Healthy, motivated Matt Jones makes statement


Photo Credit: Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun

It would be unfair to label junior running back Matt Jones as a forgotten man but there is no question that another, younger Florida Gators rusher was the prime candidate to breakout in a major way in 2014.

And sophomore Kelvin Taylor may do just that at some point this season.

For now, it is Jones who will not be denied, Jones who is making a major statement and Jones who carried Florida’s offense on his back for 25 yards into the end zone in the third overtime of Saturday’s game.

“We knew Matt Jones could run like that, has been running like that through camp. We’re really just excited to see him be that powerful back. Not a lot of people are talking about him in the SEC, but we feel like he’s the best back,” said redshirt senior center Max Garcia, one of Jones’s interior blockers.

“Just to see him work hard like that and be our workhorse on the offense, just to see him break tackles – I think he broke like 16 tackles or something like that – that just motivates the offensive line to block just a little bit more, to take another bite.”

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9/13: Florida-Kentucky post-game report

It took longer than anyone wanted, but the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) eventually took down the Kentucky Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 SEC) in three overtimes on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators edged the Wildcats 36-30 on the backs of two offensive playmakers and a three-turnover night from their defense.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the hard-fought victory, which also included a number of standout statistics and historic marks.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida improved to 48-17 all-time against Kentucky, extending its winning streak in the series to 28-straight games dating back to 1986. It is the longest active winning streak in the nation between teams that play annually.
» The Gators forced three turnovers on Saturday and are now +7 on the season.
» Florida is now 4-2 all-time in overtime games, 3-1 in The Swamp. The Gators have won four-straight overtime games with Saturday’s triple-overtime contest being the first-ever in school history.
» Kentucky held a second half lead against Florida for the first time since 2003.
» It is just the fourth time in UF history that the team had a 200-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher achieve their marks in the same game.
» The Gators have won 10-straight SEC openers dating back to 2004.
» Florida has amassed 1,187 yards of total offense and 101 points in two games. The Gators needed five games in 2013 to eclipse 101 points.

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9/8: Muschamp sees room for improvement

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (1-0) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s Southeastern Conference opener against the Kentucky Wildcats (2-0) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m.

INJURY (AND REPLACEMENT) UPDATES

Muschamp confirmed Monday that redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee’s leg surgery, to repair a broken tibia and fibula, was successful with the player expected to leave the hospital later that afternoon. No decisions have been made by McGee about his future, Muschamp said, which is understandable considering the incident just occurred. CBSSports.com draft analyst Rob Rang had McGee rated as a fifth- or sixth-round selection prior to the injury.

Senior Clay Burton will take most of McGee’s snaps at tight end, while senior Tevin Westbrook and freshman DeAndre Goolsby battle for the second-string job. Goolsby was potentially headed for a redshirt but is unlikely to have that luxury anymore.

“We plan on activating him and getting him going,” Muschamp said. “That means you’ve got to get him going on special teams and get him going on offense. That’s our plan.”

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Andre Debose flashed talent, potential for Gators

It may have taken six years and 32 games, but on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, Florida Gators redshirt senior Andre Debose finally broke out.

Sure, Debose entered Saturday’s game tied for the Southeastern Conference record (while simultaneously holding the school record) in kickoffs returned for touchdowns with four. And yes, back on Nov. 19, 2011, Debose did have 151 receiving yards and two touchdowns in a one game against FCS opponent Furman.

However, to this point, Debose has achieved his modest success at Florida strictly through his speed. Saturday, he also displayed his burst, change-of-direction skills, elusiveness and field vision – and he did it on more than one occasion.

