Notebook: Florida able to establish running game

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Florida running back Jordan Scarlett breaks free for a 30-yard touchdown run in the second quarter Saturday against Colorado State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Through the first two weeks of the season, Florida’s rushing attack was seemingly nonexistent. For a position with as much talent and proven production as the Gators backfield, the early subpar performances were disconcerting for an offense that can’t afford to see regression in any area.

But Saturday afternoon’s 48-10 victory over Colorado State featured the return of the backfield, in addition to several milestones for individual members of the unit.

Senior running back Jordan Scarlett recorded UF’s first rushing touchdown of the season when he dashed 30 yards into the end zone at the top of the second quarter. And freshman standout Dameon Pierce continued to make a case for more action. With the result intact, Pierce entered in the fourth quarter and soon capitalized on the opportunity. Pierce would cap Florida’s scoring on his first touch with a 68-yard scoring run that brought the remaining Florida faithful to their feet.

“The line helped me out a lot, the running game helped me out a lot. Super proud of our running backs,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “They just had a really good day today.”

Davis to be re-evaluated

Sophomore running back Malik Davis provided a boost for Florida’s backfield upon his return from an ACL injury suffered as a freshman. But the Gators are once again faced with the possibility Davis will miss significant time. Davis went to the sideline with an undisclosed injury prior to halftime and didn’t return to the field for the second half. After the game, Mullen said an X-ray came back negative, and UF will continue to evaluate the Tampa native.

“I haven’t found out anything yet. I mean, they did an X-ray and it looked OK and they’re going to go do an MRI,” Mullen said. “We’re going to find out more and I’ll let you know on Monday.”

Gators move Massey to defensive back

Prior to Florida’s 48-10 victory over Colorado State, Gators coach Dan Mullen suggested the team could experiment moving several offensive players to the other side of the ball in an attempt to negate the depth issues in the secondary.

“We are going to give a couple of guys some opportunities. We’ll just see,” Mullen said. “I don’t want to get into too much of that right now because I don’t want to make a big deal out of something we might or might not do, but we are going to see who can maybe play some DB for us, too, to help out, if we have to move some guys from the offensive side of the ball, move some people around.”

Although he didn’t contribute against the Rams, redshirt senior wide receiver Dre Massey found himself in line for action in the secondary. Massey, who has recorded just one catch for 18 yards this season, warmed up with the team’s second-string defense prior to kickoff.

Saturday sees record-setting heat

If it felt abnormally hot Saturday, it’s because it was. Officials at Gainesville Regional Airport recorded the temperature at kickoff at 96 degrees Fahrenheit, tying the record for the hottest game recorded at Ben HIll Griffin Stadium in program history. And you don’t have to go back far in the history books to find the last time Gainesville registered record heat for a home football game. Officials also recorded a temperature of 96 degrees Fahrenheit during Florida’s 38-14 victory over the University of South Florida on Sept. 11, 2010. Following the game, Mullen thanked the fans in attendance for supporting the team through the suffocating heat.

“I thank our fans. One, they told me that was the hottest game in Florida football history,” Mullen said. “That’s pretty crazy, so, I want to thank all our fans coming out to support. The energy they continue to show, I think the team feeds off that energy.”

Steve Spurrier-Florida Field was even hotter than the temperature in the air, registering a scorching 117 degrees Fahrenheit prior to kickoff that felt like 124 degrees Fahrenheit considering the heat index.

And record-setting payouts

Much was made of Florida hosting Colorado State due to circumstances surrounding the hiring of former Florida coach Jim McElwain, but perspective reveals just how monumental of a payout the Rams received for 1,786 miles of cross-country travel.

The $2 million Florida paid Colorado State for Saturday’s contest is the largest single-game payout in NCAA Division I history. The previous highest payout also occurred in the 2018 season. Ohio State paid Oregon State a cool $1.7 million to make the trip to Columbus, Ohio, and several other programs will also pay out figures approaching the $2 million mark. But Florida’s disbursement will stand alone atop this season when it comes to handing out the cash. The Rams would end up pocketing $200,000 for each point scored Saturday.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Umm, running game wasn’t really established with the exception of a few really good runs. Heck we only had what 45 plays? We played against one of the worst run stop DL, and we were not gouging them other than a few long runs here and there. Now uk was a team that established a running game, they ran at will.

  2. John, every running back except one had very good to excellent yards per carry. We had two dynamite runaway touchdown runs. As for the limited number of plays, we scored so often and so quickly the offense simply wasn’t on the field very much. We kicked off to Colorado State nine times! They kicked off to us three. Despite Franks’ missing his first six pass attempts, on the game he averaged 7.9 yards per attempt, which is very acceptable. This game didn’t establish our Gators as a powerhouse in the SEC, but it was a most positive bounce back win from a week ago and sends our guys into Tennessee week with a good measure of confidence in their coaches and themselves.

  3. Colorado State was gassed in the 4th quarter which helped open up a big whole for Pierce (which I am happy he was able to take advantage of). The only successful runs were outside runs because the offensive line still can’t block for a North-South sunning game, so let’s not get overjoyed with what is still an anemic run blocking front line.

    • I thought I had seen a different TD run than the one you were talking about. Pierce was able to squeeze through the small hole that was there and take off. Same with Scarlett. I thought both the running TDs were North-South as well. Obviously we still have big OL issues but I’ll give them credit when they do open something up. Gonna have to be a WHOLE lot better on Rocky Top or it will be a long day. Even though they still aren’t that good we will have our hands full. Franks can’t afford to start out 0-6 against UT.

  4. Not sure what what the critics expected.

    The Gators hadn’t had a rushing TD this season until yesterday. The Rams are a better team than Charleston Southern by far. It was progress.

    Expecting the Gators O-Line to suddenly start crushing people, a week after getting dominated doesn’t seem realistic.

    Facts tell us the Gators had 29 carries for 222 total yards rushing. They averaged nearly 8 yards per attempt. Last week against Kentucky, the Gators ran the ball 29 times for a total of 128 yards and less than 5 yards per carry.

    Compare that to even Charleston Southern, where the Gators ran the ball 39 times for only 205 yards, and right at 5 yards per carry.

    What else do you want from the O-Line after what they showed us the first 2 weeks?

    When a man tells you who he is, believe him. This particular O-Line over the last 3 years has proven to not be one of the best in CFB or even the SEC.

    The O-Line’s job isn’t to create gaping holes on every attempt. It’s job is to create space and leverage on run plays, and protect the QB on pass plays. They did a decent job of that yesterday imho.

    This team only won 4 games last season. There isn’t a microwave fix for a broken program. Get 6 wins this season, win the bowl game and be happy. The rest is all about recruiting more talent.

    Look at what Trey Dean and Dameon Pierce did yesterday. Other young players contributed against a decent,not great, but decent football team. That’s all we can ask at this point.

    Let’s see how much better they can get next week on the road. That will tell us more about what we can realistically expect from this team.

    Dooley wrote about it in one of his early columns this year, we will know who the Gators are at the end of September. I believe that to be true.

    I’m holding judgement until October.