Luke Del Rio threw two touchdown passes in his first career start, and No. 25 Florida did just enough to beat UMass 24-7 on Saturday night and extend the nation’s longest winning streak in season openers to 27.
It was far from the offensive resurgence the Gators were hoping for after ending last season with three consecutive losses.
Things were so ugly for much of the night that retired coach Steve Spurrier provided most of Florida’s early highlights.
After having Florida Field named after him and then leading 90,000 rain-soaked fans in a pre-game cheer, Spurrier posed like Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. The 71-year-old Spurrier flashed Bolt’s “To The World” pose to all four sides of the newly renamed Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. It drew a raucous ovation from fans on hand for the opener.
“I just planned it myself,” Spurrier said. “I didn’t tell anybody, either, ‘cause I thought they’d spill the beans. You know, it’s never been done before. I’m a guy that likes to do a little different stuff, so I was the first to do the Usain in the middle of the field.”
Many inside the sold-out Swamp were there for Spurrier, who was honored in a number of ways. Not only was the field named after him, but Spurrier served as the honorary “Mr. Two Bits.” At halftime, he was recognized again for the 50th anniversary of his 1966 Heisman Trophy and honored along with the 1996 national championship team.
Spurrier said the best parts of the day were watching his name unveiled on the stadium and then seeing band members wearing visors to honor him.
Florida coach Jim McElwain probably could have used one – to slam to the ground.
The Gators had trouble blocking the Minutemen up front and creating holes in the running game. Del Rio completed 29 of 44 passes for 256 yards, with TD passes to Antonio Callaway in the first quarter and Brandon Powell in the fourth.
Newcomer Eddy Pineiro kicked three field goals, including from 49 and 48 yards in the fourth that gave Florida a little extra breathing room and started chants of “Eddy, ,Eddy.”
Florida’s defense was solid except for one scoring drive in which it was flagged three times for 35 yards and allowed a fourth-and-14 conversion.