Florida escapes Furman with 54-32 victory

By Adam Silverstein
November 19, 2011

A victory may have been in doubt for a while, but the Florida Gators (6-5) fought back from a 15-point first quarter deficit to defeat the Furman Paladins (6-5) 54-32 on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida senior quarterback John Brantley completed 16-of-28 passes for career-highs of 329 yards and four touchdowns in the win. With the victory, the Gators became bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season, the longest streak in the Southeastern Conference and second-longest in the nation.

Furman shocked Florida by scoring on their first possession, running the ball six-straight times for 67 yards and a rushing touchdown after UF redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.

The Gators committed a safety the next time they got the ball when redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison snapped it over Brantley’s head close to the end zone. The Paladins took advantage of the short field on the ensuing kickoff by concluding a five-play, 55-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown through the air.

Down double digits, Florida fought back immediately. Brantley completed a 41-yard pass deep down the right sideline to redshirt senior wide receiver Denote Thompson and another 14-yard strike down the middle of the field to redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed three plays later for a touchdown.

[EXPAND Click to expand and read the rest of the Florida-Furman game story.]With their lead cut to eight, Furman looked to regain their two-score advantage. Stationed at UF’s 47-yard-line, QB Chris Forcier tossed the ball to TE Colin Anderson, who threw it 47 yards down the field to Sederrik Cunningham for a touchdown.

The Gators were reeling at the end of the first quarter but took it to the Paladins shortly after the second quarter began. Florida ended a seven-play, 65-yard drive with a one-yard rushing score by freshman fullback Hunter Joyer, and Brantley hooked up with redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of UF’s next possession. A two-point conversion failed, leaving the Gators down 22-20.

Florida sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley blocked a punt on FU’s next drive, getting his team the ball back at their opponent’s 34-yard-line. Brantley responded with a 29-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar, who tapped one foot down in the back of the end zone for the score.

UF had a chance to add a field goal at the end of the half, but Sturgis pushed a 40-yard attempt to the left and Florida kept its 27-22 lead at the break.

The teams traded field goals and punts to open the second half before swapping touchdowns to close the third quarter. The Gators had possession with 1:16 to play in the quarter, and Brantley again threw deep to Debose for a 64-yard touchdown. The Paladins responded immediately with a 77-yard rushing touchdown from running back Jerodis Williams on the first play of their ensuing possession.

Florida held just a five-point advantage into the fourth quarter but took their shots at Furman from that point forward. Sturgis nailed a 55-yard field goal to end the quarter’s first possession, and freshman safety De’Ante Saunders intercepted Forcier’s next pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to put the Gators ahead 47-32.

After another pair of punts, Florida got back on the board when redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins picked off Forcier and returned it 75 yards for the second pick-six of the game.

Though they were trailing 22-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Gators outscored the Paladins 47-10 through the final three quarters of the contest.

Debose had a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns, and redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey led the rushing attack with 15 carries for 90 yards. Reed added four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown, Dunbar had two catches for 54 yards and a score, and Thompson made two grabs for 45 yards.

Saunders registered Florida’s first interception return for a touchdown this season and caught his second pick in as many games. Jenkins nabbed his first interception of the season after dropping a number of balls early in the year.

Sturgis’s two field goals gave him 44 for his career, good for second all-time in school history behind Jeff Chandler (67).

The Gators posted more than 50 points in a game for the first time since registering 55 against Vanderbilt one year ago.

Despite the 22-point victory, Florida only outgained Furman 453-445. The Gators had 116 more yards in the air (329-213) but were outrushed 233-124 on the afternoon. UF committed six penalties for 60 yards in the contest, gave up two fourth-down conversions (on two attempts) and possessed the ball 13:24 less than FU (23:18-36:42).

Florida will conclude its regular season next Saturday by hosting rival Florida State in The Swamp. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will air live on ESPN2.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press[/EXPAND]

13 Comments

  1. Gator John says:

    32 points to an FCS team? Seems we are regressing as a team instead of getting better. As much as it pains me to say it, I see us getting pummeled next week. Even the offense couldn’t do much the first half. We should have been able to move the ball up and down the field on a team that lost to ELON last week. Transition year or not, this team and coaching staff have a long way to go.

    • RazzleG8r says:

      Call it what you want, but they are still a D1 school. At this point in time, any Gator win is a great win.

      • ncgator says:

        Great win! Seriously. For Christ sake, most people don’t even know where Furman is.

        • RazzleG8r says:

          Tell ’em it’s in South Carolina. Unwad your panties.

          • ncgator says:

            Don’t wear underwear “Miss Rah Rah everythings wonderful in the gatornation”

          • RazzleG8r says:

            @ncgator:You didn’t piss me off with the “miss” comment. It was the rah, rah part that did it. Here’s the deal; your reading comprehension skills are lacking. I’ll translate my original post.
            “At this point in time”=We suck, we really suck.
            “Any win”=Even against the little sisters of the poor.
            “Any Gator win is a great win”=yeah right, right up there with the 1991 first ever (official)SEC Championship”
            #sarcasm

  2. TGator says:

    God we suck. Fire Muschamp

  3. aziatic41 says:

    With this low-confidence and struggling team, any win is a positive for them and our fan base. Even against a mid-major school like Furman. Furman has talent on their roster and has a very good coaching staff. Their kids had no pressure on them and came out and played very freely and confident.

    Now with that being said, I think FSU is probably going to beat us next weekend. FSU is on a roll and they have a lot of team speed and great pass-rushing defensive lineman, which has given us trouble every since Brantley was handed the starting qb job at UF. EJ Manuel is a dual-threat qb who I think we definitely cannot stop. He’s big, fast and very strong. We had trouble stopping an average dual-threat qb in Connor Shaw so think about what Manuel will probably do… Playing this game at home in the Swamp is the only positive I see in this upcoming game

  4. aziatic41 says:

    @MrBits, I pretty much feel the same way. Although I do feel much better about our “chances” of beating FSU now. FSU had that game in their pocket had it not been for a missed field goal in the end. Don’t know how aware you are but Virginia is a really good team this year. Also, I still feel EJ Manuel is somebody we are going to have to focus on. He’s a dual threat qb that can really hurt us with his feet, especially in passing situations

  5. uf_84 says:

    Glad we were able to pull out that nail biter against the mighty Paladins!!!!

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