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No. 8 Florida rallies to beat Miami in wild opener

AP

Feleipe Franks was clutch one minute and confused the next, showing the kind of inconsistency that got him benched five times in two years.

His job might be in jeopardy again if not for Florida’s defense.

Franks made up for three inexcusable turnovers by accounting for three touchdowns, doing just enough to help the eighth-ranked Gators beat rival Miami 24-20 Saturday night in a wild and wacky opening game of the college football season.

“Last five minutes of the game, I aged 10 years,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “That was exhausting.”

Franks threw for 254 yards and two scores and ran for another as the Gators won for just the second time in their last nine meetings with the Hurricanes. Franks also threw two interceptions — both horribly inaccurate passes — in the fourth quarter.

He looked anywhere from good to great, from lost to downright awful.

He dropped in a perfect pass to Josh Hammond that gained 65 yards and set up the go-ahead score in the fourth and later in the quarter threw right to a defender. He also fumbled in the first half while deciding what to do on a read-option play.

Florida’s defense bailed Franks out time and time again, finishing with a staggering 10 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss.

Miami converted a fourth-and-34 play with 1:30 remaining when Marco Wilson was flagged for pass interference. The Hurricanes moved the chains again thanks to another pass interference call against Trey Dean. One official threw one more flag in the end zone with 20 seconds to play, but it was picked up following a discussion.

The Hurricanes failed to score, and they needed a touchdown after Bubba Baxa missed a 27-yard field goal attempt wide right early in the fourth.

“We don’t have the maturity level to see a victory through,” first-year Canes coach Manny Diaz said. “That’s a maturing process we have to go through.”

Franks took a knee to run out the clock, celebrated with teammates and then ran toward the tunnel and punted the ball into the stands. At least this one didn’t count as a turnover — or result in a penalty.

The teams combined for five turnovers — Florida had four — and 225 yards in penalties.

Miami got to break out its revised Turnover Chain after each of Florida’s gaffes and was able to debut its Touchdown Rings following both trips to the end zone.

“We wanted to spice it up,” Diaz said. “The 305 (chain) came out really well. We talked about offense wanting something else, wanting something different. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of them.”

Miami’s Jarren Williams completed 19 of 29 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown in his first career start. DeeJay Dallas ran for 95 yards, including a 50-yard scamper that put the Canes up 20-17 early in the fourth.

Franks answered, though.

And Florida’s defense stepped up again.

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