Friday, November 24, 2017
Colleges

No. 10 Florida Gators top Toledo 24-6

RECOMMENDED READING


GAINESVILLE — Florida's roster was depleted by eight players, including five starters. But under coach Will Muschamp's mantra, the Gators are expected to respond as if nobody's missing.

Saturday afternoon, they did so accordingly.

Playing at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in oppressive heat, surrounded by loads of empty seats, the No. 10 Gators relied on an early dominating rushing game, solid defense and big plays from newcomers to defeat Toledo 24-6 in front of an announced crowd of 83,604.

It was the 24th consecutive season-opening victory for Florida, which played without three offensive starters due to injuries and five players overall due to suspensions.

"I announced to our team last Thursday that we were going to be down some guys," Muschamp said. "I told them exactly who they were. They made a mistake, and we have consequences in our program.

"Our players understand that, and we move forward. They've understood that we're not going to make excuses at Florida regardless of injury, sickness, whatever the situation may be. So we're just going to move forward. That's why you recruit, and that's why you have a deep roster."

The roster's depth was evident immediately.

Junior Mack Brown had six of the Gators' first 11 carries. On their first possession, he rushed six times for 39 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown that made it 7-0 with 6:46 remaining in the first quarter.

Brown started for Matt Jones, the Armwood High graduate who's recovering from a viral infection, and finished with 112 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

Meanwhile, Jeff Driskel, beginning his second season as the starting quarterback, completed his first seven passes, completed passes to eight receivers and finished 17-of-22 for 153 yards and a touchdown.

"In the first half, we kind of hurt ourselves a couple of drives. But other than that, they couldn't really stop anything we were throwing at them," said Driskel, who lost a fumble while sacked during the second quarter, leading to a Rockets field goal.

"I thought we distributed the ball well. We were throwing the ball well. A lot of guys caught the balls and made big plays."

For all of Florida's offensive power in the first half, recording 242 yards and taking a 17-6 lead, it had just 51 yards and seemed poised to go scoreless during the third quarter until a momentum-changer from freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

The graduate of Tampa's Wharton High picked off a pass from Terrance Owens, setting up a 4-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Gideon Ajagbe.

"We're very happy for him," senior cornerback Jaylen Watkins said of Hargreaves. "We lost some guys last year, and we need those kind of guys to come in and step up. We look forward to it and embrace them. He really did exactly what we asked him (all game)."

Despite the win, there were signs of the problems that plagued the Gators last season — most notably penalties. The Gators were 115th among 124 Division I-A teams last season at 68.8 yards per game. Saturday, they were penalized 10 times for 70 yards. Three of the Gators' four offside penalties came on third or fourth down.

"The self-inflicted issues hurt us again," Muschamp said. "We've got to secure the ball a little better. We've got to protect a little better. But I'm very pleased with the win. Whenever you line up, you want to win."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @TBTimes_Gators.

   
Comments
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

It’s a Thanksgiving Football Wednesday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones preview the Bucs-Falcons game, USF-UCF, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan and more.The guys agree on the Bucs game outcome with Rick saying they can’t win. They also agree that Tha...
Published: 11/22/17

Call Missouri jinxed, but Michael Porter Jr. injury is its own story

Please repeat after me: There is no such thing as jinxes, hexes, ghosts or cartoonish black clouds looming with personalized curses for select targets.Honest.But, boy, are there coincidences — even if some say there is no such thing as those, either....
Published: 11/21/17

Chip Kelly is not the best candidate for Florida job

For the sake of a beleaguered and bedraggled fan base, here’s hoping Chip Kelly becomes the next head coach of the Florida Gators even though I think he’s not a great fit — culturally, geographically and philosophically — at UF.Gator Nation needs som...
Published: 11/21/17

Lane Kiffin knows speculation about his future grows with each victory

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin already knows what profession he will choose once his coaching career ends.Kiffin, in his first season at Florida Atlantic, thinks he is destined to join the sports-media ranks. It will provide him opportunity to switch roles...
Published: 11/21/17
Jones: Maybe the Florida job isn’t as good as we thought

Jones: Maybe the Florida job isn’t as good as we thought

These are strange, unsettling times for the University of Florida.The Gators need themselves a football coach.They offer a terrific job. Maybe one of the best jobs in the country.Right?Uh, right? (nervous laugh)Well, we’ll soon find out. Maybe this i...
Published: 11/21/17
UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

UF has little to say after meeting with Kelly

GAINESVILLE — At last, there’s some actual smoke to the Chip Kelly-Florida rumors.The Gators sent a group — including president Kent Fuchs and athletic director Scott Stricklin — to New Hampshire on Sunday to talk with the former Oregon coach about U...
Published: 11/20/17
No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

No. 2 Miami finishes on 30-0 run, tops Virginia 44-28

MIAMI — After Miami clinched the first Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division crown in program history, upset the then-No. 3 team in the country, claimed one of the top four spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and after many of the nat...
Published: 11/18/17
Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

Florida State routs Delaware State 77-6

TALLAHASSEE — Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher longed for his team to play in this type of game throughout its disappointing season.After Hurricane Irma caused a three-week layoff between FSU’s first two games, forcing it to play 11 in a row to finis...
Published: 11/18/17
A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

A welcome return to dominance for the Florida defense

GAINESVILLE — Chauncey Gardner wasn’t fooled. He saw UAB snap the ball. He saw the quarterback throw a screen. He saw the receiver fire a second pass downfield. Then a crowd of 84,649 saw the sophomore safety high-point the trick-play pass to earn hi...
Published: 11/18/17