The 2011 football season and the Will Muschamp-era began with a “boom”, as the Gators dominated Florida Atlantic University from start to finish en route to a 41-3 victory. For the Gators it was their 22nd consecutive season opening win, delighting a Ben Hill Griffin Stadium crowd of 88,708.
Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps combined for five touchdowns, while John Brantley was extremely efficient on the evening. Rainey scored three touchdowns in three different ways (a first by a Gator since at least 1996) - one rushing, one receiving and on a blocked punt return, while he and Demps combined for 271 yards of offense to set the pace.
Demps finished with 12 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns, while also hauling in three passes for 21 yards. Rainey had 11 carries for 79 yards and a score and six receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown. Brantley finished the night 21-of-30 passing for 229 yards and a touchdown. In the first half he propelled the Gators to a 24-3 lead, including a 5-for-5 clip on third down plays with four first downs in the process.
The Gators nearly sent the crowd into hysteria on the opening kick when speedster Demps returned to the opening kick for a touchdown, but a holding penalty nullified the score and Gators took over at their own 20.
Brantley methodically marched the Gators down the field, with Rainey doing it on the ground and as a receiver to set up a 51-yard field goal by Caleb Sturgis. Brantley completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive for 40 yards while Rainey rushed three times for 23 yards and caught two passes for 15 more yards. The drive was derailed by a high snap over Brantley’s head before the senior QB hit Quinton Dunbar with a 14-yard gain to put the Gators back in field goal range.
After a quick three-and-out for FAU, the Gators mounted another strong drive with Brantley continuing to look very comfortable. He connected with Frankie Hammond (15 yards) and Dunbar (11 yards) on third and long plays before hitting Rainey with a 14-yard touchdown pass to put the Gators up 10-0.
On the Gators third drive they marched 68 yards in just three plays, capping it with Demps’ 35-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 17-0.
Florida’s next drive was a 9-play, 91-yard effort that ended in Rainey’s second touchdown of the game, a 14-yard run, set up by Brantley spreading the ball around to multiple receiver.
The Owls got on the board with 1:22 left in the half on a 27-yard field goal by Vinny Zaccario, set up after the Owls intercepted freshman Jeff Driskel on his first attempt. Brantley returned a series later and suffered the same fate, having a pass tipped and picked off. Zaccario was unable to cut into the Gators’ lead as he pushed a 34-yard attempt wide left.
Florida dominated the first half, gaining 264 total yards while surrendering just 62. The Gators had 18 first downs to just three for the Owls. Brantley finished the first half 15-of-21 passing for 160 yards and a touchdown.
In the third quarter after getting a defensive stop, Solomon Patton blocked a punt that Rainey scooped up and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown, his third TD of the game, all in a different variety. It was his second career returned blocked punt, while it’s the first three touchdown game of his career.
Demps padded the Gators lead in the fourth quarter with a 20-yard touchdown run that put him over 100 yards rushing on the night.
Sturgis added a 29-yard field goal with 1:46 left to put the Gators up 41-3.
The Gators dominated statistically, out-gaining the Owls 468-137. Florida finished with 197 yards on the ground and 271 through the air. The Gators gained 30 first downs while holding FAU to just 11 – and none until the game was already 24-0.
Just prior to kick off defensive tackle Shariff Floyd was ruled ineligible by the University of Florida. He is ineligible to compete until his eligibility is restored by the NCAA. The University of Florida indicated Floyd’s issue is not related to agents, UF boosters or his recruitment to Florida.
Next up for the Gators will be a meeting with UAB at the Swamp next Saturday night at 7 p.m. The two schools will meet for the first time since the Gators opened the 2002 campaign with a win over the Blazers.