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Instant Replay: Florida flashes new-look offense in 65-0 rout of Eastern Michigan

One week later than initially scheduled, the Florida Gators (1-0) kicked off their 2014 season on Saturday with a 65-0 trouncing of the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-1) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida extended its winning streak in season-opening contests to 25 games while starting the campaign with the exact type of blowout victory that fans hoped for all offseason. OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:

Deciding drive: Starting on its own 23-yard line after receiving an Eagles punt late in the first quarter, the Gators traveled 77 yards in 10 plays to take a 24-0 lead and put the game out of reach early for Eastern Michigan. Florida entered the red zone on a 42-yard deep vertical throw from redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel to redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar and crossed the goal line two plays later when freshman running back Brandon Powell rumbled into the end zone from 12 yards out. Driskel went 31-for-45 for 248 yards with a touchdown on the afternoon, while Dunbar hauled in five receptions for 81 yards. Powell had three catches for 24 yards including his score.

Important injuries: Midway through the second quarter, redshirt senior tight end Jake McGee got his left leg rolled up on by senior right guard Trenton Brown. McGee had his left ankle placed in an air cast before a stretcher cart was brought out to drive him off the field. Earlier in the first quarter, junior left tackle D.J. Humphries was brought to the locker room after injuring his ankle following UF’s first touchdown of the game. He did not return. In a post-game interview on SEC Network, head coach Will Muschamp noted that the team has lost McGee “probably for the season.”

Check out the second half of The Quick Slant…after the break.
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Friday Final: Florida focused impressing in opener, running backs primed for breakout

A number of Florida Gators football players spoke at length this week ahead of Saturday’s season-opening contest against the Idaho Vandals, which is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, and air live on ESPNU.

Below are some of the week’s top stories along with notes and quotes that either fell through the cracks or did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links below).

Tuesday: Depth chart for Idaho game | Notebook – Will Muschamp evaluates team, previews first game | Story – Treon Harris named backup quarterback

Thursday: Notebook – Kurt Roper addresses hot topics, D.J. Durkin evaluates unit

Friday: 54 Florida football facts, stats and tidbits

DYNAMIC DUO

No designations have been made as to which player will assume the role of Batman (and the other Robin) but the Gators certainly have a pair of running backs looking to wipe the floor with defenses like they are criminals roaming the streets of Gotham.

Junior Matt Jones was primed for a breakout campaign in 2013 after exploding during the end of his freshman season, but a serious viral infection seriously affected his health and kept him out of the season opener. Weeks later, a season-ending knee injury derailed the progress he made.

Florida looked prepared to redshirt freshman Kelvin Taylor, preserving his eligibility while using Jones and now-redshirt senior Mack Brown last season. But Jones’s injury thrust Taylor into the spotlight, and he responded with 508 yards and four touchdowns.

Rather than worrying about competing with each other, Jones and Taylor hope to bring UF’s running game to new heights. Neither is at all concerned with their touches but rather making the most of each carry and reception while pushing the Gators offense forward.

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8/26: Optimism and confidence surround Florida as Muschamp kicks off game week vs. Idaho

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Tuesday to open up game week ahead of the first game of the season against the Idaho Vandals at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor also shared some comments to kick off game week.

This post was updated Wednesday will comments Muschamp made during his weekly appearance on the Southeastern Conference media teleconference.

OPTIMISM AND CONFIDENCE

A new season is on the horizon for the Gators, and Muschamp knows that his team is ready for the opportunity to prove to doubters that 2013 was a fluke and not how Florida football is supposed to be played. He has seen the renewed drive and dedication from his team on the field, in meeting rooms and during events outside of the facility. Now he just hopes that UF will be able to put it all together on Saturday.

“Any time you go through a tough time in your life, you reflect and you get humble and you work hard and you pull together and you understand that people around you are close to you. Certainly in the building, number one, but within that locker room, number two, I’ve seen a very close-knit unit,” he said.

“In that locker room, there are a lot of guys that know how to practice, know how to practice the right way. They know how to compete and get after each other but also how to take care of each other. It’s been a lot of fun in training camp. I’ve really enjoyed being around the guys. You can see the camaraderie and togetherness in this football team, and I really look forward to seeing them competing in front of our fans.”

Taylor said the excitement around the program is palpable, and the Gators have an opportunity to ride the wave of momentum into the season by pulling off a victory over the Vandals.

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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

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