Gators ground game gouges LSU defense
Mike is a workhorse. Thirty-four carries, that’s crazy against a team that’s going to come downhill like LSU. He’s a strong guy.” Jeff Driskel, Florida quarterback on running back Mike Gillislee
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mike Gillislee stood at the podium wearing a T-shirt with the words “Damn I’m Good” printed across the front.
On this occasion, no one was going to argue.
Gillislee, a senior, sliced through LSU’s vaunted defense for 146 carries and a pair of second-half TDs on a career-high 34 carries to power Florida to a 14-6 upset of third-ranked LSU Saturday.
His performance gives him 548 yards and seven TDs in five games for the Gators, who moved to 5-0 with the win.
“That’s what being a running back is all about, being patient and trusting your offensive line,” Gillislee said. “It was just a matter of keeping on fighting and never giving up.”
Patience was definitely Gillislee’s virtue on this day. At halftime, UF had no points and a grand total of 47 yards of offense — 16 of it on the ground on 32 carries.
But after halftime, things changed dramatically, and by the time the game reached the late third quarter, Gillislee was ripping off chunks of yardage at just about every turn.
So dominating was the Gator ground game that UF ran the ball on its last 22 snaps, with Gillislee gaining 112 yards of UF’s 160 second-half rushing yards on 22 carries, capped by a pair of 12-yard TD scampers on which he was basically untouched.
“Securing the snap and securing the handoff, that’s all you have to do, and it’s fun,” Florida sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel said. “It’s fun doing that and watching your guys handle them man-for-man. We’ve shown that we can dominate the line of scrimmage, and we’ve shown that when we dominate the line of scrimmage, we can get to the second level guys with blocks from our tight end and our receivers downfield to spring some big runs.
“Mike is a workhorse. Thirty-four carries, that’s crazy against a team that’s going to come downhill like LSU. He’s a strong guy.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp said UF’s numbers in the first half were distorted.
“I felt like in the first half we ran the ball effectively, regardless of what the stats were, because we had some sacks,” he said. “We had a hard time protecting.
“I felt great at halftime. We had made some runs, and I felt like we had some creases in the run game. We made some adjustments the second half. We felt like the running game was there; we just needed to be a little more patient with it. (Offensive coordinator) Brent Pease called an outstanding game and put us in a situation to be successful.”
Gillislee did the rest.
“Mike Gillislee did a great job running the football,” Muschamp said. “He found the holes and put his pads down.”
Offensive guard Jon Halopio said UF’s grind-it-out approach paid huge dividends.
“They couldn’t stop us,” he said. “We just came in wanting to run the ball down their throat, and the coaches felt like we could and we felt like we could.
“They were very tired toward the end of the game. You could see that in their facial expressions, especially in their technique and their play.”
For Gillislee, who waited patiently for his turn at Florida, the rewards are quite satisfying.
“I’m a team guy,” he said. “I knew that one day my turn would come. This is a dream come true.”
His coach’s comments no doubt put a smile on Gillislee’s face.
“I’ll take Gilly over anybody,” Muschamp said. “I tell him that all the time. I felt that way in spring and going into fall camp, and I thought he had a great camp and prepared himself well over the summer.
“Again, he’s a Will Muschamp guy. He doesn’t ever say anything. He just does his job. He lines up and he runs the ball. If you ask him to block, he’s going to block, and if you ask him to catch the ball, he’s going to catch the ball.
“He’s just a really, really good football player.”