Gators struggle early but put away USF
Jeff Demps already owns NCAA championships in the 60 meter, the 100 and the 400-meter relay.
Now, he can add another title to his resume: Florida's top playmaker.
Demps ran for a career-high 139 yards and a touchdown, finished with 255 all-purpose yards, and No. 8 Florida bounced back from a lackluster opener to beat South Florida 38-14 Saturday.
''Jeff Demps is the guy you want to have with the ball,'' Gators coach Urban Meyer said.
He certainly has been the first two weeks. Demps sparked Florida's struggling offense last week, scoring on a 72-yard run in the second half against Miami (Ohio). He was even better against the Bulls (1-1).
Demps ripped off a 62-yard score in the third quarter, then broke loose for a 54-yard kickoff return that set up a short field goal in the fourth.
He finished with 21 yards receiving and 95 yards on two returns.
''I've never had a game like that,'' said Demps, whose previous best rushing day was 129 yards against LSU in 2008. ''It's pretty good I guess. ... It feels good. But at the same time, I'm not satisfied.''
Demps wasn't the only bright spot.
John Brantley completed 18 of 31 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Deonte Thompson rebounded from another drop early and finished with six receptions for 83 yards. The offensive line allowed a sack, but paved the way for 244 yards rushing.
And there were few, if any, bad snaps.
''This isn't just a one-week thing,'' said center Mike Pouncey, who had several poor snaps in the opener. ''I'm going to keep doing it week in and week out.''
Defensively, the Gators (2-0) intercepted four passes, finished with five turnovers and helped extend the team's home winning streak to 13 games.
Big plays were key.
Brantley's first TD pass came after an interception. Demps' long TD run followed a fumble. Mike Gillislee scored after another turnover. And defensive end Justin Trattou picked off a pass and rumbled 35 yards to the end zone.
B.J. Daniels completed 5 of 20 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 107 yards. But he also threw four interceptions.
''The thing about this game is we wanted to let him try to beat us running the ball, because we knew for a fact he wasn't going to beat us throwing the ball,'' safety Ahmad Black said. ''If he put the ball in the air, it was ours.''
The Bulls kept it close early and even led 7-0 for most of the first half. They drove 96 yards on their opening possession, gashing Florida with long runs and converting all four third-down plays. They scored on a 2-yard pass from Daniels to Andrew Ketchel. The 17-play drive was the team's biggest highlight, though.
Turnovers plagued USF the rest of the way.
''I thought the team played hard, but we certainly did not play smart enough to win,'' USF coach Skip Holtz said. ''The No. 1 statistic in the country that determines wins and losses is turnovers, and I believe we finished minus-five in that category. You are not going to win too many football games turning the ball over like that.''
Florida would like to forget the first half -- again. After struggling with botched snaps and ball security last week against Miami (Ohio), the Gators punted three times and missed a field goal against the Bulls. The Gators scored in the final minute of the half, then rolled after the break.
''We got our jitters out,'' said Emmanuel Moody, who ran 14 times for 54 yards. ''This is Florida. We're not going to come out and play two bad games. We're going to fix what we need to fix.''
The Gators finished with 423 yards, nearly twice as many as last week's debacle.
Demps was a big reason for the offensive surge.
''We found our playmaker,'' Pouncey said. ''Last year it was Tim (Tebow). This year it's Jeff Demps. ... He's an All-American in track, and he's going to be an All-American (in football).''