Gators improve to 2-0 under Muschamp
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The second game of the Will Muschamp era looked a lot like the first.
Florida knocked out an overmatched UAB team 39-0 with a stout defensive performance, a conservative passing effort and a healthy dose of Chris Rainey.
Rainey teamed up with fellow senior running back Jeff Demps to dismantle FAU in the season opener, but when Demps went down with an injury in the first quarter, that left it up to Rainey to carry the load on offense. He responded by rushing for 119 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 16 carries and he added three catches for 43 yards through the air. His 163 yards of total offense were a career-high.
"Since I've been here, I've watched a guy that is extremely competitive," Muschamp said of Rainey. "He's a great practice player. He is extremely electric with the ball in his hands and a lot of fun to watch. He does everything that you want a good football player to do in order to contribute to your football team. He's done everything we've asked of him. He's competitive, tough and has done everything we've asked of him.
Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis stayed with the running game the whole night, and the Gators ran the ball for 300 yards on 55 carries as a team against the Blazers. UF threw the ball just 20 times as a team.
Backup running back Mike Gillislee spelled Rainey late in the game and added 79 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Fullback Trey Burton chipped with six carries for 46 yards and a touchdown. True freshman fullback Hunter Joyer ran for 9 yards on three carries, including a touchdown on the first rushing attempt of his career. And redshirt freshman Mack Brown added 36 yards.
"The running game was working, our offensive line did a great job opening those holes up for the running backs," quarterback John Brantley said. "If it's working, we stay with it. That's coach Weis' mentality."
The heavy running attack left few plays for Brantley, who connect on 12-of-19 passing for 195 yards. Rainey's three catches led the team, and redshirt freshman Quinton Dunbar logged a team-high 58 receiving yards, including 40 yards on the first play from scrimmage as he adjusted for a badly overthrown ball from Brantley on a flea-flicker.
Brantley spread the ball around to six different receivers and threw the intermediate routes with more accuracy and timing than he did in the first week, though he still struggled to connect with his teammates down field.
Muschamp, once again, said Brantley played "very well" and took the ball to the right places, but he wasn't necessarily happy with the procedural errors that were absent in Week 1.
"You're never going to walk out of a game knowing that you did every single thing right," Brantley said.
The same was true for the defense, which pitched a shutout despite frequent penalties and allowing UAB to move the ball down the field a few times in the first half.
"Anytime you win it is positive," Muschamp said. "At any level of football, it is difficult to get a shutout. I'm proud of our defense, but you have to contribute a lot to our offense and how they performed in the second half."
UF lost the turnover battle three-to-zero to FAU in the its first game of the season and Muschamp made that a point of emphasis for the contest with UAB.
Safety Matt Elam forced a fumble in the open field during the third quarter, which was recovered by freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson for Florida's first takeaway of the young season. Roberson also had a chance for a pick-six when he stepped in front of a route late in the game, but the passs from UAB quarterback Bryan Ellis sailed too high.
Florida protected the ball throughout the game, not turning the ball over once, which was a step in the right direction for Muschamp, who has his team aiming for three takeaways per game.
"The chances of your winning a game go to 90 percent when you get three turnovers," Muschamp said. "The game's called football for a reason, it's all about the possession of the ball."