Gators season-opener canceled after long delays

A general view of Florida Field during the rain delay before the game between the Idaho Vandals and Florida Gators was canceled.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Long delay. Long kickoff return. Long faces.

The University of Florida’s 2014 season opener against Idaho was terminated late Saturday night after multiple delays due to thunderstorms in the area.

The game was scheduled to start at 7:02 p.m., but one lightning strike after another, all within the 8-mile radius of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, kept pushing the kickoff back again and again.

Gators coach Will Muschamp let the soaked fans that remained who appreciative he was by pumping his fist at the student section.

Finally, after a two hours and 28 minutes, Idaho’s Austin Rehkow put toe to ball at 9:50 p.m. and the Gators season got underway. Junior Valdez Showers — with a fitting last name, given the circumstances — a short kickoff near the Vandals sideline, darted to his right and raced 68 yards to the Idaho 14-yard line, as leftovers at The Swamp cheered wildly.

And just as UF quarterback Jeff Driskel brought his unit to the line to debut a new offense under new coordinator Kurt Roper, officials stepped in, huddled and announced that lightning had struck again inside the 8-mile parameter.

More rain followed.

About 40 minutes later, the game was halted for good.

"As everyone saw with that opening kickoff, I thought that our guys were ready and fired up to play," UF coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. "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 Gator Nation showed why they’re the best fans in the country, starting with one of the most enthusiastic Gator Walks that we’ve had since I’ve been here."

Though neither team staged media availability after the game, there was concern among both sides about the field conditions. For a Gators coaching staff beseiged by injuries last season, who could blame them?

"It’s unfortunate that the weather didn’t cooperate for tonight’s season opener," Muschamp said. "After long discussions with the head referee, it was determined that the field conditions were too dangerous for the student-athletes."

More details will be forthcoming regarding the status of any potential makeup game. If the game is rescheduled, it will be restarted from the beginning, officials said, but that determination will be announced at a later date, along with ticket information.