Sunday October 7, 2012Gators' Downhill Rushing Attack Eventually Wears Tigers Out
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At halftime of Saturday’s showdown against LSU, the Florida Gators had 47 yards of total offense and just 16 on the ground.
But trailed but just six points.
“I walked into the locker room and everyone was like, ‘Let’s go!’ “ UF offensive line coach Tim Davis said. “They knew -- we all knew -- it was only a matter of time. You could see it.”
Just how or why they knew wasn’t as clear to the 90,000-plus at Florida Field, but it all became crystal clear in the second half of the 10th-ranked Gators’ statement-making 14-6 defeat of the 10th-ranked and defending Southeastern Conference champion Tigers.
Senior tailback Mike Gillislee, after gaining just 34 yards in the first half against the nation’s No. 4 defense, finished with 146 yards on a career-high 34 attempts and two touchdowns, as the Gators (5-0, 4-0) overwhelmed the Tigers with a display of power football the likes of which had not been seen at Florida Field since Tim Tebow was here.
Arguably the best defensive front in the nation -- the Tigers were allowing just 83 yards per game rushing (8th in the nation) coming in -- was trampled for 176 yards on 58 carries, including 25 runs in UF’s last 25 snaps.
That’s ball control. That’s running downhill.
“We didn’t do anything different in the second half. We just stepped up, really,” junior right guard Jon Halapio said. “It was definitely a lineman’s dream out there. We trained for moments like this. We felt their defensive line was tired, especially toward the end. We basically out-physicaled them.”
Davis, who joined the UF staff last winter, praised the play-calling of offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who refused to give up on a running game that to the untrained eye may not have looked very effective.
“He called a great game. He never lost confidence,” Davis said. “He knew we were going to break one here, break one there, so he kept going. We all kept going.”
“I felt great at halftime, regardless of the stats,” Coach Will Muschamp said. “We had made some runs against a very good front [in the first half] and I felt we had some really good creases in the run game. Then, talking to Brent, he felt very confident as well. We felt very good at halftime with where we were regardless of what the score was. We knew the type of game it was going to be and the way it was going to be played.”
On UF’s second possession after halftime, Gillislee ran for 31 yards of an 85-yard drive, capping it with a 12-yard touchdown run into the teeth of the Tigers’ defense.
He wasn’t touched on the play.
“I saw a huge hole -- and just hit it,” Gillislee said.
The next possession, and with a 7-6 lead, the Gators marched 77 yards, with Gillislee logging five times for 42 yards, including the final 12 again.
And again he went in untouched.
Think about where this team was last year when after averaging 259 yards rushing through four games (just two vs. league foes), the Gators hit an SEC wall in October, averaging just 43.7 per game in consecutive losses to LSU, Alabama, Auburn and Georgia.
UF’s five-game numbers now show an average of 214.8 yards, with five of those games against SEC opponents, including this most recent gem.
And make that 548 yards and seven touchdowns for Gillislee through five games.
“I’ll take Gilly over anybody. I tell him that all the time and I mean that,” Muschamp said. “I felt that way in spring and going into fall camp. He’s a Will Muschamp guy. He doesn’t ever say anything. He does his job. He lines up, he runs the ball, and if you ask him to block, he’s going to block. You ask him to catch the ball he is going to catch it. He does everything we ask him to. He’s a program guy.”
Gillislee and the Gators were programed Saturday to pound and pound and pound until they finally gashed the Tigers.
“I could see they were tired,” Gillislee said. “I was kind of tired too, but I wasn’t going to let my team down.”
No, he was going to pick them up when they needed it most, and ride the surge of those big, confident fellas up front.
Think about it: 25 straight runs to end the game.
“Awesome,” UF left guard James Wilson said. “It doesn’t happen like that often, especially against a team like LSU. Their defensive front was the best we’ve seen this season by far.”