GatorZone.com Senior Writer
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tailback Mack Brown rushed for 112 yards and Jeff Driskel threw a second-half touchdown pass to fullback Gideon Ajagbe as the 10th-ranked Florida Gators extended their run of consecutive victories in season openers Saturday with a 24-6 victory over Toledo at the Swamp.
Make that 24 straight opening-day wins for the Gators (1-0), a string that dates to the 1990 season and ranks second in the nation to Nebraska’s 27.
Brown, the 5-foot-11, 215-pounder from Lithonia, Ga., made his starting debut due to the viral infection that has sidelined sophomore Matt Jones since the start of the preseason. Behind Brown, UF out-rushed UT 262-50 for the game, including 141-33 in the first half.
Driskel finished 17-of-22 for 153 yards, including the 4-yard toss to Ajagbe that pushed the Gators to an 18-point edge early in the final period.
It was the combination of Driskel and Brown who got things started for UF after defensive end Ronald Powell, seeing his first action since suffering a serious knee injury in the 2012 Orange & Blue Game, sacked Toledo quarterback Terrance Owens to thwart the Rockets’ opening possession.
Florida took its first possession of the game at the 16-yard line and drove 84 yards in 17 plays to score on a 1-yard blast by Brown. Along the way, Brown carried five times for 38 yards, including a 23-yard run.
The touchdown marked the first time UF had found the end zone on a season-opening drive since 2009.
The two teams traded field goals -- with Florida redshirt freshman Austin Hardin kicking a 24-yarder and Toledo’s Jeremiah Detmer good from 44 yards -- to make the score 10-3 in the second quarter, until the Gators put together another scoring drive.
A 29-yard run from backup tailback Valdez Showers, who was switched from safety during the preseason, was the big hitter on a 10-play, 83-yard drive that Brown capped by dragging a handful of Rockets into the end zone on a 14-yard that had the Gators up 17-3 at halftime.
Detmer’s 23-yard field goal at 10:03 of the third period drew UT within 17-6, but an interception and 15-yard return by freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III gave the Gators a first down at the Rockets’ 23.
Five plays later, Driskel hit a wide-open Ajagbe off play-action on third-and-goal for the final score of the game.