GAINESVILLE, FLA. -- John Brantley passed for 329 yards and four touchdowns to lead Florida to a 54-32 win over FCS 24th-ranked Furman in football action Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Brantley completed 16 of 28 passes, including scoring strikes of 14, 80, 29, and 64 yards, to help Florida (6-5) overcome a 22-7 second quarter deficit.
Jerodis Williams rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns to lead Furman (6-5) and become the first Paladin 1,000-yard rusher since 2003. Williams, a junior from Prattville, Ala., finished the season with 1,055 yards and nine touchdowns.
Furman quarterback Chris Forcier passed for 166 yards and a touchdown but was intercepted twice in the second half, both of which were returned for touchdowns. His first half scoring strike, a 31-yard connection to David Hendrix that staked the Paladins a 15-0 lead, gave him 23 touchdown passes for the season, a new Furman season mark.
Furman registered 446 yards in total offense against the Gators, including 233 on the ground.
"I thought we played really hard. I don't think the score is really indicative of how the game went," said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. "We had those two picks that they ran back there late that stretched the score out a bit. We were able to run the ball pretty well, which is something we need to do that we've been talking about doing to be successful as a program. We're making some progress that way."
Furman grabbed the early momentum by scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions. A Williams 1-yard touchdown plunge followed by safety put the Paladins up 8-0 midway through the first quarter.
The Paladins made it 15-0 less than three minutes later on Forcier's 31-yard connection to Hendrix and, following a Florida score, took a 22-7 lead on a 47-yard touchdown pass from tight end Colin Anderson, who took a lateral from Forcier, turned, and lofted the ball behind the Florida secondary into the hands of a streaking Sederrik Cunningham.
The Gators answered with a 20-point second quarter, keyed by a 1-yard touchdown run by Hunte rJoyer, an 80-yard scoring strike from Brantley to Andre Debose, and 29-yard connection to Quinton Dunbar, set up by a blocked Furman punt that gave the Gators the ball at the Furman 34-yard line.
The Paladins and Gators traded field goals to open the second half and, following a series of punts, combined for a pair of big offensive plays in the final minute of the third quarter.
The Gators made it 37-25 with Brantley's fourth touchdown pass of the game, a 64-yard hook-up with Debose with 52 seconds left in the period, but the Paladins responded on next play from scrimmage when Jerodis Williams shed a couple of Gator defenders, broke to the outside, and out-ran the Florida secondary on a career long 77-yard touchdown run. Chas Short's PAT cut UF's advantage to 37-32.
The fourth quarter was a different story for the Paladins, whose upset bid took two decisive hits in the form of a pair of interceptions that were returned for scores. The first covered 25 yards by De'Ante Saunders and the second was returned 75 yards by Jelani Jenkins with four minutes to go, effectively sealing the game's outcome.
Quarterback Chris Forcier's first quarter touchdown pass gave him 23 touchdown passes on the season and a new Furman single season passing TDs standard, surpassing Ingle Martin (22 in 2004)
Chris Forcier also established a new Furman single season passing efficiency record, finishing the campaign with a 172.36 rating, which topped the previous high set by Bobby Lamb (1985, 170.89 rating).
Jerodis Williams rushed 19 times for 133 yards, giving him 1,055 rushing yards on the season. He is the first Paladin to rush for 1,000 yards since Hindley Brigham (2003, 1,042 yards).
Injured senior linebacker Kadarron Anderson (knee) did not play against Florida. Anderson, who in all played in 44 games and made 32 starts in his Furman career, wraps up his Paladin tenure with 372 tackles, good for 13th on Furman's all-time tackles ledger.
Matt Solomon earned his first career start against Florida, stepping in for the injured Kadarron Anderson.
Senior Ryan Lee started at left guard and redshirt freshman Charles Emert got the starting nod at right tackle against Florida.
Colin Anderson's two receptions against Florida gave him 40 for the season (40 rec., 696 yds., 7 TDs), making him Furman's 2011 leader in receptions and touchdown catches. Anderson's 47-yard touchdown pass was also the first of his career (and first pass attempt). Anderson was a quarterback in high school (Principia, Mo., Upper School)
In catching one pass for 47 yards (TD) versus Florida, Sederrik Cunningham finishes his career with 95 receptions for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns, good for 14th on Furman's career receptions ledger.
Sederrik Cunningham's 26.7 yard kickoff return average in 2011 was the highest by a Paladins since 2001 (Brian Bratton, school record 37.2 avg.). His career 23.4 kickoff average is the seventh best mark in Furman history.
David Hendrix caught three passes for 45 yards and a touchdown versus Florida to complete his career with 85 catches for 1,194 yards and five touchdowns. The 85 catches places him in a tie for 15th on Furman's career receptions chart with Jimmy Jordan (1966-68) and former teammate R.J. Webb (2006-09).
Ryan Steed completes his Furman career with 14 interceptions, which ranks fourth in Paladin history, and 38 passes defensed, the third best mark in Furman football annals.
Furman finishes the season with a 6-5 overall record and 5-3 Southern Conference mark, both of which represent an improvement over last year's 5-6 overall record and 3-5 league mark. The Paladins, a preseason No. 6 pick by SoCon head coaches, finished fourth in the league with wins over second place finishers Wofford (26-21) and Appalachian State (20-10).
The announced attendance of 84,674 represents the largest crowd to ever witness a Furman football game, besting the previous high of 81,506 at Auburn in 2009.