Running attack changes game tempo

The Gators didn't showcase the explosive passing plays they were hoping to on Saturday, but for Florida head coach Will Muschamp, that didn't matter. He has seen them throughout fall camp to know that they'll come. Facing an up-tempo offense like Toledo, the Gators wanted to control the tempo of the game on the ground and keep their defense from being worn out in the second half.

So they kept that from happening with their play on offense.

The Gators ran the ball on 48 of 70 plays, trying to keep their offense on the field. If they tried to air it out and it ended in a three-and-out, the Florida defense would be thrown back on the field. Against a Toledo tempo that was expected to try running the Gators ragged, Muschamp wanted to keep his defense on the sideline for as long as possible.

"I really liked our balance offensively, when you're able to run it as effectively as we did," Will Muschamp said after Florida's 24-6 win. "We went into the game and didn't want to take 80-90 snaps on defense, so we wanted to be able to effectively run the football. And we did."

The Gators rushed for 262 yards, led by redshirt junior Mack Brown with 112 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns -- all career highs. The plan was to spread the ball around more during the first half, but Brown proved to be the hot hand, and the coaches didn't see a reason to give the ball to anyone else until the game was in hand.

There were times when Florida ran it at will, even with the depleted offensive line, against a Toledo offense giving four defensive linemen their first career starts.

Brown led the attack

The Gators scored on three of their five first-half drives before heading to the locker room. When they came out, it was ugly. Florida went three-and-out on offense during their first two drives. Despite the Gators trying to simulate a cool down halftime period during practices in The Swamp, they weren't able to carry the momentum into the second half.

"Start of the third quarter offensively was disappointing -- to go three-and-out with those two consecutive series," Muschamp said.

The passing game was efficient but didn't hit many deep throws.

Jeff Driskel ended the game 17-for-22 for 153 yards and one touchdown. His longest throw of the day -- a 26-yard strike to Trey Burton over the middle of the field -- came on the first drive of the game. Solomon Patton later dropped a deep throw and Driskel showed some touch on throws into the second level of the defense.

It wasn't there on Saturday, but after a win, Muschamp didn't seem to be concerned.

"We missed a couple down the field," Muschamp said. "We had some shots, and I'm disappointed we didn't hit those. Those are going to come. I've seen those hit all through camp. That's going to happen for us.

"I've got a lot of confidence before today, and I feel even more so after today. We're going to create the explosives with guys like Quinton Dunbar, Ahmad Fulwood, Demarcus Robinson. Those guys are all guys that the more they play, the better they're going to get."

INJURY REPORT: Florida left tackle D.J. Humphries exited the game during the second half and was getting attention on the trainer's table. Muschamp said he sprained his left MCL but "should be fine" for next weekend's game at Miami.

The Gators will also see plenty of other players return. Running back Matt Jones warmed up with the team in full pads but was held out as he continues to get in playing shape after a viral infection. He is expected to play at Miami.

Five Florida players were suspended on Saturday. Defensive tackle Darious Cummings, linebacker Antonio Morrison, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy and offensive lineman Quinteze Williams will all return to action next week at Miami. Wide receiver Latroy Pittman, who was also suspended, will miss the next two games.

PLAYING WELL DESPITE ABSENCES: With the suspensions and players held out because of injuries, Muschamp was happy with his team's play. The ‘man down, man up' motto that the coaching staff has preached since arriving in Gainesville is one the players echo and take to heart.

When Muschamp told the team last Thursday about the suspensions, he warned the team that new players would have to step up. It's a big reason he recruits players that aren't concerned about playing time and want to fight to get on the field.

"That's why you recruit," Muschamp said. "That's why you have a deep roster. That's why you recruit guys that don't ask you about the depth chart 400 times. You recruit guys that want to come in here and compete. Vernon Hargreaves didn't ask me about the depth chart.

"We were down eight guys that next week will be playing for us. Your job is to win the game, and that's what we did."

HARGREAVES BREAKS OUT:With Purifoy out, it forced Hargreaves onto the field. He was working out mostly as the team's nickel early in fall camp and had a chance to start at the position before a shoulder sprain forced him to miss about a week of camp.

When he came back on Monday, the coaches wanted to make it easy on him and force him to learn just one position. So they put him at cornerback and let his instincts take over.

Hargreaves on his interception return

His instincts were also a big reason for the interception. Hargreaves was physical off the line of scrimmage with the Toledo receiver, and after shadowing him on a move over the middle of the field, Hargreaves jumped the route for the first interception of his career. The Gators were in man coverage and trusted him alone outside while a stunt on the defensive line helped Jonathan Bullard get to the quarterback for the pressure.

"He made a fantastic play on a big receiver and a good player," Muschamp said of Hargreaves. "Really an outstanding play."

The coaches meet before every game to talk about which freshmen will see the field. For some of the players, there isn't a conversation to be had. That's what happened when Hargreaves' name was brought up in the coaches' meeting. They knew he would be on the field -- even if Purifoy wasn't suspended -- and that won't change going forward.

"He practices really good," Muschamp said. "That's how I look at it. I look at the guys that compete in practice every day and when I turn on the film, they're productive and play against good players. They don't back down from anybody. Very cerebral, very smart. The game comes very easy to him, and he works hard at it. He's in our offices all the time watching film. It's easy to play guys like him."


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