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Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Opener gives Florida the rainout blues

By Jeff Barlis

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp was in an exceptionally good mood for his weekly news conference on Monday. He was working the crowd, cracking jokes.

There wasn't much football to discuss after an epic storm suspended the season opener. But on the bright side, it wasn't raining and his Gators still have an unblemished record.

"[We] watched all the plays from Saturday night," he joked. "Took a long time."

Lightning
The Swamp became just that on Saturday night, canceling Florida's opener.
After enduring a nearly three-hour delay because of lightning, the Gators and Vandals took the field before an appreciative but soaked crowd.

Maybe he had lightning strikes on his mind, but Muschamp used the word "electric" when asked to describe the atmosphere. He used it again, describing the Gator locker room before the players emerged.

"It was electric," he said. "The guys were jacked."

Unfortunately the storm only let up enough for the teams to run exactly one play.

It was, at least, a satisfying play for Florida and its football-starved fans. The appropriately named Valdez Showers took the opening kickoff 64 yards to the Idaho 14 before another lightning strike sent everyone off the field and into the belly of the stadium.

Safe to say it would be the most analyzed single play from Week 1 by any college football team in America.

"Jarrad Davis got the hard-hat award -- he did," Muschamp said on Monday, trying to convince reporters the team had actually given out an award. "He had a great block on the kickoff return.

"A great job by Marcel Harris sealing the edge, Valdez bouncing it. Andre Debose put a devastating block on their kicker, and we were able to get the ball down the sideline. So, very well executed."

Showers said he might have scored had the field not been so slippery.

"I was definitely looking to cut back," he said. "But I knew there was a chance I would slip, so I was just trying to get as much yardage as I could."

Showers, the fourth-year junior receiver who said he's played in worse conditions growing up in the ice and snow of fall football in Michigan, wasn't on the field when Florida lined up for its first play. When the referees signaled another stoppage, his first thought -- and that of everyone in the stadium -- was "not again."

The Gators spent most of the night in limbo, as NCAA rules stipulate a 30-minute delay for every lightning strike within eight miles of the field.

"To put things in perspective for everything, between the hours of 5 o’clock that afternoon and 11, we had 1,100 strikes of lightning within a six- to eight mile radius of our stadium," Muschamp said. "We had two-and-a-half inches of rain between 5 and 11 o’clock, and the last strike of lightning within six miles of the stadium was at 12:38 [a.m.].

"It was an issue, not just of the playing conditions of the field -- it was awful -- but we had lightning all over the place. It was going to be very difficult to be able to get the game in."

Muschamp checked the forecast over and over, while the team stayed prepared by going over plays.

"They had a book that thick they were reading through," the coach said of the game and team officials. "And I was just watching the radar."

Outside, the field was being punished by rain, wind and lightning.

The Gators mostly sat around and waited. Late at night, a second team meal was ordered and delivered by a nearby sandwich shop.

The electric atmosphere as well as the rain and lightning eventually died down. Florida is still waiting to start its 2014 season.

"I’ve never been a part of anything like it," Muschamp said. "We’re all disappointed."