Jones trying to let loose

Florida's sophomore running back ran for 176 yards on Saturday against Kentucky. It marked the first time he crossed the 100-yard mark as a Gator. As a backup a year ago he didn't expect to cross that threshold often, but heading into this season it was supposed to be a weekly benchmark. Getting his strength back after an illness, Jones feels better now.

For Matt Jones, it was a long time coming. It may have taken three games into the season for Matt Jones, but when he finally notched his 100-plus yard game, he did it in grand fashion. Totaling 176 yards on 28 carries and recording a 67 yard run in the process, Jones actually had more rushing yards than the Gators foe, Kentucky, had in total offense. For Jones, it was a sigh of a relief for something he had been waiting on.

"It was definitely for me, my first 100-yard game," Jones told the media Monday. "It definitely was a weight off my shoulders, definitely feel very comfortable now."

There has been some pressure put out there by Florida head coach Will Muschamp. He isn't handing anyone the job at running back. He is looking for the guy that has the hot hand and that is how he sees the position for now. If a back performs early in the game, he wants to get them the ball more so they can push it even farther. The guy with the hot hand is going to get the bulk of the carries on game day.

"It was definitely a lot of pressure with coach saying hot hand, knowing that the position was kind of open," Jones said after Muschamp let them all know it would be this way. "But we feel very confident with all our backs, everybody's a good SEC back. So it was definitely a lot of pressure on me, but I just took it up my hands to go out there and do what I had to do."

Still, Jones likely wasn't expecting to get the ball 28 times in the running game on Saturday, even more than he did in high school.

"That was a lot," he said. "I probably got the ball 20 to 25 times a game, not 28."

The next day, he felt it.

"I was sore, big-time sore," he said.

For jones it has been a kind of journey back to where he wants to be. He contracted a virus during the summer that forced him out of all of pre-season drills. He also missed the first game against Toledo on August 31, before hurrying back maybe a little too early against Miami the next week.

"In my mind, I was very mentally prepared but my body physically wasn't ready," Jones admitted Monday. "I was just telling myself, I was ready, I was ready those whole two weeks and I really wasn't. It was just a mind thing. I wasn't really ready and I was telling my mind to go. I just got better through this week, though, and I felt like I was really getting better physically."

He still believes there is a little more left of him that we haven't seen this season.

"It's still to get to 100 percent," he said of what is next for him. "And just to get better every day. I just want to win, that's all it is around here… wanting to win."

With the illness and the competition at the position, Jones may have been a little timid in his approach. A couple of early season fumbles have been big for him and were a part of him shying away from opening things up. Florida head coach Will Muschamp talked to Jones last week and told him to just play his game, mistakes happen and Muschamp said he would take the blame there. He wanted Jones to open up the throttle a little bit.

"Yeah, Monday morning he told me to walk into his office," Jones said of the conversation. "I came in and he was just like, ‘just cut it loose, just let the Matt Jones I know let loose Saturday, stop just being timid, stop waiting' and stuff like that. He just told me stuff to do and cut it loose."

It was a conversation similar to one he had a year ago when he also cut it loose and started to perform at a higher level.

"In the middle of the season he just told me to run, and run hard, run like we recruited as and stuff like that," Jones said. "It was kind of a similar conversation."

Friendly Fire

If not for a teammate, Jones would have likely had a second touchdown. In his excitement and with the speed of the action, junior receiver Quinton Dunbar actually caused the tackle that stopped Jones from possibly scoring on his 67 yard jaunt in the second quarter. Jones had no idea when it happened, exactly what had happened.

"I wasn't really mad at him," he said of Dunbar. "I know he was trying to make a good effort and making a block. But I really didn't, I thought a Kentucky Wildcat had tackled me. But until I saw the replay on the big screen, I was like, ‘Ohh!.' But we're good now. It was just fun."

Big Task This Week

The running game will be on display Saturday from both sidelines. Arkansas comes to Gainesville and will employ a two-back set and down-hill running game. The Razorbacks may be the best team Florida has faced so far this season and the competition in the running game will be a good one.

After Saturday's performance in Lexington where the Gators ran for 246 yards, Jones and the offensive line are feeling a lot better about things.

"They definitely enjoyed the game Saturday," he said of his offensive line. "At the end of the game we were in the huddle just laughing. They like to go over 200 yards a game. They definitely enjoyed it. They told me after the game they had a great time out there and getting me back, seeing myself the same as last year.

"Definitely this week knowing we have to run the ball a lot downhill… they definitely feel real good about it. I talked to some of the O-linemen today, and they feel really proud about it."

The Razorbacks come to town with one of the better freshman players in the country. Alex Collins is a terrific back from South Florida and is averaging over 100 yards a game for Arkansas. The quiet competition between the Florida and Arkansas backs will be something to watch.

"When you are a running back there's definitely competition when you see a running back on the other side that is real talented and stuff," Jones said. "I just like to see running backs produce and stuff like that. He's a real good running back. I would like to see him out there.

"There's definitely going to be a competition. Going into an SEC game, you know you got the other running back over there. You know you're going to compete with him."

Understanding the plight of a freshman

In the college game, there is so much to learn. Offenses and defenses alike are intricate and meticulous and with all of the other things going on around a freshman at a new school, sometimes they don't get on the field as fast as an Alex Collins. Kelvin Taylor is one of those freshmen that is just having to wait until he is ready to get his chance. Jones can relate.

"He has a great work ethic," Jones said of Taylor. "Sometimes when you don't get in as a freshman it is kind of hard of you coming from high school, like I was last year. I was kind of the same way, like why wasn't I getting in. But sometimes, you're not ready for the SEC or whatever. I think he's ready. It's not my decision. But his demeanor is great in practice."

Taylor has been asking Jones about biding his time and how to cope.

"When he first got here, definitely he asked me how did I take everything sometimes," Jones said. "How did I take games not getting in, and I just gave him my outlook on it. He took it like that, and he's just taking it cool right now."


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