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UF ground game back on sure footing

For 10 consecutive quarters, the Florida running game had been lost.

But in the second half of the Gators' 28-21 win against Louisiana State on Saturday, it was unearthed from beneath the bandages of past injuries. And just in time.

With the Gators' offense reeling from two poor outings in a row, tailbacks Errict Rhett and Kedra Malone returned to form, providing the Gators with a healthy backfield and a much-needed lift. That's all the Gators needed to take advantage of the Tigers' weak run defense.

"I think we did a good job of running the ball today," said Rhett, who played at full speed for the first time since spraining his ankle three weeks ago against Tennessee. "I wouldn't say the running game is totally all the way back, but we're catching up."

The second-half rushing surge began on the Gators' second offensive series. With Florida holding a 14-13 lead early in the third quarter, the Gators looked to the running game for help.

And for the first time since the season-opening win against Kentucky, the running game responded. During the Gators' 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive, Malone and Rhett each carried the ball three times, combining for 22 yards.

The most important of those yards came on Rhett's 1-yard scoring run, the Gators' second touchdown rushing this season. Rhett added to that on the next series, scoring from a yard out and giving Florida a 28-13 lead with 12:31 left.

"Errict was running hard as usual and Kedra made some nice runs," Florida coach Steve Spurrier said. "Kedra has the ability to make guys miss."

Malone, playing for the first time this season after sustaining a sprained left knee the first week of practice, gained 30 yards on seven carries. It also was Malone's first action since 1990. Last season, he was a medical redshirt.

"I felt great," Malone said. "I'm back and I'm able to go. Hopefully, the coaches aren't afraid to put me in. I think I showed today that I'm able to run the ball."

Rhett also proved that. He finished with 95 yards on 28 carries, his best performance since a 193-yard effort in the season opener. Together, the two combined for 125 yards, 94 of which came in the second half.

The Gators' ability to run with consistency also cleared the way for Florida's passing attack. During the second half, quarterback Shane Matthews was at his best, completing 10 of 12 passes for 115 yards.

"When we run the ball effectively, that opens up our passing game," Rhett said.

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