Smash mouth offense sparks upset

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Will Muschamp came into the offensive line meeting room on Tuesday with a message. Florida’s hopes against Georgia relied on every player in that room.

And on Saturday against the Bulldogs, it worked. The Florida offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. They knew what was coming -- a physical game where they would have to open up holes for the Florida running backs to take the pressure off freshman quarterback Treon Harris, who earned his first start.

The run game worked early, and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper never found a need to go away from it, as the Gators cruised to a 38-20 win on Saturday.

“He made it very clear to us that this will be a physical game and we have to bring the fight to them,” Florida left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “That’s exactly what we did.”

The Gators threw the ball six times. It seemed impossible to win like that, but with the way the offensive linemen dominated the line of scrimmage and kept Georgia from getting push, it worked to perfection early. And then it kept working.

Under center or in shotgun, it didn’t matter. Florida ran the ball 60 times for 418 yards, the fifth most in program history. It was the most rushing yards against Georgia in records dating back to 1965. The previous high was 258 yards.

It was also the second most yards ever allowed by a Georgia defense. The Bulldogs came into Saturday with the 13th best run defense in the country, allowing just 105.1 yards per game.

The more Matt Jones and Kelvin Taylor touched it, the more success they had. They combined for 389 yards and four touchdowns, good for 7.8 yards per carry. The better they ran, the less Florida needed Harris to throw, which he did one time in the second half. The game ended with 29 straight Florida rushes.

“We actually did have a plan to throw some passes in the game,” Will Muschamp said. “I know I’ll still disappoint a bunch of Florida fans with it, but why stop running the ball when you’re able to gain yards?”

The offense dominated the edge, allowing Jones and Taylor to beat Georgia defenders to the sideline and produce multiple long runs.

What happened on Saturday wasn’t a surprise to Muschamp. He has seen the potential for a dominant rushing offense all season, and coming off a bye week, the players and coaches were confident it was coming.

“I think a lot of our issues offensively have been confidence, have been timidity,” Muschamp said. “For whatever reason, whether it is one position, two positions we got to have some success. We needed to have some success and we needed to have some today.”

But no one expected this much success. As the clock ticked down late in the fourth quarter, the Florida players were able to enjoy the sights and sounds on the winning side of Everbank Field. Players and coaches hugged, watching the red and black on the opposite sideline stream out of the stadium.

All of a sudden, the talk of Muschamp’s job security and the team’s recent struggles against Georgia disappeared. There’s still a lot more work left to be done for this Florida offense to be functional and get to the level they want to be at, but that can be worked on in the coming weeks.

Saturday night was about enjoying a night that was a long time coming for the Gators.

“That’s not glitz, glamor and pretty. But it’s what we needed today,” Muschamp said with a grin.

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