GAINESVILLE (AP) - Separated by a two-hour drive on Interstate-75, South Florida and Florida have long been considered potential football rivals.
Fans clamored for the in-state game. Players welcomed the challenge. Officials began talks more than a decade ago, but when the meeting finally developed in 2002, it got bumped a short time later.
It's here now, and it might be coming at the best - or worst - possible time for the Bulls.
The eighth-ranked Gators are hoping to rebound Saturday from one of their most dreadful offensive performances in coach Urban Meyer's six seasons in Gainesville.
"Tough times don't last," Florida center Mike Pouncey said. "Tough people do, and we're moving on."
The Gators can't wait to put last week's debacle behind them. They botched several snaps, fumbled eight times and finished with just 212 yards - the second-lowest offensive output in Meyer's tenure. It came against Miami (Ohio), a team that went 1-11 last season and came into the opener as a five-touchdown underdog.
Quarterback John Brantley, making his first start after waiting three years behind Tim Tebow, misfired on a few passes and bobbled two snaps. Receivers Deonte Thompson and Carl Moore dropped balls. Even senior kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal and hooked an extra point.
Florida's biggest concern following the 34-12 victory was ball security. Pouncey bungled three snaps, resulting in one fumble. Chris Rainey, Emmanuel Moody and Mike Gillislee also put the ball on the ground.
Pouncey took blame for his obvious miscues, then spent extra time working with Brantley to perfect their shotgun snaps. Pouncey wound up changing his hand position, hoping to get a better grip in sweaty conditions.
South Florida coach Skip Holtz doesn't expect the Gators to be nearly as inept this weekend.
He pointed out Brantley's completion percentage (68), Florida's rushing yards without the fumbles (7.25 yards a carry) and the team's defensive performance (four interceptions and four yards rushing) against the RedHawks.