Again and again, Jordan Scarlett saw the hole and didn’t hesitate. It was a refreshing sign for the Florida faithful in attendance for UF’s 17-point comeback Saturday; up until that overcast afternoon, Scarlett had still exhibited signs of rust in his return to the field, and at times appeared in danger of falling behind Lamical Perine in the backfield pecking order.
With few chances remaining for the redshirt junior to leave a lasting positive impact in Gainesville, Scarlett seemingly capitalized against the Gamecocks; against the coach who didn’t think he was Florida-material, no less.
Scarlett rushed for a career-high 159 yards on just 18 touches in Florida’s 35-31 victory over South Carolina, good for an average of 8.8 yards per carry. While it was Perine and redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks who provided Florida’s four rushing touchdowns on the day, Scarlett’s apparent resurgence was one of the clear highlights during Florida’s second three-possession comeback this season.
“It felt great just being out here and God answering all my prayers man. I always talk to Him, and I’ve always been thankful for whatever He gives me, and today He blessed me with a lot,”Scarlett said, “me and all the running backs, and this whole offense, and I’m just really proud of us as a whole.”
For just the second time since Nov. 26, 2016, Scarlett exceeded the 100-yard rushing plateau, as the Gators racked up 367 rushing yards — the highest rushing total since gashing the Bulldogs for 418 yards on the ground in 2014.
Many wondered if Scarlett would have another chance to contribute at Florida. Meaning those who watched him toil and grind knew just how much Saturday’s bounce back meant to Scarlett.
“He went through a lot. So hopefully that motivates him to go harder. He always is a leader, always a vocal guy in the running back room. He teaches us a lot. I’m still learning from him,” Perine said. “He’s been a guy I look up to ever since I got here. He hosted me on my (official recruiting) visit, so he’s just always been like a big brother to me.”
While some Gators spent the week engaged with fans and former players on social media, Scarlett was busy running. When others hung their heads after consecutive defeats, Scarlett wasn’t slowing down. And when the Gators needed him most — trailing by 17 late in the third quarter — Scarlett’s effort level paid off.
Now, with just two contests remaining — two games which will likely spell the end of Scarlett’s Florida tenure, his sights set on a professional career — Scarlett isn’t looking to change anything. When you perform at a high level consistently, there is no adjustment process; it’s just business as usual for a dynamic talent, one that many wrote off before his story was finished.
“Coach Mullen’s been locked in on us all week, going hard on the offensive line and running backs all week to run hard, get on the ball and learn to strain, strain. He pushed us to our last limit, and we showed it out here today. We came out here and showed our mental focus. We just did it all, grinded it all out,” Scarlett said. “That was really fun. You know, every time we get the ball a lot, we always tell Coach, ‘Oh, we’re going to take over. We’re going to take control.’ The more he’ll trust us, the more we’ll do this thing.”