GatorZone.com Senior Writer
BATON ROUGE, La. – As Florida coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis continue to search for ways to spark an offense that is without its starting quarterback, they may have found a piece of the puzzle in junior running back Mike Gillislee.
Gillislee is no stranger. He plays regularly on special teams and rushed for a career-high 84 yards – including a 60-yard touchdown – in Florida’s win at Kentucky. Still, he mostly factors into the running game once Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have done their damage and are resting on the bench.
But in the Gators’ 41-11 loss to LSU on Saturday, Florida turned to Gillislee for much of the second half to pick up some tough yards and take the pressure off true freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Gillislee led the Gators with 56 yards on nine carries, showing his ability to run between the tackles against LSU’s formidable defensive line.
Running inside is difficult for the diminutive Rainey and Demps, so the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Gillislee offers a more rugged option for Florida’s offense.
“Mike was very effective in the game,’’ Muschamp said. “He runs hard, he runs with his pads down. He does a nice job in the run game and is doing a better job in protections. He needs to continue to work on catching the ball better out of the backfield.’’
If Gillislee can improve as a receiver and a blocker, he could get more playing time as Demps recovers from an ankle injury. Gillislee’s performance Saturday now gives him 240 yards for the season, only 88 fewer than he rushed for all last season.
TIME TO TACKLE
If you were on Twitter Saturday during the game, there was a common complaint among Gator fans about Florida’s performance. Starting a true freshman quarterback wasn’t the Gators’ problem according to fans – it was the inability to tackle LSU’s offensive weapons.
Three Gators had more than 10 tackles against the Tigers: linebacker Jon Bostic (13), safety Matt Elam (12) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (11). However, LSU running backs Spencer Ware and Alfred Blue consistently picked up yards after breaking tackles, a trend Muschamp wants to end.
“We have to find a way to stop the run,’’ he said. “Tackling is want-to to me. Either you want to do it or you don’t.’’
Senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard said the improvements must start in practice on Monday by going back to the basics.
“We have to go back to the fundamentals,’’ Howard said of the missed tackles. “We’ve got to start arm tackling and we have to run through the man. That’s one of the biggest things we have to work on as a whole unit.’’
Floyd was very succinct in his analysis of the defensive struggles the past two weeks to slow the running game. “The response was to come out and defeat the run,’’ Floyd said. “We just killed ourselves. That’s how we look at it.’’
QUOTE OF NOTE
“We had two guys assigned for the punt. They didn’t do their job. We had two guys that were assigned to do their job and they didn’t do it. They did what they wanted to do, and those guys aren’t going to play in our program anymore. Guys that just do what they want to do. It’s undisciplined football and that’s my fault, nobody else’s.’’ – Muschamp on the breakdown on special teams that allowed LSU punter Brad Wing to run free on a fake punt.
Kicker Caleb Sturgis has at least one field goal in all six games; Sturgis is now 13-for-14 on the season … Bostic recorded his team-leading third sack in the second quarter … The Gators dropped to 3-9 all-time against opponents ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll … The 30-point margin was the largest in a Florida loss since a 62-24 loss to Nebraska in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl … Jacoby Brissett’s 65-yard touchdown pass to Andre Debose was the longest TD pass in school history for a true freshman quarterback … Gators receiver Solomon Patton blocked his third career punt and second of the season … The Gators are now 3-2 all-time in the first career starts for a true freshman quarterback. Wayne Peace (1980), Jesse Palmer (1997) and Chris Leak (2003) won their first career starts; Donald Douglas (1989) and Brissett (2011) lost their debuts.