The Florida Gators were eager to put their miserable 2013 season behind them.
Mother Nature had other ideas.
Following a nearly three-hour weather delay, Florida’s 2014 season opener against Idaho lasted just a single play, as heavy rain and lightning peppered The Swamp for hours and the game was officially canceled after a second weather delay.
According to Florida officials, “The athletics directors from both schools, in conjunction with the Southeastern Conference, determined that the game between the Gators and Vandals has been terminated due to weather, unsafe and unplayable field conditions at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.”
The schools also announced, “that if the game is rescheduled, then it would be restarted as a new game. That determination will be made and announced at a later time, including ticket information.”
The universities could determine the game “a no-contest,” with each team simply playing an 11-game schedule.
Both schools have a slated open date on Oct. 25.
At 9:52 p.m., Idaho actually kicked-off to Gators wideout Valdez Showers, who promptly galloped 64 yards through puddles and pouring rain, and Florida was set to take possession of the football at the 14-yard line. As quarterback Jeff Driskel led the offense onto the field, officials halted the game again due to additional lightning in an 8-mile radius.
“It’s unfortunate that the weather didn’t cooperate for [Saturday’s] season opener,” coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “After lengthy discussions with the head referee, it was determined that the field conditions were too dangerous for the student athletes. As everyone saw with that opening kickoff, I thought that our guys were ready and fired up to play.”
Roughly a half-hour before the 7 p.m. kickoff, officials forced both teams into the locker room due to severe lightening in the area. It was the first weather-delayed game in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since Florida’s 2007 opener against Western Kentucky. The Gators won 49-3 in a game later terminated midway through the fourth quarter.
The Gators aimed to end their seven-game losing streak against the lowly Vandals, losers of 22 games in the last two seasons. Florida will now turn its sights on hosting Eastern Michigan next week.
“Everybody starts out the season undefeated, so I think it’s a good chance to start fresh and really showcase all we’ve done throughout the spring and summer,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said.
“There’s a lot of excitement around our program right now.”
Senior linebacker Michael Taylor could barely remember UF’s last win, saying, “Arkansas? In like October or something?”
“Way too long.”
After an offseason full of coaching changes (new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, offensive line coach Mike Summers and special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler) and rehabilitation (UF sustained 15 season-ending injuries in 2013), the Gators enter the fall a renewed group, eager to prove last season was merely a fluke.
Florida holds the second-longest opening-day winning streak in the country at 24 games and Taylor admitted the team is desperate for a postgame celebration and a happy home crowd.
“Definitely excited to get a victory because we haven’t had a victory in a while around here,” he said.
“We’re definitely excited to get this thing started, the whole campus is excited, coaches excited, players excited so we’re definitely ready to showcase our talent. The seven-game losing streak was definitely tough to bear, to have to play through and witness. Getting a win will definitely help; definitely help the whole feeling around the stadium.”