest of the fourth quarter for the Orange and Blue as UF collected the 62-3 victory to remain undefeated in 2009.
Florida will play its last regular season game Nov. 28 when Sunshine State rival Florida State visits The Swamp for a 3:30 p.m. CBS match-up.