Florida 65, Eastern Michigan 0: Gators pour it on, end seven-game losing streak

Mark Long
Associated Press

Gainesville, Fla. — Even with a headset on, Florida coach Will Muschamp could hear the chants.

“We want 70. We want 70.”

Muschamp didn’t appease the home crowd. But at that point, the fans were just being greedy.

Jeff Driskel threw for 248 yards and a touchdown in his return from a broken leg and the Gators ended a seven-game losing streak with a 65-0 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

“We haven’t been in that situation very often,” Muschamp said.

The Gators won for the first time in 11 months and were downright dominant in the process.

Florida finished with 655 yards, 27 first downs and its most points in Muschamp’s four-year tenure. It was the program’s highest scoring output since beating Citadel 70-19 in 2008.

Sure, it came against a directional school that won two games a year ago. But it was just what the Gators (1-0) needed to regain a little confidence after last year’s injury-fueled debacle.

“It felt good to win this game,” defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. “It’s been so long, with the season we had last year and the stress. Every game we’re out to make a statement. That was one statement we made.”

Muschamp’s team finished 4-8 in 2013, the program’s worst record since 1979, and lost its final seven games. Driskel broke his right leg in the third game, and the Gators were unprepared to play without him.

Muschamp fired two assistants a day after the season, hired Duke’s Kurt Roper to revamp a stale offense and vowed to compete for the Southeastern Conference title.

Florida had hoped to get back to its winning ways a week ago against Idaho, but the season opener was postponed because of lightning and heavy rain and eventually canceled.

So the Gators had to wait another seven days to end their losing streak — 336 days in all.

They wasted little time putting this one away.

Florida scored on its first five possessions against the Eagles (1-1), which got $850,000 for the pay-day game.

Driskel looked comfortable in Roper’s up-tempo, spread offense. The offensive line, which was often criticized last year, opened up huge holes in the running game. And maybe most importantly, the Gators showcased a number of playmakers.

“I don’t think we were trying to make a statement out there,” Driskel said. “We were going out and playing hard, and when you have good players and you execute, that’s what’s going to happen.”

Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones and Brandon Powell scored on the ground in the first half, and Driskel joined the touchdown party with a 4-yard scoring pass to Jones in the third. Taylor’s second TD run made it 44-0, and Duke Dawson returned an interception for a touchdown that pushed the lead to 51-0.

Driskel completed 31 of 45 passes — both career highs — and wasn’t sacked.

Backup quarterback Treon Harris completed his first two passes for touchdowns, connecting for 70 and 78 yards in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a big relief,” said receiver Quinton Dunbar, who caught five passes for 81 yards. “We finally got on the field and released all that frustration we had from last year. We just wanted to come out and show the world what we’re capable of doing.”

The only negatives for Florida were a pair of key injuries, one much worse than the other.

Tight end Jake McGee was carted off the field in the second quarter with two broken bones in his left leg and will have season-ending surgery. Left tackle D.J. Humphries chipped a bone in his left ankle and will miss two to three weeks.

Eastern Michigan had little go right in the rout, finishing with 125 yards, seven first downs and five turnovers.

“With the game being canceled last week and this being their home opener, they came out with a bang and played great,” Eagles coach Chris Creighton said. “We’re definitely a disappointed group.”

Those Florida fans chanting for 70 points might have been disheartened, too. Then again, it was hard to find anything to complain about in a 65-point victory.

“How determined and how hungry we were, we wanted to put up 60-something points like that,” Fowler said.