GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A record Florida Field crowd and an overmatched Oklahoma State defense were quickly introduced to the Steve Spurrier era.
Sophomore Shane Matthews came out firing in his first collegiate start Saturday, throwing for 332 yards while sparking Florida's 50-7 rout in Spurrier's debut as Gator coach.
For a frenzied crowd of 75,428, it became obvious from the first snap that Florida has abandoned the ground-oriented attack that featured Emmitt Smith the past three years. Smith's departure to the NFL and the arrival of Spurrier's pro-style offense has ushered in a fresh approach that will emphasize Matthews' skills as a drop-back quarterback.
'Fortunately, we gave 'em something to holler about today,' said Spurrier, who won the 1966 Heisman Trophy as a University of Florida quarterback. 'I'm really proud of Shane Matthews. I thought he played outstanding. We scored 50 today, but we might get shut out next week (at Alabama) if we don't play well. Next week, we're not gonna have them outmanned.'
Matthews, who took just three snaps last year, opened the game with his first collegiate completion, hitting Ernie Mills for 26 yards. Tre Everett caught a 17-yard pass and Matthews found Mills for 22 more yards on consecutive plays before Dexter McNabb took a pitch and dashed two yards for a 7-0 lead just 1:50 into the game.
Matthews later scored on a 1-yard plunge and hit Everett for a 50- yard score, Willie McClendon ran for two short TDs and Arden Czyzewski kicked two field goals as the Gators rolled up 567 yards. The Gator defense scored eight points, with Huey Richardson dropping quarterback Chris Smith for a second-quarter safety and Darren Mickell adding a 14- yard score off an interception return with 9:21 left in the game.
Smith accounted for Oklahoma State's lone touchdown with a 14-yard pass to Curtis Mayfield that sliced Florida's advantage to 14-7. The Gator defense, which ranked No. 3 nationally last season, registered six sacks and forced three turnovers against the overmatched Cowboys, 1-1.
'We were extremely grateful the offense was able to move the ball,' said Godfrey Myles, who has been installed at a new 'Gatorback' position, a blend of linebacker and defensive back. 'When we were able to score, it provided us with motivation. I think we've got a good chance to have the No. 1 defense in the country.'
Matthews, who threw for 239 yards before intermission, shook off a fumble at midfield to lead the Gators 83 yards on their third possession. Tight end Kirk Kirkpatrick broke free for a 28-yard reception and took a swing pass 18 yards on third and four to set up Matthews' 1-yard plunge with 3:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Matthews burned the Cowboys repeatedly over the middle, completing 20 of 29 attempts. He was not intercepted or sacked and the Gators punted just once.
Smith's 14-yard pass to Robert Kirksey on third down and Gerald Hudson's 24-yard run on the final play of the first period led to Mayfield's leaping TD catch. Hudson rushed for 86 yards in 14 carries and Mayfield caught seven passes for 110 yards.
'I haven't enjoyed the luxury of having a team that was bigger and stronger until today,' said Spurrier, who coached at Duke from 1987-89. 'It was nice, but I'm smart enough to realize Oklahoma State isn't nearly as good as some of the other people we'll face. Defensively, we had them outmanned. We just had to avoid something stupid happening.'