Chauncey Gardner Jr.

Chauncey Gardner Jr.'s 42-yard interception return set up Florida's first touchdown of the game on Saturday in its 36-7 win over UAB.

As Kylen Binn’s pass soared 35 yards through the air, Chauncey Gardner Jr. stopped dead in his tracks.

The sophomore safety knew the ball had been overthrown, and as it traveled just over the outstretched arm of Binn’s intended receiver, he was there waiting for it.


Gardner Jr.’s pick — returned 42 yards down to the 13-yard line — helped set up Florida’s first of three touchdowns against UAB on Saturday, its most trips to end zone in almost two months, leading to a 36-7 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Gators (4-6) registered 409 total yards of offense and were led by the trio of running backs Adarius Lemons, Lamical Perine and Mark Thompson.

All three players ran for at least 78 yards and averaged a combined 5.8 yards per carry. Lemons — a freshman from Clearwater, Florida — recorded a career-high 89 yards on 11 attempts, receiving praise from interim coach Randy Shannon after the contest.

“It’s been great for us as a football team,” Shannon said of the team’s depth at the position. “Guys are really coming around and doing a great job.”

Defensively, Florida held UAB (7-4) to 180 yards of offense, including a meager three rushing yards, and forced a season-high four turnovers. The Blazers also converted only one of seven third downs and never got into the red zone.

"That was one of the biggest emphasis that was going to try to get done today," Shannon of his team forcing turnovers. "We went out and controlled the football game dramatically."

UF took an early 9-0 lead over UAB through the first one and a half quarters after kicker Eddy Pineiro converted field goals from 39, 26 and 50 yards away.

Gardner Jr.’s interception then allowed the team’s next drive to begin at the 13-yard line, setting up an 11-yard touchdown pass from Feleipe Franks to tight end C’yontai Lewis two plays later.

After a fourth field goal from Pineiro gave the Gators a 19-0 lead at halftime, Franks found another tight end in the end zone halfway through the third quarter — senior DeAndre Goolsby.

“It was just something that was there,” Franks said of his two touchdown passes. “(Lewis and Goolsby) did a good job.”

A 15-yard run into the end zone from Perine and one final field goal from Pineiro later in the half propelled Florida to its second-most points scored in a game this season.

Saturday’s victory over the Blazers ended a five-game losing streak for UF that saw it get outscored 151-76 over that strech.

The Gators final regular season contest will be played next Saturday at noon against Florida State (4-6).

"Fans are gonna be electric," Franks said. "It's Florida State, man. Nothing really to say. It's gonna be a good game."

Contact Dylan Dixon at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon.

Dylan Dixon is the sports editor of the Alligator. He has previously covered UF men's tennis, UF soccer, UF women's basketball, UF baseball and UF football. He has worked at the paper since Spring 2016.