Gators ignore stats, run well on FSU

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The statistics weren't in Florida's favor. Florida State came into Saturday with the nation's top rush defense, allowing 70.6 yards per game and 2.3 yards per carry. The Gators ran for 244 yards at Doak Campbell Stadium, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. It didn't surprise head coach Will Muschamp as much as the stats suggested. Florida knew it could run the ball.

"We had a lot of confidence coming in here to be able to run the football," Will Muschamp said. "We've run it well versus everybody. We've run it well versus better defenses."

On paper, the Seminoles were the top defense in the country before Saturday. It wasn't the case when the game was over. The Florida offensive line was as healthy as it has been since the Georgia game, and it showed on the ground. The health issues played a big role in the offensive line's struggles in recent weeks.

The statistics all pointed in Florida State's favor, but the confidence in Florida's running game came from what the film showed. The Seminoles hadn't seen a rushing attack like the one the Gators wanted the use.

"When you turn on the tape and watch Florida State, they don't watch many two-back, power running teams in their league," Muschamp said. "It's a lot of that one-back stuff. You better learn how to fit the power and the counter when you play Florida."

The physicality in the offensive line was evident from the start. The Gators didn't have to rush players back from injury in the last two weeks with lesser opponents on the field, so the unit was healthy. It made a big difference as the Florida line blocked a talented Florida State line that features multiple NFL prospects.

"It's a very good defense," Muschamp said. "My point is we've faced some really good teams, and we've blocked them all. Since the Georgia game, Xavier Nixon and Jimmy Wilson haven't been healthy. It has been an issue with our offensive line. We've had some issues."

The individual achievement of the game went to running back Mike Gillislee, who went over the 1,000-yard mark to become the first Florida running back to do so since Ciatrick Fason did in 2004. Gillislee did it early in the first half but continued to run hard, going for 140 yards and two touchdowns, with the long coming on a 37-yard touchdown run that gave Florida the lead for the final time.

"First 1,000-yard back since (2004) at the University of Florida? I didn't realize that until a week ago," Muschamp said. "It speaks to where we're headed with our offense. It's a pro-style offense that you see on Sunday."

When Gillislee went out with a rib injury late in the game and wasn't able to run the clock out, the Gators handed it to their freshman to make that happen. Matt Jones ran the ball eight times for 81 yards, highlighted by a 32-yard touchdown run to give the Gators a 37-20 lead with 2:33 left in the game.

"We've had a lot of confidence in Matt all along, but Mike Gillislee has played really well," Muschamp said. "Gilly came out, and Matt Jones played fantastic. We expected him to play like that."

WINNING SEXY: Style points have become a hot topic with the BCS standings, and while the Gators have taken heat for not always being impressive in victory, that wasn't the case on Saturday. It had the big offensive plays, the defensive plays and the all-around feel of an impressive win in a hostile crowd.

Just as he has in recent weeks, Muschamp joked about it.

"I think it is a really sexy win," Muschamp said with a grin. I was going to come in (to the press room) with my shirt off but my wife wouldn't let me. The players did not want me to do that."

The Gators likely won't play in the national championship game after Notre Dame beat USC on Saturday night, but Muschamp was complimentary of his team either way. Their improvement this season helped them get in the picture to play for it all and likely assured them a spot in a BCS game.

"Our résumé speaks for itself. Come on," Muschamp said. "You guys have covered the Southeast. You've covered the SEC. You've seen where we've played, who we've played and the quality of football teams we've beaten. We'll play anyone, anywhere—or whatever that slogan is."

The lack of sexiness perceived about the Florida program has a lot to do with two unimpressive wins over Jacksonville State and Louisiana in the last two weeks. Neither was impressive or the kind of blowout wins the Gators usually put on smaller, out of conference opponents.

Muschamp said after those games that his team hadn't overlooked their opponent but backed off that in Tallahassee.

"I wish these guys would get out of the mantra of playing to our competition," Muschamp said. "It's very frustrating for me. We talk about it and address it. It's on my mind, and I address it. We need to continue to push through it."

BIG PLAY FOR MORRISON: With Jelani Jenkins out with an injury, freshman Antonio Morrison stepped into linebacker and made his impact felt.

"When a guy gets hurt and the next guy comes in, he needs to play well," Muschamp said. "That's the expectation level around our place."

With a four-point lead and about ten minutes left in the game, Florida State just wanted to run some clock. Instead, EJ Manuel tried to do too much and scrambled on first down and was hammered by Morrison, who forced the fumble while Manuel lay motionless on the field.

It gave the Gators the ball on the Florida State 37-yard line before Gillislee scored on the next play.

"Antonio is a violent, physical football player," Muschamp said. "He's a guy that knocks the ball off people. It just so happens that he's playing behind Jelani Jenkins right now.

"It was a huge turnover. Tremendous turnover. You look at getting the ball at midfield to create some momentum for our team and some field position."

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