LEXINGTON, Ky. — Three games into his season, Matt Jones finally broke out.
Though he struggled in his first two games after returning from a viral infection, the Florida sophomore rushed for 176 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries against Kentucky in No. 20 Florida's 24-7 win Saturday.
"It just takes some time," coach Will Muschamp said. "We all knew that a little bit, and you don't ever want to admit it, because Matt's a good football player.
"But when you miss four weeks, a month, maybe a little over a month of exercise and activity, it's going to … shut your body down a little bit."
Jones got off to a slow start again against the Wildcats.
The former Armwood High standout scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give Florida a 7-0 lead, but he had only 12 rushing yards on six attempts in the first quarter.
But when the Gators began their second drive of the second quarter, Jones stretched the Wildcats defense for the longest run of his career.
He received a handoff from quarterback Tyler Murphy and made his way to Kentucky's sideline, racing past defenders and cutting inside toward the middle of the field.
Jones seemed on his way to a touchdown, but wide receiver Quinton Dunbar, trying to run past his teammate and make a block, pushed Jones in the back, causing him to fall. Jones had to settle for a 67-yard carry.
"I was downfield, trying to cut back and go the other way and beat the corner out," Jones said. "But Dunbar had came across, and he was trying to block the corner, too, but I didn't really see him out of the corner of my eye. He kind of hit my leg."
Jones' run propelled him to an average of 6.3 yards per carry Saturday, more than 3 yards better than his average in his first two games.
Florida relied on Jones to close out its victory, turning to him nine times in the fourth quarter to run out the clock. He carried the ball on five straight handoffs before Murphy kneeled to end the game.
"I'm going to get the ball like mostly every play," Jones said of closing out games. "But I ran hard, you know. I needed to get the first down every couple plays. And I just took that in my hands."