The Furman Paladins surprised the Gators with trickery and a new offensive gameplan, which created a dreary atmosphere in the Swamp, where the Gators found themselves scrambling to adjust to the Paladins and having to respond to a quick-strike Furman offense.
Florida countered with a vertical passing attack starring quarterback John Brantley and wide receiver Andre Debose, who both enjoyed career days against the Paladins to lead Florida to a 54-32 victory, making the Gators bowl eligible.
An 80-yard touchdown pass to Debose with 5:42 left in the second brought the Gators within two against the Paladins, down 22-20 after a failed two-point conversion. Florida never looked back, outscoring Furman 34 to 10 the rest of the way en route to the victory.
“When we are able to gain single coverage outside, Andre is a guy who could do some things vertically down the field,” Muschamp said. “He made two very nice plays on the ball in my opinion, but he has done that all season for us.”
Debose’s touchdown jump-started the Florida offense, but the situation looked dire up to that point.
At the end of the first quarter, Furman appeared on its way to defeating the Gators for the first time since 1930. The key word is appeared.
Everything went right for the Paladins. With less than three minutes in the first quarter, a 47-yard wide receiver option pass for a touchdown brought the score to 22-7.
Brantley said the Gators needed to keep fighting Furman as a team.
“You have to give a lot of credit to Furman,” Brantley said. “They came in here and played us strong. We had to keep at it, not panic. We knew that we would be able to turn it on sooner or later. We just had to get it together.”
Fueled by three Brantley first-half touchdowns and 233 yards passing, Florida turned it on offense, but the Gators’ defense continued to struggle.
Muschamp said Furman switched to a double-slot option offense from its usual two running back system, which initially confused Florida.
Furman marched 67 yards down field for a touchdown in its first drive.
“They had slot guys going in motion before the ball snapped,” Muschamp said. “It’s very difficult to deal with if you haven’t practiced it. It was a good move.”
Furman gained 233 rushing yards against Florida. Paladins running back Jerodis Williams became the first running back in Furman history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season with 135 yards against the Gators.
Williams brought the Paladins within five points at 37-32 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter on a 77-yard touchdown tip-toe run down the sidelines.
Gators defensive tackle Shariff Floyd said Furman utilized the cut block against the larger Florida defensive line. Although the Paladins averaged 5.2 yards per rushing attempt, he said the Furman offensive line did not dominate the Gators.
“I wouldn’t say they controlled the line of scrimmage,” Floyd said. “If getting cut every play is controlling the line of scrimmage, then they did it. If you can cut someone every play and say ‘Well we dominated,’ then woo-hoo. That is not dominating to me. Dominating is push back, knock back, pancakes. That is dominating. They got some explosive plays off of cutting.”
Florida stopped any chance of a fourth-quarter Furman comeback with a 25-yard interception return for a touchdown by freshman safety De’Ante Saunders, which pushed the score to 47-32.
The Gators tacked on another touchdown on a late 75-yard interception return by linebacker Jelani Jenkins.
Florida’s victory against Furman made the Gators bowl eligible at 6-5, which Brantley said is huge for the team.
“It is huge for the young guys to get those extra practices,” Brantley said. “It is just always fun to be able to go to a different place and play a different team. It is just good for the university also.”
- Tight end Jordan Reed sustained an ankle injury. Muschamp said the training staff informed the coach Reed will be fine, but may be out for a couple of days.
- Linebacker Lerentee McCray still has not responded from treatment on his injured shoulder. Muschamp said he hoped to get the redshirt junior back next week.
- Chaz Green’s right ankle is still tender, Muschamp said.
- The coaching staff held offensive lineman Dan Wenger from suiting up Saturday. He did not dress out had a boot on his right foot.
- Safety Josh Shaw was out due to personal reasons. His grandfather was will and Muschamp decided it was best for Shaw to be with his family.
- Kyle Koehne moved to left tackle after Xavier Nixon got “banged up a bit.”