So much for the concern over whether the eight-month layoff from football would have any adverse effect on Riley Cooper.
The senior wide receiver from Clearwater Central Catholic missed all of spring practice and summer workouts playing baseball, then returned to the Gators for preseason practice in August after signing a baseball contract with the Texas Rangers.
In the first game of his final season, Cooper had a single-game career-high five receptions for 105 yards. His career-long 68-yard reception from roommate Tim Tebow in the opening series set up an 8-yard touchdown run by Jeff Demps.
Cooper also lined up on the kickoff return team, making a key block during Brandon James' 85-yard return for a touchdown.
PREGAME THRILL: Tebow gave one youngster the thrill of a lifetime during warm-ups. Boomer Hornbeck, a wheelchair-bound 7-year-old boy from Atlanta, was treated to a short conversation with Tebow while the quarterback stretched on the field. Later, Tebow did running drills while pushing Hornbeck down the sideline. The Gators' new Jumbo-Tron captured the moment, including the huge smile plastered across Hornbeck's face as Tebow pushed his chair.
WORTH THE TRIP: Florida has been heavily criticized for its nonconference schedule, which includes Saturday's Division I-AA foe Charleston Southern, Troy this week, and Florida Atlantic later this season. But Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills said these type of games can be beneficial for smaller schools. Although the Buccaneers entered the game as 73-point underdogs, the program received $450,000 to play the Gators, which Mills said is a huge financial benefit for Charleston Southern.
"It's going to benefit the entire university," Mills said. "We're hoping to build a new athletic facility, and this will go a long ways toward helping with that. That new athletic facility will give each sport at this university its own locker room for the first time ever, and it will give the students at CSU a P.E. locker room for the first time ever, too. And, academically, a center for our athletes. So it's going to help out the entire Charleston Southern community."
INJURY UPDATE: Redshirt freshman LB Brendan Beal (neck) and DT Lawrence Marsh (ankle) did not dress. OL Carl Johnson injured his right knee with just more than eight minutes remaining in the first half and did not return.
DEPTH PAYS OFF: With 18 returning starters and depth at most positions, coach Urban Meyer didn't have to rely on youth. It was the first time in his five-year tenure at Florida that Meyer didn't start a true freshman.
Junior S Ahmad Black had a nation-best-tying seven interceptions last season but didn't start; sophomore S Will Hill got the start.
And in a battle that lasted all preseason, redshirt sophomore DT Jaye Howard earned his first start over redshirt junior Terron Sanders.
MISSING, NO ACTION: CB Janoris Jenkins did not play, most likely a disciplinary decision. Jenkins was arrested in the summer for reportedly punching a man in a fight in Gainesville. DE Jermaine Cunningham also did not play for unspecified reasons.