Muschamp Focused on Establishing the Run

The game plan was simple. Run. And run a lot. Will Muschamp didn't give offensive coordinator Brent Pease much of a choice. The Florida coach wanted to show the mindset he has instilled in his players since taking the job at Florida. It handcuffed the offensive creativity Florida could have shown in Saturday's 27-14 win over Bowling Green, but that isn't what Muschamp wanted to accomplish.

"I told Brent, "Run." We need to develop toughness in our program in what we're trying to do," Will Muschamp said after the game. "On my part, probably a little hard headed at times."

"I was very stubborn about wanting to run the ball. You can preach a certain sermon over and over and over again, but until you're willing to go do it in front of The Gator Nation, the fans… it's not what you're actually about. We're going to be a physical organization. You've got to do it. You can't talk about it."

On a day that was supposed to be dedicated to seeing which quarterback looked the best and would be the front runner to start, Muschamp went a different direction. The Gators ran the ball 42 times for 239 yards and threw it 21 times for 145 yards. The focus was the ground game from the moment the Gators took over possession in the first quarter.

Mike Gillislee carried the ball during 24 of the 42 rushes. Mack Brown and Omarius Hines had four carries while freshman Matt Jones and Jeff Driskel had three. Solomon Patton, Jacoby Brissett and Hunter Joyer each had one rush.

"It was very obvious watching the game today," Muschamp said about the game plan. "Brent is a lot more imaginative. I told him we were going to run the football and needed to establish what we are. You can't talk about it, you've got to be about it and do it. We made the decision going into the game that's what we were going to do.

"I was very pleased with…the physicality in the run game."

Despite Muschamp being happy with the physicality at the line of scrimmage, the Gators actually struggled to run the ball in critical times. In situations of 3rd and 2 or shorter, Florida converted just one of its eight opportunities.

"We need to convert those third and short opportunities," Muschamp said. "That was a little disappointing."

The Gators got Jones involved in the run game early. The 6-2, 226-pound freshman is tough to miss in the backfield, and he made his stamp on the game with a 17-yard run on the first carry of his collegiate career that featured a spin move to gain extra yardage.

However, he got an important fourth down carry where the freshman tried to stretch the play outside inside of getting the two yards necessary for the first down.

"He should've cut. He should've went north and south, and that's what I told him coming off the field," Muschamp said. "In that situation, you've got to understand the sticks. It's not about hitting a home run on 3rd and 4. It's about sticking your foot in the ground and getting north and south. He knows that. Matt is very intelligent and will learn from that."

The focus now becomes opening the offense up more for the rest of the season. The challenge is that Florida will have to do that against much tougher defenses in future weeks. The season opener allowed Muschamp to emphasize the run-first team he wants to build, but the Gators will now be focused on opening up the passing game when they head to College Station next weekend for Texas A&M's first game in the SEC.

"As our competition heats up a little bit, we've got to be willing to open up our offense a little more. And we will," Muschamp said. "That's something that—it's a long season. You've got to understand that it's not about emptying your bullets in game one. You've got to win the game, do what you can to win the game, and that's what we did."

Muschamp's hope is that the focus on the run game will force opponents to look more at that aspect of the offense, helping to open up shots downfield in the passing game. He said that there were parts of the offense that were "purposely" put out for opponents to see on film and prepare for.

The Gators are just hoping the results are more impressive in College Station.


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