Sunday, December 17, 2017
Colleges

Florida Gators turn to running back Mike Gillislee to power offense

GAINESVILLE — Mike Gillislee set what some believe are unrealistic goals for the 2012 season.

At SEC Media Days in July, the Gator senior predicted he would rush for 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns.

He took a promising first step toward those goals during Florida's 27-14 win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

In July, coach Will Muschamp said Gillislee, Florida's third option out of the backfield behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, should have played more in 2011. He gained 5.9 yards per carry but rushed the ball just 56 times.

Saturday, he took advantage of his opportunity to start in the opener and set career highs in carries (24) and yards (148) and scored two touchdowns.

"I thought he played very well," Muschamp said of Gillislee, whose previous highs were 11 carries and 84 yards.

"He got the ball north and south and made some really nice runs; ran through some tackles and broke some tackles, and that was refreshing to see."

Trailing 7-0 entering the second quarter, Florida took to the ground, running the ball 10 consecutive plays after a 5-yard completion from Jeff Driskel to Trey Burton for a third-down conversion to open the quarter. Gillislee got half of those carries, one going for 17 yards and another a 15-yard touchdown.

"I told (new offensive coordinator Brent Pease), 'We're going to run the football,' " Muschamp said. "We need to establish what we are. You can't talk about it. You've got to be about it, and you've got to do it. We made the decision going into the game that's what we were going to do in the football game."

Two possessions later, the Gators began their drive from the Falcons 38 after a 16-yard punt. On the first play, Gillislee found a hole, took it up the sideline and into the end zone untouched to give Florida the lead.

"I just saw an opening, and I hit it," Gillislee said of both touchdowns.

The coaches leaned heavily on Gillislee as he touched the ball more than twice as many times as the other running backs combined. If the Gators need to rely on him just as much going forward, Gillislee said he won't be bothered.

"I carried the ball 24 times," he said, "and my body still feels the same."

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