In danger of being upset in the first game of the season, No. 8 Florida was able to rally back from three separate deficits to beat Miami 24-20 in the Camping World Kickoff in Orlando Saturday. Quarterback Feleipe Franks had an up-and-down game but was a part of all three Gators touchdowns, including a TD run halfway through the fourth quarter that ended up being the game-winning score.
Miami had a chance to pull off an upset multiple times against its in-state rival. The Hurricanes jumped out to a three-point lead after their opening drive, only to have the Gators take the lead two minutes later on a 66-yard catch-and-run by Kadarius Toney. The second quarter was all Hurricanes, with Miami getting another field goal, followed by a 25-yard touchdown by Brevin Jordan with just 45 seconds remaining in the half.
Back And Forth
With Miami up 13-7 at the half, Florida scored 10 unanswered in the third, first with a field goal and later with a short TD pass to Lamical Perine with 30 seconds left. But the Hurricanes responded quickly, as running back DeeJay Dallas busted through Florida’s defense for a 50-yard touchdown to give Miami a 20-17 lead early in the fourth.
It was looking increasingly likely that Miami would win when two plays after Dallas’ touchdown, Franks was intercepted. The Canes were 25 yards away from the end zone with a chance to make it a two-possession game, but the Gators defense prevented them from gaining any traction. They ended up having to settle for a field-goal attempt, where Bubba Baxa went wide right on his only miss of the game.
That missed kick flipped the momentum of the entire game. The next play, Franks connected with Josh Hammond for a 65-yard gain. Three plays later, Franks ran into the end zone to give Florida a lead once again. A couple of pass interference penalties on Florida, including one on 4th-and-34, kept Miami in the game, but the stout Florida defense limited Jarren Williams and the rest of the Canes offense to just 27 yards on 17 plays and two turnovers-on-downs.
In all, both teams combined for five turnovers and 225 yards in penalties. Oddly enough, Florida was responsible for four of those turnovers, three of which belonged to Franks alone. Miami also dominated the possession battle, having the ball nearly 13 minutes longer than Florida.
In total, Franks finished the game with 254 yards passing and two touchdowns to go along with a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter. Perine was Florida’s leading rusher with 42 yards, while Hammond gained 93 yards on four catches to lead all receivers in the game.
For Miami, Williams threw for 214 yards and one touchdown. Dallas was highly effective on the ground, earning 95 yards on 12 carries, including his 50-yard touchdown. Jordan, who caught Williams’ lone TD, reeled in five catches for 88 yards.
Florida’s biggest difference-maker was the pressure it was able to generate with its defensive line. Led by sophomore Ventrell Miller, the Gators recorded a whopping 10 sacks in the game and 16 total tackles-for-loss. Nine different players all earned at least half of a sack, with four of them recording more than one. The Gators also did a good job of protecting Franks, allowing just one sack and three QB hurries.
Florida, which for the time being remains the eighth-ranked team in the nation, is now off until Sept. 7, when it hosts UT Martin in Gainesville. As for Miami, it will face North Carolina on the road that same Saturday.