Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow passed for 137 yards and rushed for 53 more, including this romp down to the 1-yard line.
Turnovers and talent ignite a blowout
Florida didn't exactly need help, but Hawaii generously handed out plenty of it
GAINESVILLE, Fla. » So much had changed with the Hawaii football program since the Warriors last played.
The outcome on the field, though, was painfully similar.
The Greg McMackin era began yesterday much like his predecessor's ended in January -- with a lopsided loss to an SEC power in a storied venue far from home.
As in their Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia, the Warriors found themselves outgunned by a team with national title aspirations and were swamped by fifth-ranked Florida 56-10 before 90,575 at a muggy Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Hawaii hung around early, its ball-control strategy contributing to a scoreless first quarter. But with the considerable aid of six UH turnovers, the Gators hung four touchdowns on the board in the second and four more in the third period in a rout reminiscent of the Warriors' 41-10 defeat to Georgia in June Jones' farewell appearance on the UH sideline.
"I always say there's five to seven plays in a game that are going to win or lose the ballgame for you and Florida made all seven of them," McMackin said after losing in his debut as head coach.
"I give them full credit. I have no excuses, the trip, everything people make excuses about, didn't have anything to do with this. We were ready to play, our guys felt good, coaches felt good, we traveled well, and things were set up for us. We just didn't get the job done."
The Gators had six scoring plays of 30 yards or more, reached the end zone in all three phases and, oh by the way, the current owner of the Heisman Trophy had himself a pretty nifty outing as well.
Tim Tebow didn't really need to be Superman, as some T-shirts around The Swamp proclaimed him, for the Gators to run away from the Warriors. But he certainly did enough in three quarters to trigger the Gators' 19th straight season-opening win.
Tebow kicked off his candidacy for a Heisman repeat by going 9-for-14 for 137 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 53 yards on nine carries.
The most spectacular of the nine came in the second quarter when he was cut off on an option play, reversed direction and hurdled a Hawaii defender on his way to the end zone.
An official's review showed he stepped out at the Hawaii 1, and Brandon James scored the first of his two touchdowns on the next play to open the scoring.
"He's a playmaker, he does what he has to do to win," UH linebacker Adam Leonard said. "When a play breaks down he has the ability to keep it going and make it into an even bigger play. He did that today and it's just a testament to how good he is."
But it was Florida's speedy supporting cast -- and Hawaii's turnovers -- that ignited the blowout.
In addition to scoring Florida's first touchdown of the season, James ran a punt back 74 yards for a touchdown. Defensive backs Major Wright and Ahmad Black scored on interception returns of 32 and 80 yards.
"We worked hard in the offseason getting ready for a pretty good football team," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "They are a team that runs a unique offense. We were on the ropes a bit in the first quarter, but we responded all right after that."
Greg Alexander, the first of three Hawaii quarterbacks to play, struggled in his Division I debut, finishing 11-for-21 for 57 yards with two interceptions, and the Warriors were shut out in the first half for the first time since 2005, trailing 28-0 at the break.
Sophomore Brent Rausch went 2-for-7 and also threw a pick. Inoke Funaki, working against Florida's backups, was the most effective, completing eight of 11 passes and throwing UH's lone touchdown pass, a 13-yarder to Greg Salas with 1:37 left in the game and not a whole lot of folks left in the stands.
"It was pretty much exactly what we saw on film," Alexander said of the Florida defense. "The coaches had us prepared, we pretty much saw what they'd been doing to every other team. So it just came down to execution. We knew what they were doing, we could see it, but we didn't execute and that starts with me."
Running backs Leon Wright-Jackson and Daniel Libre carried the load early on, moving the chains on handoffs and shovel passes. But UH's first drive stalled and the second ended on Alexander's first interception when he overshot an open Aaron Bain and his pass was picked off by Black in the end zone.
The outlook for the Warriors quickly turned as gloomy as the overcast Gainesville skies.
After James opened the scoring, Wright took Alexander's next pass to the end zone and then James bolted through UH's punt coverage team for his second TD. A UH fumble then led to Chris Rainey's 33-yard TD jaunt.
Halftime did little to slow the Gators as freshman Jeffery Demps sprinted to a 62-yard score and Tebow hit Louis Murphy cutting across the middle for a 48-yard touchdown to put Florida up 42-0.
UH scored the final 10 points of the day, and by the time they loaded onto their buses to start the lengthy trip home, thoughts of this week's home opener against Weber State had begun to seep into the Warriors' minds.
"The game's over, you can't go back in time, it's not a video game, we can't reset it," Leonard said. "We can't let this define us."