GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In what was perhaps a mixture of a sports cliche and misplaced Southern hospitality, the game here Saturday was in more than one place advertised this way: Florida entertains Cal State Fullerton.
It was quite the other way around.
Fullerton was not amused, and the entertainment was all Florida's in a 65-0 victory in front of 72,336 at Florida Field.
Freshman Emmitt Smith, who called his performance his "worst" since becoming a starter three games ago, rushed for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns, despite playing sparingly in the second half.
Kerwin Bell, the Gator quarterback who in the midst of Heisman-hype threw seven interceptions in the first five games, had a resurgence of sorts, completing 10 of 16 passes for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns without an interception.
The 18th-ranked Gators (4-2) seemed to use the game as an opportunity to make the Titans a third-party in a continuation of a three-point loss to Louisiana State last week.
Or, as Florida defensive lineman Henry Brown put it: "Somebody had to pay for the LSU game."
Because Fullerton had lost to LSU, 56-12, last month, some Florida players and fans apparently figured beating Fullerton by a larger score would somehow diminish the Gators' 13-10 loss to LSU last week. And after the game, the majority of questions put to Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy aimed to ascertain just which Southeastern Conference team was better.
Perhaps, Murphy said, the Titans couldn't give an accurate assessment, having seen second-string players during much of both games. He knew one thing, though.
"I don't want a rematch to come back and tell you which is better," he said.
For Fullerton, this, like the LSU game, was a "money" game--a game in which the Titans' were outmanned but earned a $200,000 guarantee.
It is something Murphy, who approves the schedule made by Athletic Director Ed Carroll, has called "necessary" again and again. But was this one--Fullerton's biggest loss since a 70-0 defeat at Southern Mississippi in 1972--worth it?
"I'm a company man," Murphy said. "I refuse to comment."
Fullerton (2-4) contributed greatly to its own problems in this one.
"We made enough mistakes to last the rest of the season," Murphy said.
Fullerton quarterbacks threw three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown and another that squelched a scoring opportunity when Ronnie Barber threw an interception on the first play from scrimmage after the Titans took over on the Florida 40-yard line.
It was not an opportunity to be wasted. Fullerton, which also was shut out against Hawaii in the first game of the season, crossed the 50 only three times and managed only 111 net yards--51 rushing and 60 passing.
In the most bizarre scoring play of the game, Fullerton's Todd White fielded a kickoff, then passed the ball across the field into the end zone, where it went out of bounds, giving Florida a safety.
"We just couldn't do anything," said fullback William Robinson, the Titans' leading rusher with 36 yards. "I thought it would be close and they might slowly pull away. but it was like a snowball rolling downhill, especially after our lateral play didn't work."
Florida Coach Galen Hall, choosing his words carefully and precisely, said: "I'm very, very pleased with the outcome of the game."