GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida allowed a season-high 22 points in the first quarter before storming back behind a career-best four touchdown passes from John Brantley to secure a 54-32 win over Furman on Saturday.
The win by the Gators (6-5) made them bowl eligible to participate in their 21st consecutive post-season game.
The win was tougher than expected over the Paladins, a Football Championship Subdivision team. Furman (6-5) stunned Florida on its first series, gaining at least 17 yards on three of its first four plays. That led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Jerodis Williams at the 8:31 mark.
Furman added a safety on Florida's next play when the center snap sailed over Brantley's head into the end zone for a safety. The Paladins stayed on the attack by scoring touchdowns on its next two possessions as well to open up a 22-7 advantage after one quarter before Florida rallied to win.
Florida answered with three second-quarter touchdown to take the lead for good. After fullback Hunter Joyner scored on a 1-yard dive, Brantley threw for two of his career-high four TD passes. He connected with Andre Debose on a fly pattern for 80 yards and later hit Quinton Dunbar in the back of the end zone from 29 yards out to give the Gators a 27-22 lead at intermission.
After trading field goals to open the second half, both teams scored on a long play. Debose beat Furman cornerback Derrick Murray on a 64-yard catch-and-run for his second long score of the game. On Furman's first play following the kickoff, Williams broke free of two tacklers at the line of scrimmage and outraced the Florida secondary to the end zone to complete a 77-yard touchdown jaunt.
That pulled the visitors to within five at 37-32 with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. It was as close as the Paladins would come however.
Florida scored 17 points in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win. Caleb Sturgis connected on a 55-yard field goal, a school-record fifth kick of at least 50 yards during his career.
The Gators defense was responsible for the final two scores of the game when it came up with the only two turnovers in the game. De'Ante Saunders stepped in front of a Furman receiver and took an interception 25 yards to the end zone early in the fourth quarter and Jelani Jenkins closed out the scoring, grabbing an errant pass and racing 75 yards untouched to the end zone with four minutes left in the game.
Furman held a 196-72 advantage in total yards after one quarter, but Florida dominated the final three quarters and finished with 453 total yards to 446 for the Paladins. It was Florida's seventh consecutive win in the series that now stands 7-2.
Florida closes its regular season next Saturday when it hosts state-rival Florida State.
Nike Youth Florida Gators #1 Blue Football Game JerseyShop
Daryl Gross, who spent a decade as Syracuse's athletic director, will start as Division II Cal State-Los Angeles' AD in July.
Freshman DB Chad Clay didn't last long with the Georgia football team, as the Bulldogs dismissed him following a second arrest in the past four months.
Brenda Tracy, who allegedly was sexually assaulted by four men, including two Oregon State players, in 1998 spoke Wednesday to the Nebraska football team.
A man who claims he told Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in 1976 that he was sexually abused as a teen by Jerry Sandusky asked a judge Wednesday to protect his identity and limit questions.
FOX Sports' Bruce Feldman joins The Paul Finebaum Show to share his thoughts on the upcoming National Championship race.
Urban Meyer, Thad Matta and Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith were among the crowd at the parade for the Cleveland Cavliers on Wednesday.