Any ideas the Appalachian State football team had about duplicating its great upset victory against Michigan in 2007 were quickly squelched by Florida on Saturday afternoon.
The Gators scored on four of their first five possession and defeated ASU 48-10 in a non-conference game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Senior Day in Gainesville, FL. Florida (6-4) also handed ASU (9-2) its worst loss in seven years (the Mountaineers suffered a pair of lopsided losses to Wyoming and Georgia Southern in 2004).
The loss also snapped a three-game, home losing streak for the Gators.
"It was a tough week to catch these guys," said ASU coach Jerry Moore. "They were coming off that loss to South Carolina last week. But I was proud of our players. They moved the ball, but we also made mistakes. And against a great team like this, those mistakes can hurt you. We had to play the perfect game to beat them."
The Gators didn't waste any time jumping on the Mountaineers. They built a commanding 21-0, first-quarter lead as they outgained ASU 223-67 yards in the opening stanza. A Brian Quick fumble set up Florida's second-quarter score as the Gators marched it in from 28 yards away. Jordan Reed's five-yard option-pass to quarterback John Brantley gave Florida a 28-0 halftime lead. Reed, who ran for 71 yards, scored three touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass on the day. Chris Rainey led the Gators' running game with 87 yards on six carrier (14.5 average) and a touchdown.
Adding to Appalachian's first-half frustrations, corner back Ed Gainey was ejected after he got into an altercation with running back Carl Moore of the Gators (who was ejected as well on the play) in the second period. The ejection means that Gainey will most likely sit out Appalachian's first playoff game on December 4. It also depleted an all ready ailing secondary. Mark Legree didn't play against the Gators on Saturday because of a thigh injury.
Florida continued its dominiation by taking the opening kick-off of the second half and marching 64 yards in seven plays. Reed capped it off with a one-yard run for a 35-0 lead with 12:09 left in the third quarter.
"They have great speed," Moore said. "And that was the difference in the game. It's not just a running back or a wide receiver. Everyone on that team can run."
The Gators racked up 574 yards offensively, and they showed a strong balanced attack with 311 rushing yards and 236 yards through the air. ASU, on the other hand, was limited to 274 yards, including a season-low 117 on the ground.
DeAndre Presley paced ASU offensively. The junior, who was under pressure for most of the day, was 19-28 for 157 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 26 yards. Rod Chisholm, a talented runner that hasn't played much this season, led the running game with 31 yards on five carries.
ASU finally got on the board as they marched the ball to the Florida nine-yard line. But the drive fizzled when Presley was sacked for a one-yard loss on fourth down. Jason Vitaris came on and broke the shutout with his tenth consecutive field goal, a 33-yard attempt, making it 35-3 with 4:54 left in the third period. That field goal capped off a 12-play, 60-yard drive.
But the Gators, thanks to a huge return by Solomon Patton on a the ensuing kick-off by Vitaris, took possession at their 42. Reed scored five plays later on a one-yard run capping off the drive and giving Florida a 42-3 lead. A horse-collar penalty against Dominique McDuffie following a huge run by Chris Rainey, giving Florida a first down at the ASU 15.
"It was great playing in this atmosphere," said linebacker D.J.Smith "You get the butterflies playing here. It's a lot different than watching it on TV. First series, we had the jitters. But we finally got them out. It's a disappointing loss, but now we have to get ready for the playoffs".
Smith had 14 stops, including 12 solo tackles on the day, moving him into second place on Appalachian's all-time list behind Dexter Coakley----the only two-time Buck Buchanan Award winner (in 1995 and 1996). The award goes to the best defensive player in the country.
The only ASU touchdown came with 13:14 left in the game as Presley hooked up with tight end Matt Cline on a nine-yard scoring toss making, it 42-10. Despite the loss, the Mountaineers almost certainly will get a bye in the first round of the FCS playoffs that begin next weekend.
"We'll go back home and work them hard for the next three days, starting Monday," Moore said. "We need to work on some fundamental things that we must correct before the playoffs start up. We can't afford to make some of the mistakes we made today in a naitonal championship game, or in our first playoff game.
"But we lost to a great football team today.They do a great job down here, and I have the upmost respect for (Florida coach) Urban (Meyer)."
The playoffs selections will be announced on Sunday. David Jackson, the voice of the Mountaineers, will host "Countdown to a Championship" beginning at 7 pm on AM 1450, WATA Sunday night. The FCS playoffs begin next Saturday with the wildcard round. ASU won't play until December 4 against a wildcard team at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
NOTES: Florida is 12-0 lifetime against FCS opponents.....ASU is 1-12 against the Southeastern Conference......This was Appalachian's first trip to Florida since 1962......Florida was a member of the Southern Conference from 1922-32. The Gators were 24-2 during that stretch.....DeAndre Presley needed 207 yards to join Armanti Edwards and Richie Williams as the only Mountaineers' players to eclipse 3,000 yards in a season. Presley came up a little short on Saturday with 183.
1 2 3 4 T
APPALACHIAN STATE 0 0 3 7 - 10
FLORIDA 21 7 14 6 - 48
FL Rainey 16 yd run (Henry kick)
FL Burton 3 yd run (Henry kick)
FL Reed 1 yd run (Henry kick)
FL Brantley 5 yd pass from Reed (Henry kick)
FL Reed 1 yd run (Henry kick)
ASU Vitaris 33 yd FG
FL Reed 3 yd run (Henry kick)
ASU Cline 9 yd pass from Presley (Vitaris kick)
FL Beemer 1 yd run (kiCK failed)
TOTAL YARDS: FLORIDA 574, ASU 274
RUSHING YARDS: FLORIDA 311, ASU 117
PASSING YARDS: FLORIDA 236, ASU 157
FIRST DOWNS: FLORIDA 29, ASU 20
TIME OF POSSESSION: FLORIDA 25:06, ASU 34:54
TURNOVERS: FLORIDA 2, ASU 1
PENALTY YARDS: FLORIDA 7-79, ASU 10-80
RUSHING: cHISHOLM 5-31, PRESLEY 8-26, CADET 9-27
PASSING: PRESLEY 19-28 157 YARDS
RECEIVING: QUICK 6-56
RUSHING: RAINEY 6-87, REED 11-71
PASSING: BRANTLEY 16-22 222
RECEIVING: THOMPSON 6-100