Thursday, February 22, 2018
Colleges

Florida Gators' Mike Gillislee pounds LSU Tigers for 146 yards

GAINESVILLE — It looked as if Mike Gillislee had finally met his match.

Florida was held scoreless in the first half of Saturday's 14-6 win over LSU as its senior running back, who entered as the third-leading rusher in the SEC, was held to 34 yards on 12 carries, 3 fewer than his season average.

He wasn't deterred.

"I knew that I wasn't going to let my team down," Gillislee said. "I knew that I was just going to keep pounding it up."

Gillislee's confidence in himself was matched by his coaches, who believed the best course of action was to stay on the ground despite pedestrian first-half numbers.

Coach Will Muschamp said the staff saw opportunities in the run game that just didn't result in big plays.

"I kept telling (offensive coordinator Brent Pease), just stick with the run," Muschamp said. "We're going to be fine."

Their persistence was rewarded. Gillislee found room to run in the second half, and he finished the game with 34 rushes for 146 yards and two touchdowns.

Gillislee and the run game wore down the LSU defense in the second half. Against a defense that entered fourth overall in Division I-A, the Gators ran 34 times for 160 yards in the second half and passed four times. Twenty-two of those carries went to Gillislee.

"We just kept attacking them," center Jon Harrison said. "If you think about it, it's a brick-wall mentality.

If you keep hammering at the brick wall, it's eventually going to go down."

The first sign of that wall crumbling was Florida's second series of the third quarter.

With LSU leading 6-0, Gillislee followed a 14-yard Jordan Reed catch that began the drive with consecutive 7-yard runs. Later in the drive, Gillislee scored from 12 yards as he followed left guard James Wilson and left tackle Xavier Nixon as they pulled to the right.

"I saw the opening, and I just hit it," Gillislee said.

On Florida's next drive, Gillislee carried six times for 46 yards and capped it with another 12-yard touchdown run that put the Gators up by the final score.

Florida ran the ball on its last 22 plays, with Gillislee getting 15 of those carries. Muschamp said he has no qualms asking his running back to carry such a big load.

"That's what 'Gilly' does," Muschamp said. "He moves the chains over and over again. You get kind of tired of tackling him."

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