GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida will have to wait at least another week to try to end a seven-game losing streak.
Florida’s season opener against Idaho was postponed because of unsafe field conditions following heavy rain.
Florida Field became unplayable after hours of downpours. The season opener for both teams started after a nearly three-hour lightning delay – and then stopped after 10 seconds.
Game officials, athletic directors and the Southeastern Conference called the game and offered four possible outcomes:
The teams could resume the game at a later date. They could end the game with a determined final score. They could forfeit of the game. Or they could declare a ”no contest.”
Athletic directors from both schools, in consultation with the coaches, must agree on one of the four options. The agreement will include the final score if the game is terminated.
”It’s unfortunate that the weather didn’t cooperate for tonight’s season opener,” Gators coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. ”After long discussions with the head referee, it was determined that the field conditions were too dangerous for the student-athletes.”
Both teams have an open date on Saturday, Oct. 25. But it’s unclear whether either team would be willing to play it then.
The game was initially scheduled to start at 7:02 p.m., but it was delayed repeatedly because of nearby lightning. It eventually started after a delay of 2 hours, 48 minutes.
Florida’s Valdez Showers electrified the rain-soaked crowd with a 64-yard kickoff return, giving the Gators great field position at the 14. But then more lightning was detected.
”As everyone saw with that opening kickoff, I thought that our guys were ready and fired up to play,” Muschamp said. ”We appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us and sitting through several weather delays. It was amazing the energy and passion shown in the stands all night.”
The latest lightning strike within 8 miles of the stadium sent players back to the locker room. The game was called about 50 minutes later.
Coming of its worst season since 1979, Florida was hoping to end a seven-game losing streak against the seemingly overmatched Vandals. Idaho has four victories over the last three years, including consecutive one-win seasons, and had one of the worst defenses in the country in 2013.
The Gators will host Eastern Michigan next Saturday.
The last game called because of weather at Florida Field came on Sept. 1, 2007, against Western Kentucky. The game was delayed a little more than an hour by lightning and then canceled with 8:23 minutes remaining.
The Gators were going to play Saturday’s opener without receiver Demarcus Robinson and defensive tackles Jay-nard Bostwick and Darious Cummings. All three were suspended.
Muschamp said Robinson was suspended ”due to a university sanction that is now resolved.” Robinson was suspended the final two games of last season, so sitting out against the Vandals was his latest discipline. Robinson caught five passes for 23 yards in 2013.
Bostwick and Cummings weren’t going to play because of an undisclosed violation of team rules. Cummings is the only starter among the three.
”We have rules here that we have to follow – team, athletic department and university rules – and when you don’t follow them, there are consequences,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp said all three would return against Eastern Michigan, but that was before the opener was postponed.