GatorZone.com Senior Writer
MIAMI -- A bunch of trips into the red zone, a bunch of blown opportunities.
That was the story Saturday for 12th-ranked Florida, which fell to Miami 21-16 in their much-anticipated showdown at Sun Life Stadium.
UF quarterback Jeff Driskel's second interception of the game, to Hurricanes cornerback Tracy Howard, came on a third-and-2 from the UM 18-yard line with 6:42 to play. The possession marked the sixth for the Gators that reached inside the Miami 20 -- and the fourth time coming away with nothing.
Duke Johnson’s 2-yard touchdown run following a fumble by Driskel at the Gators’ 5-yard line –the Gators fifth turnover of the game, gave Miami a cushion.
Florida responded with a quick drive capped by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Solomon Patton with 2:08 left in regulation, but an onside kick came up short and the Gators (1-1). Florida got the ball back with :28 left at its own 20 but was unable to move the ball.
Austin's Hardin's 33-yard field goal at 8:40 of the third quarter capped a 9-play, 44-yard drive and had been UF's lone score of the second half.
Trey Burton's fumble at the UM 16 with 37 seconds to go in the first half was the last run of missed opportunities for the Gators, who had three turnovers (two in the red zone) in the first half and were stopped on another drive at the Miami 18 on fourth-and-1.
A 52-yard touchdown from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett staked the Hurricanes to their eight-point lead, as Dorsett raced past UF safety Marcus Maye and Morris laid the ball in perfectly for a quick strike score mere moments after the Gators blocked and put to set up and a touchdown and get back in the game.
After that, Florida mounted a series of drives -- UF outgained UM by 100 yards on offense and held the ball for more than 13 more minutes -- but each ended in self-destruction.
The Gators had a chance to close the margin after a 43-yard pass from Driskel to Solomon Patton helped move UF inside the UM 10. But one play after overthrowing a wide-open Quinton Dunbar in the end zone for what would have been an easy touchdown, Driskel was under pressure and tired to force a throw that was intercepted by UM defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins at the goal line.
It was the second turnover of the game for the Gators.
They had another possession that might as well have counted as a turnover.
Midway into the second period, Florida marched inside the MIami 20, but tailback Matt Jones gained one yard on third-and-2 and Driskel was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1.
Then came the Burton fumble as the Gators appeared poised to draw within a point (maybe even tie) before halftime.
Miami took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter when Stephen Morris threw the first of two early touchdown pass, a 7-yarder to Herb Waters. UM capitalized on a series of early mistakes by UF, including a fumble by Jones that Miami converted into the score on its opening drive. Jones was making his season debut after missing last week's opener against Toledo with a viral infection.
The Gators had something going on offense to start the game, but a 15-yard late hit call on tight end Clay Burton negated a first down at the Hurricanes 28. Two players later, Jones fumbled.
On Miami's ensuing possession, the Hurricanes marched 50 yards in nine plays, with Morris firing his touchdown to Waters, who beat cornerback Cody Riggs on a sideline route in the left corner of the end zone.
But down 7-0, Florida got some instant life when cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, suspended from the season opener for violating team rules, blocked Pat O'Donnell's punt with the Gators recovering at the 10. Two plays later, Driskel sprinted untouched into the end zone off a zone-read option play, picking a nice downfield block from fullback Hunter Joyer.
Florida did not tie the game, though. The Gators went for a trick-play attempt at a 2-point conversion, spreading the field and having Tyler Murphy throw a pass to Trey Burton, but the Hurricanes tackled Burton short of the goal line.
On Miami's next possession, the Hurricanes went 84 yards in just six plays, with the big-hitter the over-the-top bomb to Dorsett.
From there, the UF defense stepped it up and kept the UM offense on the sidelines with three straight three-and-outs. The Hurricanes ran six plays for four yards in the second quarter, but the Gators did not do their part when they had the ball.