It was the Mack Attack today for the Florida Gators as Mack Brown, filling in for injured Matt Jones, rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns leading them to a 24-6 victory over the Toledo Rockets. Jeff Driskel had an efficient day at quarterback going 17-22 for 153 yards and 1 td.
With Matt Jones watching from the sidelines the question was would Brown be able to step up or would the Gators have to go to a running back by committee. Brown answered that question resoundingly as he had 97 yards and two td’s at halftime. Jones is expected back next week but look for Brown to continue to get his share of the load as the season progresses.
The Gators finished with 262 yards rushing overall as backups Mark Herndon and true freshman Kelvin Taylor, the son of Gator legend Fred Taylor, picked up where Brown left off. On the Gators final drive, they combined for 75 yards and falling just short of the goal line as time ran out.
Coming in the Gators had hope to show some depth. They did that, but for most of the game didn’t need to as Brown gave them everything they could ask from him starting in place of starter Matt Jones. Brown was a workhorse, fighting for yards, breaking tackles, and was never stopped for a loss. The Gators will have a good one-two punch when Jones comes back next week.
Another question coming into this game is how would the defense respond after losing so many starters after last season and starting corner Loucheiz Purifoy to suspension? The answer was- Nicely!
The Gators looked very much like the dominating defense they were last season finishing top 5 in almost every major statistical category. They played fast and physical the way Muschamp preaches his defense to play. They definitely got the sermon in this one. Normally efficient Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens, was harassed all day by a defensive line and blitz scheme that forced him into hurried throws and inaccurate passes. He finished the game 17-38 for ony 155 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception by true freshman Vernon Hargreaves, the Gators first turnover of the season. It wasn’t all on Owens, however, as he was victimized by a number of dropped passes.
The Gators, as usual, were very tough against the run holding superstar David Fluellen to only 46 yards on 9 carries, 28 of which came on one carry. Toledo never could get the running game going as they were playing from behind all day. The Gators were as efficient as you could ask for holding Toledo to 1-13 on third down. That was the story of the game for the Rockets.
The bigger story of the day for the Gators was penalties. The Gators have been at the bottom of the conference in penalties the last two seasons. They continued that trend today in the worst way finishing with 10 penalties for 70 yards. The Gators had a number of offensive drives stopped due to penalties and one killed a scoring opportunity all together. The defense had their share of silly penalties as well including a fourth down substitution violation coming off of a Toledo penalty which continued a long drive for Toledo.
This game effectively was over at halftime as the Gators jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead, However, the Gators came out of halftime flat and allowed Toledo to hang around long enough to keep it somewhat interesting for fans. Driskel was very efficient in the first half, opening 10-11 for 101 yards. He did have one fumble in the first half one of few mistakes he made on the afternoon.
The Gators showed a little pop in their passing game in the first half with Driskel distributing the ball to a variety of receivers and making some plays downfield. In the second half, though, they stayed with the running game trying to shorten the game and keep the high powered, up tempo Toledo offense off the field.
Overall, it was a good first effort against a talented, determined opponent. Some areas for improvement were exposed, but certainly there were many more positives than negatives in this one. Still not sure how good this team really is but they certainly looked better overall on both sides of the ball than they did in last season’s opener against Bowling Green.
The Gators step up in class next Saturday as they travel to Miami to take on in state rival the Hurricanes.