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  1. Sports

Fennelly: Gators offense unimpressive on Steve Spurrier's day


They renamed the ball yard here Saturday night. From now on, call it Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. • After the pregame unveiling, the Head Ball Coach, celebrating what he called the "greatest honor" of his long career, stepped in as honorary Mr. Two Bits to lead the crowd. A frisky Spurrier jazzed it up by throwing in his best Usain Bolt lightning-bolt poses. • "You like that?" Spurrier asked. • Special stuff. • Then they ruined it by playing football.

"This game's too tight right now, too close," Spurrier said late in the third quarter in the back of the press box.

Way too close.

On the field as he spoke, Florida led UMass 10-7.


Jim McElwain's 25th-ranked but perilously sloppy and uninspired Gators mucked around before a mere 24-7 victory over a UMass team that went 3-9 last season and is 8-40 since joining Division I-A four years ago.

Half a hundred points in Spurrier's honor would have been the proper thing in this Gators season opener. After all, Spurrier put up 50 his first time out as Florida coach, back in 1990 against Oklahoma State. He did it a lot of other times, too.

So what did we get?

A Will Muschamp game.

Getting hard to tell where those end and McElwain games begin.

It was no real way to begin a season for a Florida program that won 10 games and the SEC East in McElwain's first season. But the Gators prevailed. It would do. Think that doesn't matter?

Go talk to Mississippi State.

The McElwain Gators death-dropped last season after losing quarterback Will Grier to his stupidity and a PED suspension, losing their final three games while scoring 24 points combined against Florida State, Alabama and Michigan. Florida's offense was unwatchable by season's end.

Wasn't very watchable Saturday, either.

But the offense was just good enough, and the defense was just good enough, and Florida was never going to lose. That will have to do until Kentucky next week.

And the new arm got his feet wet. That would be the new quarterback, Luke Del Rio.

"I don't think he's doing that bad," Spurrier said.

Del Rio made his Florida debut and threw his first college touchdown pass in the first quarter. He added another late in the game. Del Rio completed 29 of 44 passes for 256 yards and those two TDs. No interceptions and a 129.8 passer rating. Not that bad at all for his first time out.

But did we mention the good stuff?

Did we mention halftime?

Spurrier was honored for his 1966 Heisman. Two of his former players, two large former players, Zach Piller and Thad Bullard, hoisted Spurrier onto their shoulders at midfield.

Then they had to go back to that game again.

"Did my Usain Bolt work?" Spurrier said. "A lot of people didn't see it. I told them I was going to do something that's never been done before. I like Usain Bolt. He keeps it light. He is the fastest guy in the world. He knows how to have fun, but right before the race, he's serious."

Meanwhile, back at the game …

Oh, forget that.

Meanwhile, back at Spurrier …

"We need to take advantage," he said. "We need to score some points out there."

Where was that half a hundred?

"I was hoping," Spurrier said. "The band was good. You see they had those visors on? That was one of my favorite parts."

The band.

And you had to love Spurrier's Usain Bolt.

Yes, it was quite a night at the Swamp.

Too bad that football game got in the way.