The Gators pounded out 129 rushing yards against the Tigers, led by 99 of them from junior running back Kelvin Taylor. The rushing yards aren’t close to where the Florida staff wants them to me, but it is progress and the most yards the Gators have run for in any of their four conference games.
That was especially important in a low scoring game the Gators faced on Saturday. After jumping out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, Florida was able to control the ball, bleed the clock and dominate time of possession 37:53-22:07. Taylor’s tough running was the key, carrying the ball 28 times for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
“My dad always preaches about finishing,” Taylor said on the postgame radio show. “That’s all I was trying to do, just finish my runs and hit the runs. If I see the hole, hit it. Don’t take my time. That’s one thing my father always talked to me about. I went into the game doing that, and we had a great game. My offensive line did a great job.”
McElwain’s only disappointment with the running game came in the fourth quarter. The Gators were holding onto a 21-3 lead and were only able to convert three first downs in the fourth quarter, and two of them came through the air.
“Disappointed at the end we can’t just take a four-minute drive and put a nail in it,” McElwain said. “There’s guys that are still getting better. They’re far from a veteran group, and I’m sure glad they’re Gators.”
GRIER GOES BACK TO OLD HABITS
When Grier was struggling early in the season, it happened when he tucked the ball and decided to run out of a clean pocket. Those issues started to creep up again as the game went on Saturday. The redshirt freshman ended the game 20-33 for 208 yards, adding seven rush attempts and gaining 28 yards. However, McElwain wants him to sit in the pocket and allow routes to develop.
“He got spooked and saw some ghosts,” McElwain said. “I didn’t think he played really good, but he played great because he didn’t throw it to their colored jersey. That’s important. He’s a redshirt freshman, learning how to play the game. The first couple drives he was on target. Something spooked him, and he didn’t set his feet on some throws.”
McElwain stressed the positives from Grier’s game were that he didn’t turn the ball over, something the Florida offense hasn’t done since the first half of the Tennessee game on September 26.
However, the Florida coach was hoping to see more progress from the offense. It showed many positive signs against then-ranked No. 3 Ole Miss last week, but McElwain wanted to see more at Missouri.
“We can be better offensively and we have been,” McElwain said. “It’s disappointing because I thought we were headed in the right direction. After the first couple drives, I was like, ‘OK, we’re hitting it and playing fast.’ All of a sudden we hit a lull. I’ve got to challenge our guys up front. We’ve got to dominate the line of scrimmage.”
Kicker Austin Hardin hasn’t played since Florida’s road game at Kentucky on September 19, forcing walk-on Jorge Powell into action. Powell is 2-3 on field goals, but there are serious questions about the position for the rest of the season after he missed a 36-yarder at Missouri.
McElwain said he’s unsure when Hardin will return, but the first-year coach insists he still has confidence in Powell despite lining up a fake field goal in the second half.
“He just shanked the one,” McElwain said. “I probably shouldn’t have called the fake. I wanted more points. I’m the guilty one there. We’ll be fine. The energy will be good. Him kicking it out of bounds early gave them some momentum, and yet every other kickoff was really good with good height and gave us a chance to cover. He’ll be fine. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him.”
LEADING THE EAST
Florida has a two-game lead in the loss column over every team in the SEC East except Kentucky, who has one loss and the Gators maintain the tiebreaker. McElwain credited the 6-0 start to his players understanding what it takes to be successful.
“They’re really understanding what it takes every single day. We’ve got to focus on the now to be successful. They’re starting to see the ‘why’ and that’s good.”
That doesn’t mean he was ready to look to the future. Florida still has SEC East games against Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt on the schedule with a difficult game at LSU next weekend on the schedule. The SEC East lead doesn’t mean much to McElwain if the Gators don’t continue to prepare well.
“It doesn’t matter because if we don’t practice well Monday and stay focused on Tuesday and don’t pay attention to detail on Wednesday, then on Saturday, you’re going to lose,” McElwain said.