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Florida Gators' Chris Rainey provides much-needed spark

Florida receiver Chris Rainey, who had 84 rushing yards, gets tackled by Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo in the first quarter.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Florida receiver Chris Rainey, who had 84 rushing yards, gets tackled by Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo in the first quarter.

JACKSONVILLE — Two weeks ago, center Mike Pouncey predicted receiver Chris Rainey's return would single-handedly boost the Gators offense.

And, based on the early play-calling, the coaching staff agreed.

As soon as Rainey touched the field Saturday against Georgia, offensive coordinator Steve Addazio got the ball in his hands, treating the junior like a catalyst to breathe life into the offense.

"He's a playmaker," Addazio said. "It's great to have him back. He did a lot of great things for us out of the backfield, out of receiver (and) as a kick returner. He brought a lot of explosiveness back to our game."

On Florida's first four drives, Rainey touched the ball or was the intended receiver on 11 of 19 plays, the last for a touchdown.

From the Georgia 20-yard line, Rainey took a handoff on first and 10 up the middle, burst through the second level and broke a tackle at the 5 before spinning past the goal line to help give Florida a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.

In his first game since playing USF on Sept. 11, Rainey finished with 84 rushing yards on 16 carries and 9 receiving yards on two catches. Rainey, who was charged with aggravated stalking Sept. 14, was suspended from the team until Oct. 10.

"I love Chris like a brother," Pouncey said. "He's been living with me since high school, and we have a special relationship. I felt his pain those weeks he was out. He loves football. He's a great person, and I know that was one of the happiest moments of his life."

Florida's offense ranked 10th in the SEC entering Saturday's game, and coach Urban Meyer said last week that a lack of big plays on the ground was one reason for concern.

At the time of his score, Rainey's second-quarter carry was the third-longest touchdown run of the season.

And with receiver Andre Debose (ankle) out, the Gators turned to Rainey on special teams. He returned six kicks for 148 yards, including a timely 45-yard burst.

Early in the fourth quarter, after the Bulldogs scored a touchdown to cut the Gators' lead to 21-16, Rainey fielded a kick at the Georgia 4 and rushed down the right sideline, going out of bounds a yard short of midfield.

Eight plays and 33 yards later, punter Chas Henry hit a 34-yard field goal to extend Florida's lead to 24-16.

"Rainey stood up after the game and thanked God for giving him a second chance," Pouncey said. "He's taking full advantage of it."

Florida Gators' Chris Rainey provides much-needed spark 10/30/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 30, 2010 10:55pm]

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