Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Zook's Superior Debut UF Rolls Up 643 Yards in Blowout

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Zook's Superior Debut UF Rolls Up 643 Yards in Blowout

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael DiRocco, Times-Union staff writer

GAINESVILLE -- It was hard to tell where the Steve Spurrier era ended and the Ron Zook era began.

The Gators' 51-3 victory over Alabama-Birmingham yesterday in front of 85,575 at Florida Field -- Zook's first game as a head coach -- looked a lot like some of Spurrier's big victories. UF was throwing the ball in the fourth quarter, even with backups in the game, got big performances from a quarterback and wide receiver, and added some late touchdowns.

It carried into the post-game news conference as well, when Zook imitated Spurrier by taking a friendly jab at athletic diretor Jeremy Foley.

"It looked like a Spurrier game," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "It really didn't seem that different."

But Zook one-upped his predecessor, and did something even the man who is credited with changing the way college football was played in the Southeastern Conference never did. Never, not even with Spurrier's record-breaking offensive machine, have the Gators had a running back eclipse 150 yards and a wide receiver surpass 200 -- until last night.

Running back Earnest Graham rushed for 182 yards -- the 12th-best single game performance in school history -- and two touchdowns and Taylor Jacobs caught eight passes for a school-record 246 yards and two touchdowns, a pair of performances that showed they deserve to be mentioned as Heisman Trophy candidates as much as their quarterback.

Rex Grossman was just as impressive in the first unveiling of offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher's playbook. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns.

"We've all known that we've got some big-play guys and some guys that can make some things happen," Zook said. "That's what we've got to be able to do. This is a big-play offense."

One that churned out 643 total yards, the sixth best single-game total in school history. That's reminiscent of the Spurrier era, and so were some of Zook's decisions. Twice in the fourth quarter the Gators eschewed a field goal on fourth down with a big lead, electing instead to stay on offense. …

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