Unsafe field conditions spoil opener

Unsafe field conditions spoil opener

Severe weather crept into Gainesville less than a half hour before kickoff and didn’t leave until the playing surface was unsafe for game play.

Florida’s opener against Idaho was suspended because of unsafe and unplayable field conditions. If the game is rescheduled, it will be restarted as a new game. However, that determination will be made and announced at a later date.

“It's unfortunate that the weather didn't cooperate for tonight's season opener,” head coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. “After long 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. We appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us and sitting through several weather delays. It was amazing the energy and passion shown in the stands all night. The Gator Nation showed why they're the best fans in the country, starting with one of the most enthusiastic Gator Walks that we've had since I've been here.”

The teams were pulled off the field during warm ups because of weather approaching from the East. The rain didn’t start immediately, but lightning was picked up within an eight-mile radius of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Shortly before 10 p.m., both teams resurfaced from the locker rooms and went through a full warm up. Following a delay of 2:48, the Florida season got underway. Idaho won the toss but deferred until the second half. The Vandals kicked away from Florida returner Andre Debose, instead electing to give Valdez Showers a chance at a return.

The decision wasn’t a good one. Showers returned the opening kickoff 64 yards, reversing field and getting to the Florida sideline before being pushed out of bounds at the Idaho 14-yard line.

The Florida offense took the field, ready to run the first play with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper at the helm. Before it was able to happen, the referees convened and were told that lightning was again spotted in an eight-mile radius of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The teams were again forced into the locker room, and shortly after 10:30, the game was officially terminated.

According to the NCAA rule book, if a game is suspended before the end of the fourth quarter and can't be resumed, there are four possible options. First, the game can be resumed at a later date. Second, the game can be terminated with a determined final score. Third, a team can forfeit the game. Fourth, it can be declared a no contest.

The athletic directors of both schools must agree on one of the four options listed. If the game is resumed, Showers' kickoff return will count and Florida will have the ball at the Idaho 14-yard line with 14:50 remaining in the first quarter.

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