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September 1, 2012

Gillislee Florida's lone offensive threat



FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING: Instant Analysis: Gators win a close one Will Muschamp talks about the starting quarterback job post-game | Big Time Visitor in the Swamp | Rivals100 wide receiver announcing Saturday night | Weekend Visitor Preview - top tackle on campus | Leak is familiar with quarterback battles | ITG Round Table: Fall Football Edition | Freshmen Report: Predicting who plays

The Gators knew they would have to rely heavily on senior running back Mike Gillislee to get offensive production in Southeastern Conference play. They probably didn't expect to need him as much as they did against Bowling Green.

For months, Gainesville has talked about who will be the starting quarterback for Florida in 2012. It probably doesn't matter.

Gillislee ran for 154 yards on 24 carries Saturday. He scored two touchdowns and had one of the day's few highlights on a 38-yard touchdown run. The term "career-high" is mute because Gillislee has barely had a notable UF career to this point.

Before Saturday, he had never had more than 11 carries in a game. He had never rushed for more than 84 yards in a game.

"I carried the ball 24 times today, and my body still feels the same," Gillislee said.

Florida came out with a balanced attack early. It was expected:

Bowling Green is a team that went 5-7 in the Mid-American Conference last season. The Falcons' pass defense was well ahead of their run defense in 2011, but common sense would rule out all of it based on strength of schedule. There was a quarterback battle to decide.

Then UF coach Will Muschamp hit a wall. When the second quarter started, he knew what he wanted to see offensively and he informed offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

"Brent's a lot more imaginative. I can assure you of that," Muschamp said. "I told him, 'We're going to run the football.' We need to establish what we are. You can't talk about it. You've got to be about it."

At one point, the Gators opened a drive with a five-yard pass to Trey Burton before running the ball 10 consecutive times. It was their first scoring drive of the day, capped off by a 15-yard Gillislee touchdown run almost six minutes into the second quarter.

It only picked up more in the second half when Bowling Green kept the game tight. Of Gillislee's 24 carries, 14 came after halftime - a halftime he entered with 94 yards and both of his touchdowns.

Any thoughts that the "cupcake" opener would be an audition opportunity for backup running backs Matt Jones and Mack Brown went out the window quickly. Jones and Brown combined for seven carries; Omarius Hines tacked on four more.

Gillislee stepped all over the quarterback battle as well. Sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel combined to throw for 145 yards and one touchdown.

The only puzzling aspect was short-yardage situations. Known as a power back, Gillislee was part of a Florida team that went 1-for-8 on third-and-short situations. He had the only conversion on an outside pitch play.

"It was frustrating most of the time," Gillislee said. "We all went on the sidelines and kept each other, saying that there was going to be another opportunity. We got the win."

The question going forward will be if he can hold up. By the time Florida travels to Tennessee in week three, Gillislee will already be close to his single-season career high for carries (58). His durability will be questioned. The opponents get much tougher from here.

Muschamp was asked if he believes Gillislee can carry the ball at least 24 times every game.

"I hope."


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