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Saturday November 24, 2012Gillislee and the Gators' Rushing Attack Eventually Wears Seminoles Down

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- He won't get to 1,600 yards and 24 touchdowns as he boldly predicted back at Southeastern Conference Media Days in July, but Mike Gillislee more than solidified his place in Florida football lore Saturday.

Gillislee, the senior tailback from Deland, Fla., rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a momentum-seizing 37-yarder for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter to help lead the seventh-ranked Gators to 37-26 vaporizing of host and 10th-ranked Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium.

In pounding away against the nation's top-ranked overall defense -- and No. 1 run defense, having allowed just 70.6 yards per game -- the 5-foot-11, 209-pound Gillislee became the eighth back in UF history to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau in a season (see chart below).

"Man, it feels great," Gillislee said after finishing the regular season with 1,104 yards and nine touchdowns, with still a bowl game to pad those numbers. "Our offensive line's been doing a great job, so they get all the credit."

Gillislee deserves a little bit.

He entered the year with 930 career yards, having spent the previous three seasons mostly spelling Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps.

When Coach Will Muschamp vowed the Florida offense would become a downhill, ball-control, physical running game, he tagged Gillislee as his go-to guy.

The Gators went to him, and off they went on Gillislee's back.

"I told him before the game, the one thing I wanted to see from him tonight was to get that [1,000-yard season]," nose tackle and fellow senior Omar Hunter said. "I'm so proud of him. He works hard every day and never complains about anything."

Gillislee is the first UF back to reach 1,000 yards since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

Even Muschamp was surprised at the drought.

"The first running back with 1,000 yards since [2004] at the University of Florida?" Muschamp said. "That speaks where we're headed as an offense."

Or where they already are.

The Gators came in ranked third in the Southeastern Conference at 189.5 yards per game. They left Tally with 244 more yards on the ground, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

The gaudy numbers against the Seminoles defense impressed Muschamp.

They did not, however, surprise him.

"We had a lot of confidence with our ability to run the football," Muschamp said. "We've run it well vs. everybody. We've run it well vs. better defenses."

Bang.

Gillislee could sense as the game wore on -- especially in a fourth quarter when the Gators trampled FSU for 117 yards on the ground -- that the ground attack was wearing down the home team.

"I could see in some of the players' faces that they were giving up," Gillislee said. "The offensive line saw that, too. We were just going to keep hitting them in the mouth. That's what we did."

As Muschamp pointed out in his post-game news conference, FSU did not face many two-back running teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. His players were hammered with that point all during the week.

"We didn't think anyone had tried to come at them with power, power, power," sophomore wide receiver Quinton Dunbar said. "We felt we had the edge because we we're a team that was going to come with power."

And some counter also, which worked too, especially late in the game as the Gators rallied from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take over the game.

"The coaches told us to finish the game," Gillislee said. "That's what we did."

1,000-YARD GATORS 

Yards     Back                      Year 

1,599      Emmitt Smith       1989

1,341      Emmitt Smith       1987

1,307      Jimmy DuBose    1975

1,292      Fred Taylor           1997

1,289      Errict Rhett            1993

1,267      Ciatrick Fason      2004

1,109      Errict Rhett            1991

1,104      Mike Gillislee        2012

 

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