MIAMI GARDENS — Miami forced Florida's Jeff Driskel into a interception and a fumble in the final seven minutes of the game to key a 21-16 win against the Gators.
The two late mistakes gave Florida five turnovers in the contest — a third of its total in the entire 2012 season.
With less than five minutes to play and the ball deep in Miami territory, Driskel rifled a pass into the right flat that 'Canes defensive back Tracy Howard gobbled up and raced in the opposite direction. Then on the next Florida possession Driskel (22 of 33 for 291 yards) was hit, coughed the ball up and the 'Canes recovered at UF's 4 with 4:32 left. Duke Johnson scored moments later in what proved to be the game-clinching points after a final Gators drive and the celebration began for Miami — which had just 69 yards total offense in the final three quarters.
Those two turnovers were the final blows for the Gators, the seventh loss in the last eight meetings between the former rivals who may not meet again for many years due to scheduling conflicts. Florida has not won against UM in South Florida since a 35-23 game in 1985.
The ACC is now 2-2 against ranked SEC teams this season. Miami won despite Florida having more than double offensive its offensive output in yardage.
A crowd of 76,869 attended the first contest between the two schools in Miami since 2003, a new Hurricanes' attendance record at Sun Life Stadium.
Florida, which turned the ball over just 15 times a year ago (10 fumbles, 5 interceptions) gave it away three times in the first half alone and two more times in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.
A fumble by Matt Jones, who missed the opener while recovering from a viral infection, gave Miami the ball at midfield in the first quarter.
Stephen Morris (12 of 25 for 163 yards and two scores) hit Herb Waters for the game's opening score at 7:24. UF answered with a quick TD on a Driskel run after Locheiz Purifoy blocked the 'Canes' punt. It was the 13th kick blocked by the Gators in Will Muschamp's three seasons.
But Florida botched a fake extra-point attempt to remain behind, 7-6. Miami responded with a 6-play, 84-yard drive to go up14-6 on Morris's second score — this one 52 yards to Phillip Dorsett, who badly beat Gators safety Marcus Maye.
FOR THE WIN: Miami fans tailgated in limos
The only time Florida gave up 14 points in the first quarter a year ago was in the 33-23 loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl.
The Gators lost early certain points on Driskel's first interception on third-and-goal from the UM 11 and when Driskel was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Hurricanes' 16 on their next drive. Florida gave away more points when Trey
Burton fumbled the ball away at the Miami 13 in the final seconds of the first half.
Coming into the contest, UF had lost 7 of the last 8 times it had multiple turnovers in its opponent's territory.
It was a game that, with three potential field goals, the Gators should have led instead trailed and gave all momentum to the host Hurricanes heading into the second half.
Austin Hardin's 33-yard field goal got Florida to within 14-9 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.
At the same time, UF's defense also rose to the challenge. After allowing 143 yards in the first quarter the Gators gave up just two yards in the second 15 minutes and held Miami to just two first downs in the second and third quarters combined.
But Florida had two crucial drives killed by holding penalties and a pair of Driskel incompletions on third down in great field position to give the ball back. Then came Driskel's second interception when it looked like the Gators would finally go ahead midway through the fourth quarter.
After Johnson's late score, Driskel hit Solomon Patton (6 catches, 118 yards) on a 21-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-16 with 2:08 to play in the contest.
Florida had one final shot at pulling off a miracle finish, holding UM to force a punt with 37 seconds to go. Driskel was almost sacked and threw the ball away on first down and the game ended with a 10-second run off after a Gators' penalty.
David Jones also writes for Florida Today, a Gannett property.