GAINESVILLE (CBS4/AP) – Last week, the Gators made a meal of the FAU Owls. This week, they had dessert at the expense of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. To date, the Gators look great, and their opponents look unprepared.
A week after becoming the first player in school history to score touchdowns rushing, receiving and on a return, against the aforementioned Owls, Chris Rainey was even better in Florida’s 39-0 victory against UAB on Saturday night. He ran 16 times for 119 yards and a touchdown, caught three passes for 43 yards and added to his growing resume.
“Just doing my job, just trying to score touchdowns for the team,” Rainey said.
Spins, jukes, ankle-breaking cuts, Rainey did it all for the Gators (2-0). His best move came on his final run. He turned at full speed and dived across the end zone backward, capping a 19-yard run in style and ending his night with a touchdown.
A fifth-year senior trying to overhaul his image after last year’s five-game suspension, Rainey gouged the Blazers (0-1) for chunks of yardage nearly every time he touched the ball.
“He is extremely electric with the ball in his hands and a lot of fun to watch,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “You watch him compete at practice. He blocks hard, he does everything that you want a good football player to do to contribute to your football team. He brings a certain energy to the football team.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked off the field. He’s competitive, he’s tough and God blessed him with an awful lot of ability.”
Florida leaned on Rainey more than usual, too.
Jeff Demps, the other half of Florida’s dynamic rushing duo, sustained an injury in the first quarter. Florida officials refused to disclose the nature of the injury. He went to the locker room and did not return.
The Gators dominated both sides of the lines of scrimmage for the second consecutive week and finished their early tuneups by outgaining their opponents 979 yards to 349. It was the team’s first shutout since 2006.
Next up: Southeastern Conference rival Tennessee. The Volunteers should provide more of a test for a team with plenty of unanswered questions on both sides of the ball. This much is certain: Rainey is clearly the team’s top playmaker.
“The guy is very explosive,” UAB linebacker Marvin Burdette said. “He takes his running and his angles to perfection. … For a guy with his speed, you have to surround him with several guys so if you miss him someone else is right there to get him.”
With Rainey leading the way, the Gators accomplished everything they wanted in the second game. They opened up the playbook so much that they even used Rainey and versatile tight end Trey Burton in the wildcat, got quarterback John Brantley a little more comfortable in Charlie Weis’ prostyle offense and eliminated the turnovers that bothered Muschamp in the opener.
The only problem was red-zone efficiency.
Weis said last week that settling for field goals in the red zone is a victory for the defense. If so, the Blazers won three possessions.
Caleb Sturgis hit from 24, 35 and 28 yards in the first half. He improved to 5 for 5 on the season, but all five could have been touchdowns. The Gators struggled inside the 20-yard line in 2010 and wanted to improve in that area this season.
So far, no good.
Still, Florida’s offense has had little trouble moving the ball. The Gators racked up 468 yards last week. They finished with 511 against the Blazers, and that’s with backups playing the final 18 minutes.
Brantley completed 12 of 19 passes for 195 yards. His performance was a mix of good and bad. He underthrew a flea-flicker on the opening play of the game and misfired on a few passes. Rainey and Deonte Thompson also dropped passes. But Brantley also had a perfectly thrown ball to Andre Debose over the middle that set up Burton’s 5-yard touchdown that made it 25-0 late in the first half.
Burton ran six times for 46 yards. Mike Gillislee replaced Burton in the second half and finished with 79 yards and a touchdown. Highly touted freshman Mack Brown added 36 yards rushing.
Few people were around to witness Brown’s debut. After Florida ended its streak of 137 consecutive sellouts last week against Florida Atlantic, the Gators started a new streak against UAB. They had back-to-back games with plenty of empty seats, and even more by the time this one got out of hand.
UAB had few highlights. The team that managed 500 yards in five games last season, including at Tennessee, finished with 212 yards. Bryan Ellis completed 15 of 28 passes for 141 yards. Dontavius Jackson ran five times for 31 yards.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed in the outcome for us,” UAB coach Neil Callaway said.