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First-half frenzy fuels Gators
Scoring tapers off in the second half, but Urban Meyer likes his team's overall effort.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published September 9, 2007
GAINESVILLE - Whatever Urban Meyer and the Florida coaching staff kept preaching all week about not taking Troy lightly, it worked perfectly for one outstanding half Saturday night.
Then came the second half, which renewed all those concerns about having a bunch of freshmen and sophomores suiting up on game day. And actually playing.
So while Meyer will start addressing those fears first thing this morning, Saturday night he wanted to focus on Florida's 59-31 victory over Troy in front of 90,244 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
So what if the Gators jumped out to a 49-7 halftime lead, then let Troy outscore them 17-0 in the third quarter? So what if his defense went from holding a relatively high-scoring offense to seven points in the first half to giving up 24 second-half points and a total of 336 yards? And so what if the offense went stone cold in the third quarter, while committing some uncharacteristic turnovers?
A win is still a win. Ask all the teams that lost on Saturday.
"There are a lot of other programs in the country that aren't 2-0, so I'm good," Meyer said. "(Today) I'll be throwing coffee and yelling, but tonight I'm good. We'll take it."
And why not? It's not like the night was all bad.
Florida scored on its first seven possessions, jumping out to the 49-7 lead, with six players scoring touchdowns. The Gators' special teams set the tone early.
Florida scored 28 points in the first 16 minutes, aided by two blocked kicks and kickoff returns of 59 and 32 yards from sophomore Brandon James.
"Blocked punts are great momentum changers in college football," Meyer said.
But a series of mistakes allowed Troy a late comeback effort, including 17 third-quarter points. On the Gators' opening possession of the second half, senior receiver Andre Caldwell fumbled after running 8 yards on a crossing pass, and Troy's Leodis McKelvin recovered and returned it 36 yards to the Gators' 4-yard line. Troy was forced to settle for a 21-yard field goal.
The Trojans scored again on their next possession, a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Omar Haugabook to pull the Trojans within 49-17.
The Gators finished with 500 yards of offense, including 264 rushing yards. But after scoring on its first seven possessions, Florida didn't score in the third.
"We have to learn to play for four quarters," said UF quarterback Tim Tebow, who was 18-of-25 for 236 yards and also had 17 carries for 93 yards. "You don't win after one half."
As for the defense, Meyer said it has to be judged by its entire body of work.
"In the first half, to hold that team to seven points, they did a heck of a job," he said. "The second half, we started substituting. I'm very confident in our coaches and the athletes we have. But a lot of those guys, last year this time they were in high school."
According to some players, the locker room after the game was somewhat solemn, but it was Meyer who pumped the players back up, reminding them they had won. And that Tennessee is on the horizon.
"We were down a bit because of the way we played in the second half, but a lot of teams right now wish they were 2-0, so we've got to celebrate that," senior defensive tackle Clint McMillan said. "But it's just the fact that this team has such high standards, especially coming off a championship last year. We know that's not going to get it done in the SEC.
"So we're disappointed in the way we came out in the second half. The defense let the offense down a little bit, and the offense let the defense down a little. But that's something we're going to correct this week and get everything going."