Originally created 09/12/99

Florida romps over Central Florida 58-27

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In a big turnaround from opening week, No. 4 Florida played a game to be proud of. More importantly, the Gators gave Tennessee something to think about.

Doug Johnson connected with Travis Taylor for three of his four touchdown passes and the Gators scored seven touchdowns before halftime Saturday in a 58-27 victory over Central Florida.

Florida (2-0) extended its nation-best home winning streak to 29 games. The streak will be put to its first genuine test of this season next Saturday, when defending national champion Tennessee visits The Swamp.

If the convincing showing against an outmanned team from Central Florida (0-2) was any indicator, the Gators are ready.

Or at least a lot better than they were last week.

Johnson, who had an interception returned for a touchdown in a 55-26 victory over Western Michigan, looked sharp, going 15-for-23 for 271 yards, all before the starters came out after the first half.

The special teams, which gave up a turnover that kept last week's game close into the third quarter, produced a touchdown off a blocked punt.

The defense that gave up 405 passing yards last week still looked soft at times, allowing 379 yards to Central Florida quarterback Victor Penn. But unlike last week, most of the yardage came well after the game was decided.

And with the way the offense is going, defense could turn out to be nothing more than an afterthought this season.

Florida produced an even 500 yards to bring its total to 1,192 for the season. The Gators scored the most they have since an 82-6 victory over Central Michigan two years ago this week.

Taylor continued to emerge as Florida's biggest receiving weapon. He caught touchdown passes of 1, 15 and 31 yards and finished with five receptions for 61 yards.

Florida also may have found a new threat in backup receiver Reche Caldwell, a redshirt freshman who caught four passes for 77 yards. Most of the yardage came on short screen passes that put the speedy receiver in position to juke a defender or break a tackle to gain yardage down the sideline.

His biggest play, a 46-yard reception, set up Robert Gillespie's 2-yard touchdown run and gave Florida a 48-14 lead with 44 seconds left in the first half.

Gators defensive lineman Buck Gurley recovered a fumble on the next play and Florida tried to top the 50 mark, but Central Florida's Elliot Shorter came up with a sack to end the half.

It only delayed the inevitable. On Central Florida's first play of the second half, Gurley recovered another fumble at the Knights 9. Three plays later, backup quarterback Jesse Palmer hit Michael Haugabrook for a 5-yard touchdown and a 55-14 lead.

Thus continued a frustrating evening for the Knights, who actually led this game early, after Ricot Joseph's interception on Florida's opening drive set up an 84-yard touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead.

Penn also hit Charles Lee for a 50-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The play exposed the young Florida secondary, but meant practically nothing. The score cut Central Florida's deficit to 34-14.

Lee finished with 11 catches for 170 yards.


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