As he sat with his left leg heavily wrapped during most of Saturday's game against LSU, Florida starting RB Matt Jones and the staff held out hope that his injured knee was just a bad sprain.
On Sunday it was revealed to be much more serious.
The Armwood alum suffered a torn meniscus and is out for the season. He is the fifth Florida starter to suffer a season-ending injury this year, the third in the past month, joining QB Jeff Driskel (broken fibula) and DT Dominique Easley (ACL). Seven Gators have had season-ending injuries.
Jones had surgery Monday morning. The sophomore spent last season playing behind Mike Gillislee, then earned the starting job in the spring and had high expectations for this season. Jones contracted a severe viral infection in early August and missed fall camp. He returned to practice the week leading up to the opener but didn't play until the second game.
"I'm not trying to be hard line here, but it's part of the game," coach Will Muschamp said. "Very unfortunate. I hate it for Matt. He's a great young man, to go through what he's been through this fall. (He was) working his way back in shape and starting to feel good about himself … to have this setback is just disheartening for all of us."
Freshman RB Kelvin Taylor will split time with Mack Brown. Former walk-on Mark Herndon is listed at third string, and FB Hunter Joyer could also see more time.
Jones has 339 yards on 79 carries in five games, with two TDs.
POSITION IN TURMOIL: For several weeks Muschamp has been saying he's tempted to take the redshirt off freshman punter Johnny Townsend, and now he's following through. With P Kyle Christy struggling, Townsend will start at Missouri on Saturday. The No. 22 Gators are 13th in the SEC in punting, averaging 34.7 yards. Christy was one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award (nation's best punter) last season and averaged 44.3 yards on 96 punts. Muschamp said Christy's trouble appears to be mental.
"We've looked at his swing and different things, we've looked at all those things," Muschamp said. "We've tried to make some corrections as far as his drop is concerned, as far as the placement is concerned, as far as the swing is concerned. It comes to a point where we've got to see some production, and right now we're just not getting it. I think Kyle's going to be fine. We just need to work through this time."
Muschamp has also replaced scholarship kicker Austin Hardin with walk-on Frankie Velez, who hit two field goals against LSU.
UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY: The Gators will play at Missouri for the first time in school history, and Florida players said they are unsure what type of environment they'll face.
"I'm not sure if anyone's ever been to Missouri," QB Tyler Murphy said. "I've never been. … We're definitely going to have to be mentally focused and locked in and not get caught up in being in a new atmosphere and new place."
The No. 14 Tigers will be without senior QB James Franklin, who sprained his shoulder Saturday against Georgia and will miss three to five weeks. Backup redshirt freshman Maty Mauk led Missouri on its final two scoring drives in the win, but has played sparingly. He is 5-of-6 for 41 yards.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said he does not plan to change the offense to accommodate a less-experienced player.