Big Plays Push Florida Past CSU 62-3September 5, 2009
By CSU Sports Information
|Photo by Ryan Burns|
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The defending BCS National Champions and preseason #1 pick Florida Gators showed why they have earned such accolades, taking a 62-3 victory over Charleston Southern in the first game of the season for both programs. CSU has now dropped its last three season-openers, two of which have come at the hands of FBS programs (Miami, 2008).
“We hope to glorify God in all that we do, and I think we did that this weekend,” said Mills. “The scoreboard is just one measure of success, and even though we were on the short end of that, we felt like a lot of good things came out of this game. We came close to achieving a lot of things that we wanted to offensively, although we are obviously disappointed we couldn’t get in the end zone.”
Despite putting just three points on the board against the 11 returning starters on the Florida defense, CSU was able to move the ball, gaining 206 yards in the first half, including 170 through the air. Going one play shy of three quarters of the game, A.J. Toscano finished 18-31 through the air for 152 yards with one interception. He also rushed six times, gaining 20 yards. Andrew Trudnowski played the fourth quarter, going 9-17 for 45 yards.
Alex Neal was the favorite target, catching seven passes for 45 yards, while Kwame Krakue hauled in six passes for 63 yards. Gerald Stevenson and B.J. Hackworth each carried the ball for a team-best 21 yards.
The CSU offense was able to gain 18 first downs, and 323 total yards against what both Mills and Toscano called one of the best defenses in the nation. CSU also dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for a combined 23:00 in the first and fourth quarters alone, finishing the game with control of the ball for 37:34.
“Our team had a lot of fun playing this game,” said Toscano, who saw action in the second game of his CSU career. “We never want to lose, but our offense will come out of this game very confident. We moved the ball against one of, if not the best defenses in the country. This was a great experience for a lot of guys, including me, who had never been involved in a game of this magnitude.”
2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow finished the game 10-15 for 188 yards and one touchdown, averaging 12.5 yards per throw. He only carried the ball twice for one yard and a touchdown. The big-play Gator offense used 19 plays of 20 yards or more to tally up 624 yards of offense. They also had an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Matt Bach led the defensive unit with five tackles for CSU. Jacques Bazile and Cornelius Sterling each chimed in with four stops, while Antonio Brown had the lone tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Andy Brown finished the game with eight punts for an average of 37.8 yards, while John Paglia averaged 60 yards per kickoff, adding a 38-yard field goal.
Although crowd noise proved to be a factor in the game, Toscano did not let it get to him as he completed his first pass of the game to Stevenson for an 11 yard game and a first down. After an end-around to Stevenson for another six yards, Moon made it third-and-one with a three yard scamper. The Bucs couldn’t convert, though, as they had to send on the punt team to pin Florida deep. The tactic worked temporarily as the Gators took over on the 11 yardline.
The ever-potent UF offense got a huge chunk back on the first big play of the game, going 68 yards to Riley Cooper, setting up an eight-yard run from Jeffrey Demps for the game’s opening score. The Demps score finished off a four-play, 89-yard drive as he got in with 11:05 left in the first quarter. It is the third time in as many years that CSU has allowed a touchdown on the opponent’s first possession of the season, with Miami scoring early in the game to start the 2008 campaign and The Citadel doing so in 2007.
On third-and-five, Toscano and Stevenson again hooked up for a first down. Wanting to avoid mistakes, the Bucs had two costly ones as back-to-back false starts pushed CSU into a second-and-long situation. The drive was stalled before CSU could get to midfield, forcing another punt.
The same bug bit Florida on their ensuing possession as a false start mixed with a delay of game to put them at second-and-20. That led to their first punt of the game as Tebow’s third-down attempt fell short and incomplete.
After getting the ball back, it was another big play for UF as Chris Rainey ran 76-yards up the middle, making it 14-0 Gators with 4:34 still showing in the first quarter.
For the third time in the first quarter, a 40-plus yard play caused trouble for CSU as Demps went 41-yards to set up Florida inside the red zone as the quarter came to an end. After being set up on the one yardline, Tebow had no problem punching it in to put the defending national champions up 21-0. With the touchdown, Tebow moved up into a tie for fourth all-time in SEC history.
The first major mistake for CSU came with 10:12 left in the first half as Toscano had Stevenson with a step on his man down the sideline. Toscano’s pass hung up a moment too long and was intercepted by the safety, Major Wright.
With 7:55 on the clock, Tebow found Aaron Hernandez on a crossing route for 28 yards and another score, widening the gap to 35-0. The pass marked the 29th-straight game that Tebow has passed for a touchdown, by far the longest active streak in the nation (Todd Reesing, Kansas – 18).
CSU’s biggest play of the day came on a halfback pass from Tim Jones to Toscano that went 26 yards for a first down, moving CSU to the Florida 22 yardline, their deepest line of scrimmage of the contest at that time. The Bucs got on the board with a 38-yard field goal by Ocala-native John Paglia, capping a seven-play, 48-yard drive.
Another big play came quickly as Florida added seven points on the ensuing kickoff, with Brandon James running it back 85 yards to make it 42-3 with 5:24 left in the first half.
With Tebow out of the game, John Brantley came in to call plays, and was not able to garner a first down in his first series, giving CSU one more possession with 1:39 on the clock in the first half. Another first down set up a big 27-yard pass to Krakue, putting CSU in business again on the Florida 23 yardline. Aided by an offside penalty, CSU saw the red zone for the first time with under :30 to go in the half. With the clock running, CSU opted to try for a touchdown from 12 yards out, but Toscano’s pass sailed over the head of Stevenson, ending the half with Florida on top 42-3.
On their first possession of the second half, Florida marched down the field in 2:21, going 49 yards for a touchdown after an outstanding return by T.J. Lawrence set up the drive across midfield.
After getting to the CSU one on their next drive, the defense held and pushed the Gators back, forcing third-and-goal from the seven. Joe Robinson broke up the third-down pass, and a tackle by Ryan Ard on fourth down gave CSU the ball back, and it seemed like CSU would escape the third quarter with no further damage.
Florida had other plans as a nine-yard pass from Brantley to Cade Holliday put Florida up 55-3 with :24 left in the third. Four-straight handoffs to Mike Gillislee accounted for the final 28 yards of an eight-play, 61-yard drive to put Florida up 62-3.
Trudnowski, who was in a battle for the starting job before the season, proved that he could work the offense as well, executing an outstanding 20-play, 63-yard drive, chewing up 8:05 off the clock in the fourth quarter. The drive included a fourth-down conversion inside the red zone, putting CSU with a first-and-goal on the 10 yardline. After three incomplete passes, Mills again elected to try for six, going for it on fourth down, a gamble that did not pay off after a completion to Ivey for no gain.
CSU stays on the road for the next two weeks, moving back into the FCS ranks with Wofford next week for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Related Item: Box Score