Time to fire up the PlayStation 3 and see what NCAA Football 11 says will happen when the Bulls and Gators face off on Saturday. As you'll recall, A.J. Love is out for most of the season with an arm injury, and he was not in the lineup.
Not that it really mattered.
FINAL SCORE: FLORIDA 41, USF 17
The Gators took the opening kick right down the field to the Bulls' 6, but then had a touchdown called back by a holding penalty. Then Caleb Sturgis hooked a 36-yard field goal.
After a punt, Florida drove the field again and this time got in the end zone for a 7-0 lead. USF responded with a 15-play, 80-yard drive that included four third-down conversions, and finished it with a 3-yard pass from B.J. Daniels to Dontavia Bogan to tie the game.
Then came two pivotal plays. Will Demps fumbled the ensuing kickoff, but Florida recovered. After a sack of John Brantley, the Gators were looking at 3rd and 15. But Quenton Washington blew his coverage on Deonte Thompson and Brantley hit him for a 59-yard gain. (The snap was low and it looked like Washington went into run contain, thinking Brantley would abort the play, instead of staying with his man.) A couple plays later, Washington missed a tackle on Justin Williams that let him score a touchdown.
The teams then traded four-and-outs. Florida tried a fake punt and failed, and USF subsequently went for it on 4th and 4 from the Gators 39 but only got two yards on a screen to Demetris Murray.
With time running out in the first half, the Bulls made a costly decision, accepting a holding penalty that made it 2nd and 20 instead of 3rd and 10. The Gators picked up the first down, then went on to kick a field goal right before halftime. Florida took a 17-7 lead to the locker room.
The game basically ended on the second play of the third quarter. B.J. Daniels slid right and tried to throw an off-balance pass to his left. It was intercepted by Jelani Jenkins and returned to the USF 19.
Demps punched it in to give Florida a 24-7 lead, and then the Gators scored another touchdown as the Bulls' pass defense completely fell apart. The rout was on from there, with a couple garbage time scores on both sides added on.
Brantley had a huge game, going 30-for-40 for 377 yards and three touchdowns. Thompson went over 100 yards receiving, and he was nearly joined there by Williams (99 yards) and Chris Rainey (90 yards). The Gators got chunks of yards over and over again with crossing patterns, "levels" plays, and mesh routes, as the Bulls continued to blitz defensive backs and stubbornly refused to run any robber coverages to help take away the middle of the field. Meanwhile, B.J. Daniels played terribly. He was 15-for-30 for only 123 yards, with the one touchdown and one interception. For whatever reason the AI told him not to take any shots down the field or take off running, even when the plays were there to make. (The only two rushing attempts Daniels had were the two times he got sacked.) He dumped off way too many passes, especially on third down when he consistently threw short of the first-down line. It was really frustrating to watch the game sim out when I was seeing big plays and adjustments to make, and the computer wouldn't make any of them. (A few weeks ago I played this matchup as USF with the exact same settings -- All-American difficulty and 8-minute quarters -- and whacked the Gators 38-7.)
This will steal a little thunder from Friday's Five Keys, but the game played out as a guide of what you cannot do if you want to #BeatFlorida. You can't blow coverages. You can't make bad decisions. You can't take pointless, repeated risks.
You have to take advantage when you get chances like this one. Notice T.J. Knowles open down the middle for a potential touchdown before Daniels gets sacked.
And you can't give the ball away. In addition to the Daniels pick to start the second half, Mistral Raymond had an INT of his own early in the fourth, but then fumbled it right back to the Gators inside the 10. Two plays later, it was 38-7.
The Bulls drop to 1-1 on the sim-season, with two weeks to lick their wounds and get ready for Western Kentucky.