Furman pulls fast one on Florida

Florida coach Will Muschamp said it himself. He had only been in a situation once before when the opposing team changed its offensive gameplan to a scheme not seen before on film.

The change bewildered the Gators and had the defense searching for answers, and after a first quarter where Florida was down 22-7, the answers needed to come fast.

On its first drive, Furman switched to a double-slot option offense from its usual two running back system, Muschamp said. The Paladins went on a six-play, 67-yard touchdown drive.

“I knew going into the game, if they continued to do the same things they had been doing, we felt pretty good,” Muschamp said. “Then they jump into the double slot, which is totally off-the-wall and they hadn’t done anything like that. It was a good plan on their part.”

For the first time all season, Florida’s opponent scored touchdowns on its first three possessions.

In the first quarter, Furman outgained Florida 196 to 72 and gained 84 rushing yards.

The Paladins play in the Southern Conference, which is part of the Football Championship Series. FCS teams normally are not competitive against the more talented Football Bowl Subdivision members, especially an SEC school like Florida.

Furman followed the opening touchdown with a safety on a bad center shotgun snap from Jonotthan Harrison at the Florida 14-yard line.

Florida’s beatdown continued with Furman’s methodical five-play, 55-yard drive resulting in a 1-yard touchdown run.

The Gators answered with a 14-yard strike to Jordan Reed from quarterback John Brantley.

Then the unthinkable happened.

As if an FCS team beating an SEC team on the road wasn’t enough, the Paladins entertained its small purple cheering section standing in the Swamp with a 47-yard wide receiver option pass for a touchdown.

Muschamp said the problems the Gators faced after giving up the opening drive touchdown, resulted from a lack of eye control by the defense.

“The next two series, we have an eye-control issue with the bubble pass and busted coverage for a big play,” Muschamp said. “They are not watching what they are supposed to watch.”

Florida place kicker Caleb Sturgis noticed the early Furman success caught the Gators off guard.

“They got up early,” Sturgis said. “I thought it was like taking a punch in the face. Everybody was like a little surprised. After that, everybody adjusted and played good.”

The Gators’ secondary allowed 54 passing yards after the first quarter.

Florida played without starting freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson who is out for the season with a neck injury. Muschamp said the secondary coverage was okay, and Roberson had an outstanding freshman season.

“We missed a couple things there, a couple patterns we didn’t get right,” he said. “Marcus gives you a bigger corner. Obviously stays on top of routes. He is very disruptive and contains on the line of scrimmage. He has had an outstanding freshman season.”

Another freshman stepped up late for Florida. De’Ante Saunders intercepted Furman quarterback Chris Forcier for a 25-yard touchdown return.

The touchdown stopped any chance of a Furman comeback and pushed the Florida lead to 47-32.

“Pop has very good instincts on the ball,” Muschamp said. “He has a good feel for the game.”

For a quarter, Saturday in the Swamp felt like the Paladins had the firepower to shock a struggling SEC opponent in the Gators. When the Gators were down by two touchdowns, Muschamp figured success had to arrive for Florida.

“You start to realize that if it could have gone wrong, it already has,” Muschamp said. “Eventually it has to start turning our way. That is part of the game. That is why you play the game. That is why you play for 60 minutes.”