GAINESVILLE Dressed in a blue button-down shirt and khaki pants, UF sophomore wide receiver Antonio Callaway walked toward Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with the rest of his team, giving fans high-fives along the way just like he would on any other Saturday when the Gators played at home.
But as No. 23 Florida’s offense took the field for its first drive against North Texas on Saturday night, Callaway remained on the sideline. He stayed there for the remainder of the game after being ruled out with a quad injury he suffered last weekend against Kentucky. It’s the first game in Callaway’s UF career that he didn’t see the field.
The sophomore and former Booker T. Washington standout hobbled through practice, participating until the injury was too much to bear.
“He definitely wasn’t himself,” UF coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday, adding that he would be “highly questionable to doubtful” for the game.
Heading into Saturday, Callaway ranked second in the SEC and 27th nationally with 201 receiving yards on 13 catches. His 15.46 yards per catch ranked second in the conference among receivers with at least 10 catches. He was also tied with Brandon Powell for the team lead with two touchdown catches.
In Callaway’s place, junior receiver and former South Dade standout C.J. Worton started alongside Powell. Saturday marks Worton’s second career start.
UF defensive lineman Caleb Brantley opened scoring for the Gators when he sacked North Texas quarterback Mason Fine in the end zone for a first-quarter safety. It was also the Gators’ 10th sack of the year, making UF the first to reach double-digits in the statistic.
Luke Del Rio took the snap on third-and-10 and immediately had to run to his right to avoid the oncoming pressure from North Texas’ defensive line.
Del Rio threw the ball toward midfield, an incompletion intended for Josh Hammond.
Four plays into the game, the Gators had to punt.
It’s a trend that Florida has been hoping to shake since McElwain took over in 2015, but has been to no avail.
The Gators have not scored on their first drive at home under McElwain in 10 tries. Overall, UF has scored on only one opening drive since McElwain took over — a 1-yard rushing touchdown from Kelvin Taylor that capped off a 12-play, 75-yard drive to open Florida’s 21-3 road win against Missouri on Oct. 10, 2015.
With Tyler Jordan out with an eye injury and Fred Johnson struggling in the first two games, the Gators started redshirt freshman Richerd Desir-Jones at right guard and true freshman Jawaan Taylor at right tackle.
As for the other three spots, left tackle David Sharpe, left guard Martez Ivey and center Cam Dillard all started their third straight game of the season at their usual spots.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Florida’s team captains for Saturday’s game were defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, offensive lineman David Sharpe, quarterback Luke Del Rio and safety Nick Washington.
▪ UF wore its orange helmet, blue jersey, orange pants combination against North Texas. It’s the first time Florida wore that combination since its 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2013.
▪ Wide receiver Chris Thompson, who was suspended for the first two games of the year, was active on Saturday.