Florida's 56-10 victory over Hawaii was barely 45 minutes in the books Saturday afternoon when talk turned to next week. Miami is coming to town. And the Gators can't wait. Fresh off its 19th consecutive season-opening victory in which its offense, defense and special teams scored touchdowns, its running game showed its most promise in years and its first-team defense held an opponent scoreless, Florida was basking in the glow of the Hawaii win, but eagerly looking ahead. "It's playing the U," Florida quarterback Tim Tebow said when asked what excites him about facing Miami. "I've never played them before. I'm excited about it."
"I'm sure we'll probably have about 80 percent of the state of Florida in Gainesville next week. (ESPN's College) GameDay will probably be here. There will be hype. No matter how good they played other teams last year, and whoever they are going to play the rest of the year, they'll play their best game next Saturday versus us.
"And hopefully we'll do the same. Because that's a rivalry and all those kids who are highly-touted, five-star recruits, they are going to play as best they can on that day. They are going to come ready to play and we've got to do the same thing."
The Gators came ready against the Warriors (0-1). After a scoreless first quarter, Florida scored 28 points in both the second and third quarters.
"I'm very proud of our guys," UF coach Urban Meyer said. "That was a good, solid effort."
It's early and it wasn't an SEC opponent, but for the moment the defense silenced its critics and eased the minds of fans who had seen the unit perform among the worst in the nation last season. After a shaky start, the Florida defense provided a glimpse of the new and improved unit — highlighted by six forced turnovers. Hawaii failed to score 28 or more for just the second time in 27 games and ended a string of 34 straight games with more than 300 passing yards.
"We wanted to prove to everybody we're better this year," said UF sophomore safety Joe Haden, who recovered a fumble.
The Gators, who were 98th in the nation in pass defense and gave up nearly 260 yards per game last season, had four interceptions against the Warriors — two returned for touchdowns (Major Wright for 32 yards and Ahmad Black for 80 yards.)
On what turned out to be a sub-par day for Tebow, at least by his standards, his teammates took the burden off him. Even without star running back/receiver Percy Harvin (heel injury), five players scored offensive touchdowns for the Gators: junior running back Brandon James (1-yard run); redshirt freshman running back Chris Rainey (33-yard run); freshman running back Jeff Demps (62-yard run); senior receiver Louis Murphy (48-yard pass from Tebow) and sophomore quarterback Cameron Newton (1-yard run).
"It's nice sometimes (not to be the offensive focus)," said Tebow, who was 9-of-14 for 137 yards and also rushed for 37 yards. "I didn't take too much of a pounding. I'm not sore. … We've got a lot of weapons. The key for us was to get out there and use all our weapons."
Now, on to Miami.
"I'm ready to play Miami because I know there's going to be a lot of big plays next week," Murphy said. "I wanted to go to Miami, that was my top school because at the time I was coming out (of Lakewood High), they were loaded. They were actually good, then.
"I wanted to go there and be a part of that receiving crew. They didn't recruit me. They didn't want me. But now we have the best receiving crew here. Right now, it's fueling me inside. I wish we could play tomorrow, but we'll wait until Saturday."