Florida struggled to get anything going in the run game last week against Michigan.
But count Florida senior running back Mark Thompson as someone who thinks the Gators may have abandoned the run too quickly.
“In my opinion, receivers are gonna hate me for this, but we need to run the ball more,” Thompson said.
Getting the ground game going will be a priority for the Gators when they resume play next week at home against Tennessee. Florida managed just 11 yards rushing on 27 carries against the Wolverines. The loss of 55 yards on six sacks factored into that total, though Gator rushers still managed to net just 66 positive yards.
Who: Tennessee vs. No. 22 Florida
When: 3:30 p.m. Sept. 16
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
Thompson, who rushed five times for 13 yards, had a 47-yard, reverse-field touchdown run called back in the second quarter because of a holding penalty called on center T.J. McCoy. With the ball backed up 10 yards and facing a third-and-13, Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks threw an incomplete pass and the Gators were forced to punt.
“Regardless of if it got called back or not, that’s momentum,” Thompson said. “The penalty is obviously going to take one back, but get right back and run the ball. I don’t think we had very much of a problem in running the ball. I just think we have to trust the running game and continue to do it. When something doesn’t work, you don’t just give up. You keep going until it works.”
Florida coach Jim McElwain said his goal each week is strive for offensive balance.
“Everything you do comes off of it,” McElwain said. “Your ability to run the football and establish the line of scrimmage allows you to be a pretty decent team.”
McElwain was critical of how Florida was unable to establish both lines of scrimmage during the Michigan loss. Open holes were hard to come by, as Michigan’s front seven consistently stuffed the run and forced the Gators into obvious passing situations. Florida was also hindered due to the absence of junior running back Jordan Scarlett, who was one of 10 players suspended for the game. Scarlett, UF’s leading rusher last season with 889 yards and six TDs, remains uncertain to return for UF’s next game against Vols.
Asked how much of the inability to run could be pinned on the running backs compared to the offensive line, McElwain said: “Everybody has a part, I mean, that’s a good question, but it’s a team game.”
Thompson said he’s not about to blame UF’s offensive line for the running woes last week.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with the O-line,” Thompson said. “They blocked their tails off. You know, like I said, everyone makes mistakes, I feel though in the running back group, when I get the ball, I’ll run hard enough to whatever I do I’ll make them right.”
One bright spot in the run game last week was freshman Malik Davis, who showed good speed on the edge in gaining eight yards in his lone carry of the game. Thompson said Davis and freshman running back Adarius Lemons have showed promise in practice. Both could play a factor in the coming weeks, especially if Scarlett is still out.
“They both run hard,” Thompson said. “Malik and Adarius have very good vision. Malik is very good at making cuts. That’s something we see in practice every day. Adarius is a very aggressive runner. He’s not afraid to lower his pads. Like I said, those guys have a pretty bright future at UF.”