No. 22 Florida 41, FAU 3

No. 22 Florida 41, FAU 3

Published Sep. 4, 2011 4:12 a.m. ET

Will Muschamp was the first guy off Florida's bus Saturday and the first one in the locker room.

He was the last one off the field, soaking up every second of his head-coaching debut.

And why not? After all, it was a rousing success.

John Brantley looked comfortable leading Florida's revamped offense, Chris Rainey scored three different ways and the 22nd-ranked Gators opened the Muschamp era with a 41-3 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night.


''It was exciting,'' Muschamp said. ''I was excited for our players. It's about players to me, about seeing those guys see their work come to a conclusion.''

Brantley completed 21 of 30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown, showing marked improvement in Charlie Weis' pro-style offense. He threw two interceptions, but the first was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Rainey touched the ball 18 times, scoring on a 14-yard reception and a 14-yard run. He also scooped a blocked punt and sprinted 22 yards for a score that made it 31-3 early in the third quarter.

Trying to rebuild his image after last year's arrest and suspension, Rainey became the third player in the nation since 1996 to have a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a return for a touchdown in the same game.

''It's a God-given gift, so you have to ask God,'' Rainey said.

Rainey finished with 79 yards rushing and 67 yards receiving. Jeff Demps was just as dynamic, running 12 times for 105 yards and two scores. He also caught three passes for 21 yards.

''They are very special with the ball in their hands,'' Muschamp said.

With Rainey and Demps leading the way, Florida's offense racked up 468 yards. It was a considerably better showing than the team's last opener, which set the tone for a disappointing 2010 season. The Gators had botched snaps, penalties and turnovers against Miami, Ohio, finishing with 212 yards and hearing more jeers than cheers.

Little went wrong against the Owls.

The Gators scored on their first four possessions and led 24-0 before Florida Atlantic even got a first down.

Florida's defense dominated the Owls, controlling the line of scrimmage and forcing four consecutive three-and-outs to start the game. FAU finished with 137 yards, a rough start for coach Howard Schnellenberger's retirement tour.

Schnellenberger, who is calling it quits at the end of this season, watched the game from an upstairs coaching box following a hospital trip Friday.

The 77-year-old coach experienced severe discomfort in his surgically repaired hip during a bus ride to Gainesville. He said the trouble began when he started doing some hip rehabilitation exercises while the bus was stopped for repairs. Schnellenberger got a leg cramp he couldn't knock and ended up calling for medical help.

He was transported by ambulance to a hospital near Port St. Lucie. X-rays were negative, and Schnellenberger eventually rejoined the team in Gainesville.

''No damage done; it's in great shape,'' said Schnellenberger, who had hip replacement surgery three weeks ago. ''I'll be out there. Not going on the field today. I'm going upstairs because only an idiot would take two chances in two days. From then on we'll be on the sideline.''

His team's performance wouldn't have looked good from any vantage point.

Demps took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a holding penalty. That was a minor setback, though.

Brantley, Demps and Rainey quickly moved the Gators into FAU territory. Brantley repeatedly hit Demps and Rainey with swing passes. A snap over Brantley's head stalled the opening drive, and Florida settled for a field goal.

But the fast start was just what the Gators needed after last year's confidence-crushing season. Florida failed to score points in the first quarter in six of the team's first seven games in 2010.

So when Brantley got the ball back, the Gators went on the move again. Frankie Hammond made a nice catch near the sideline, Jordan Reed made a great grab in traffic and then Brantley found Rainey in the flat for the touchdown. Rainey made one cut and slipped across the goal line.

Rainey's TD run was even niftier. He used a spin move to escape a defender in the backfield, picked up two blocks and scampered in to make it 24-0.

The Gators cruised from there.

It was a relatively stress-free night for Muschamp, who was admittedly anxious before his debut. Although the Gators ruled defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd ineligible before the game, the only other negative on this night was an injury to versatile Trey Burton.

''I think we need to be realistic here,'' Muschamp said. ''We'll face better opponents throughout the season. ... We didn't face as much adversity as we had hoped for, but I'm very pleased with the effort and energy of our players.''