GAINESVILLE —After three weeks out of the spotlight, Mike Gillislee took center stage again on Saturday.
The senior running back ran for 68 yards on 16 carries and caught the winning 45-yard touchdown on a screen pass to lead Florida past Missouri 14-7 in the Gators' final SEC game of the season at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Since rushing for 146 yards on 34 carries in the Gators' 14-6 win over LSU on Oct. 6, the senior running back had gained just 181 yards in his past three games on an average of 3.1 yards per rush.
"I told (offensive coordinator Brent Pease) going into the game we were going to be a little hard-headed with Gilly today," coach Will Muschamp said. "We were going to get him today."
While Florida went scoreless in the first half, Gillislee was effective from the start.
On his second carry of the game, with the Gators backed up on their 11-yard line, Gillislee hit a hole cleared by right guard Jon Halapio of St. Petersburg Catholic and broke into the secondary for a 23-yard gain. The run was Gillislee's longest since his 45-yard scamper in Florida's 37-20 win over Tennessee on Sept. 15.
"Gilly is a phenomenal running back, man," Florida tight end Omarius Hines said. "Whenever he gets the ball, he makes stuff happen."
The Gators rushed for a total of 173 yards, 35 more than the Tigers' defense was allowing on the ground per game before Saturday. Muschamp credited the offensive line with clearing the way for Gillislee in the run game.
"I think the counter game was working very well," Muschamp said. "I think it was blocked extremely well by our offensive line. There were some things open that I think we did a really good job with against a solid front."
Two plays after Frankie Hammond's 43-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was negated by a holding call on Halapio, quarterback Jeff Driskel hit Gillislee with a short screen pass to the right. Gillislee cut upfield, picked up a block from center Jonotthan Harrison and ran into the end zone untouched to break the 7-7 tie.
"I knew it was a touchdown," Hines said. "As soon as he caught it, I already knew because that's Gilly. That's what Gilly does."
In Florida's 17-9 loss to Georgia last week in Jacksonville, Gillislee was responsible for the longest play of the game: a 29-yard completion on a screen. Harrison said that executing screen plays can often be difficult, but once Gillislee gets the ball, things get easier.
"He's dangerous in space," Harrison said. "He's real dangerous in space and I love him for that. When you think he's down, he's really not down. He's still going. He's got a high motor and we love that about him."