'Man down, man up' again for UF
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 14, 2013 at 5:21 p.m.
For weeks, Florida fans have clamored for more carries for freshman running back Kelvin Taylor.
No. 22 Florida (4-2) at No. 14 Missouri (6-0), 12:21 p.m.
Gator Nation will get its wish, but not in the way it had hoped. Sophomore running back Matt Jones is done for the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, another blow to an already injury-depleted squad, Florida coach Will Muschamp announced Monday.
Jones underwent surgery to repair the knee ligament Monday. Muschamp initially thought Jones suffered a knee sprain Saturday against LSU, but it turned out to be a tear.
It was a final setback in a rocky sophomore season for Jones, who sat out all of August camp and the season opener against Toledo with a serious viral infection. Jones finished the season with 339 yards and two touchdowns. He will not be eligible for a medical redshirt.
“I hate it for Matt.” Muschamp said. “He's a great young man, to go through what he's been through this fall, missing all of most of fall camp. Working his way back in shape and starting to feel good about himself, as far as how he felt physically, mentally and then to have this setback is just disheartening for all of us.”
Jones is the seventh Gator to suffer a season-ending injury this season, joining wide receiver/kick returner Andre Debose (torn ACL), linebacker Matt Rolin (torn ACL), quarterback Jeff Driskel (broken leg), right tackle Chaz Green (torn labrum), defensive back Nick Washington (shoulder surgery) and defensive tackle Dominique Easley (torn ACL).
Muschamp said it's the worst season of injuries he's encountered as a coach.
“It's unfortunate,” Muschamp said. “More than anything, I hate it for the young men. They put a lot of time and effort into playing this game and for that to happen, I'm disappointed for them first of all. That's what hurts the most, to see guys go through the struggle and having to make that phone call and tell them what's going on or having to walk them in the training room to tell them what's happening. That's very frustrating for a young man with as much time and effort as they put into it.”
The banged-up Gators will see if Taylor, the son of former Gator and NFL running back Fred Taylor, can provide a spark in the running game. Last week, Taylor showed promise, rushing for 52 yards on 10 carries. Muschamp said Taylor had his best week in practice before the LSU game in terms of picking up blocking assignments and securing the ball.
“When you're able to do those two things, you give us more confidence in situationally playing you in the game,” Muschamp said. “I thought he did a good job of that. He deserved the opportunity. Regardless of the injury, he was going to play in the game more than he had previous to this game. Obviously, the injury accelerated that.”
Muschamp said junior Mack Brown (340 yards, three TDs) and Taylor will get the bulk of the carries Saturday when the Gators travel to No. 14 Missouri. Ocala native Mark Herndon will move up to third on the running back depth chart and redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers will continue his role as a sweep runner/receiver on perimeter plays.
With a limited roster, Florida (4-2, 3-1 SEC) has plenty of issues to solve heading into a critical road game at unbeaten Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC). The Gators allowed four quarterback sacks and were pressured for most of the game in a 17-6 loss at LSU last Saturday.
“We need to communicate a little bit better on some things,” Muschamp said. “Again, it was across the board. Everybody wants to blame the offensive line. But just communicate a little better, set a little better, hold the pocket, be more firm in the pocket, not as much push in the pocket. There's multiple things that we can improve on from last Saturday.”
Defensively, Florida gave up 175 yards rushing against LSU and is allowing 4.8 yards per carry since Easley's season-ending injury.
“The past few weeks, I wouldn't say that we did a good job of stopping the run,” Florida senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said.
But a win against Missouri would put Florida back in the hunt for the SEC East division title. Like Florida, Missouri will come into the game with a backup quarterback after James Franklin went down with a separated shoulder against Georgia. Backup Maty Mauk will start for Missouri against the Gators.
“We still would like to have that game (LSU), but we do have everything in front of us that we want to accomplish this season, which is the SEC East and going to Atlanta,” Watkins said. “We have to just refocus and get ready to go.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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