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Sunday, September 24, 2023

The final score may not show it, but Furman embarrassed Florida on Saturday.

That’s right, mighty Furman of the FCS.

Let that sink in.

Sure, Florida escaped with a 54-32 win and became bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season, but no matter how you look at it, the Gators were embarrassed by an overmatched Paladins team.

“They put their pants on just like we do, so we don’t look at it that way,” linebacker Jon Bostic said. “They’re a good team.”

Except Furman isn’t a good team. The Paladins were 6-4 entering Saturday, with losses to Elon, Samford, Georgia Southern and Coastal Carolina.

They didn’t even qualify for the FCS playoffs.

Yet the Paladins, who were paid $450,000 by Florida to schedule Saturday’s game, gave the Gators a run for their money after jumping out to 15-0 and 22-7 leads in front of a half-filled Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida needed to rally from 15 down to beat a team it paid to be a guaranteed win; a tune-up game before a showdown with FSU.

This is what Florida football has come to.

Coach Will Muschamp and Florida players blamed the slow start on Furman using a new scheme it hadn’t shown on film: a double-slot     option offense.

Furman marched right down the field on its first drive thanks to that offense, and Florida adjusted. But it didn’t matter. The Paladins still managed to move the ball consistently throughout the game.

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They gained 446 yards on the afternoon, just seven fewer than the Gators did. Furman averaged 6.19 yards per snap against Florida, barely less than the 6.21 yards per play it averaged against FCS opponents and 1.54 yards more than opponents have averaged against UF this year.

More than half of Furman’s yards came on the ground — the 233 it accrued is the second-highest total Florida has surrendered this season — including a 133-yard day from Jerodis Williams, who at times was made to look like Alabama’s Trent Richardson.

Muschamp was quick to point out that if you take away Williams’ 77-yard touchdown run, Furman only ran for 156 yards.

“You can’t ever take one off the board, but that’s what blows the yardage up pretty high,” Muschamp said.

That 156-yard total is still more than 23 yards above what teams averaged against UF entering Saturday.

Yardage aside, the Paladins looked like a team that wasn’t scared of the once-mighty Gators. They didn’t back down. They came out looking to win, not to roll over.

As Bostic said afterward, Furman came out and did what it wanted to do.

For a substantial portion of the game, Furman looked like the better team and Florida looked like it would do the unthinkable: pay $450,000 to lose to an FCS team. At home. In front of a half-filled stadium.

UF eventually pulled away, thanks to De’Ante Saunders’ pick-six and a suspect Furman secondary, and the Gators avoided complete humiliation.

But they didn’t avoid embarrassment, because that’s what Saturday was, regardless of what the scoreboard may say.

Contact Tom Green at

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