Healthy, motivated Matt Jones makes statement

By Adam Silverstein
September 16, 2014

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.”

Jones toted the rock nine times in the three overtimes for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. On the last drive of the game, he trucked ahead for three, 16 and five yards before tumbling into the end zone from one yard out.

For the game, Jones took a career-high 29 carries for 156 yards – amassing a 170 total yards on 30 touches – despite never having a play longer than 20 yards. He also touched the ball at least once in all but four of Florida’s possessions on Saturday evening. And he even did a Marshawn Lynch impression during one fourth-quarter run.

So while Taylor had the preseason hype and sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson earned plenty of well-deserved praise – after all, he caught two touchdowns, matched a Gators career-high with 15 receptions in a single game and is now fourth in UF history in single-game reception yards with 216 – it was Jones who strapped it on, did yeoman’s work and never let up for Florida.

“He was a guy that was obviously really impressive on Saturday. In that last overtime, we just sat there and said, ‘Let’s give it to him and see what happens,’” explained offensive coordinator Kurt Roper on Tuesday.

“’Let’s try to shorten the field goal’ was the first thought. Then when you get in there and you start hammering, you say, ‘Hey, let’s just put this one away right here giving it to 24.’ If it wouldn’t have worked, if we would have stalled out at the 10 or whatever, we would have stalled out. But he was getting the football at that point.”

It was a wise decision by Roper and head coach Will Muschamp and one neither man questioned for a second. Muschamp has been impressed with Jones since the end of his freshman campaign in 2012 when Jones put together all the lessons he learned during the regular season to gash Florida State for 81 yards and a touchdown on eight rushes.

Jones’s sophomore season started late – due to a serious viral infection – and was cut short after Jones tore his meniscus against LSU. Two weeks earlier, he took a career-high 31 touches for a career-high 196 total yards against – guess who? – Kentucky.

Perhaps Muschamp remembered.

“He’s 235 pounds. He gets heavy as the game goes on. He showed you guys that. That was the form we saw a spring ago before last season. And with the runs he was making [on Saturday, I was] really happy to see him healthy,” he said.

Muschamp added: “Matt went through a tough time last year. He really did. I remember him coming into my office and we had a lot of talks and things about life and what happens and dealing with adversity in life and all of those things. … I’m just really proud of him and happy for him.”


  1. Dave Massey says:

    The dude is a total stud, I see NFL dollars in his near future. Everybody in the stadium knew he was getting the rock in that third OT including the Kentucky coaches and defense, and couldn’t stop him. That is a sign of a great offense, when you can run plays they know are coming and they still can’t stop you. Hope the offensive line makes more of those blocks they were talking about because they can’t miss as many assignments against Bama and still win.

  2. Mr. Green says:

    Impressive effort by Matt Jones! Doesn’t hurt that Demarcus Robinson emerged as a legit threat on the outside. Less players in the box = more room for Mr. Jones to run in.

  3. Joaquin says:

    I am really liking the 1-2 punch with Kelvin and Matt. I do hope that the only reason Matt got 29 carries was because Kelvin was hurt after that late hit. I don’t think that giving him the ball 20+ a game is a formula for success for the Gators right now. Not when you have backs like Kelvin Taylor or Mack Brown. I really want to see more plays for Powell.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Our failure to get our 2nd string skill guys into the game was problematic for me. Didn’t see Debose or Thompson get in at wideout. Didn’t see Mack Brown, Adam Lane, Herndon or Powell get in at running back. That’s a big mistake and one of the reasons injuries hurt us so much. Muschamp has that old school mentality of keeping his 1st stringers in no matter what. Not smart. For that matter, I thought that Roper and his up-tempo offense by necessity would need to play more skill players.

      Bad for recruiting, bad for morale, bad for not having fresh legs in there throughout the game, bad for quality of depth, bad for developing players. . just a bad philosophy.

  4. sjkoepp says:

    Jones seems to need to get a quarter or two in before he really starts pounding the ball. He always seems a bit more timid coming out the gate, but then drops the hammer as defenses loosen.

    Hopefully the defense has some practice against Matt this week, as Bama has about three of him.

  5. J.A. says:

    I will be surprised if Matt Jones has more than 70 yards rushing this weekend against Alabama. You are not going to have much success against Alabama pounding the ball up the middle with a very predictable north-south running back. Roper will have to mix the run plays up nicely with Taylor and Powell getting some carries to the outside, for the Gators to have offensive success.

  6. Michael Jones says:

    Throughout history there have been a special breed of rugged running backs who somehow get stronger, more instinctive and more rhythmic as the hits come and the game wears on. They actually get better while those around them are wearing down. There are early indications that Matt Jones may be that type of back.

    In a conference that features backs like Gurley and Derrick Henry, it would be great to have a stud of our own.

    Give Muschamp credit. He’s been saying this all along about Matt Jones–things like “we can’t tackle him”–even last summer before Matt got really sick. Hopefully Saturday night is just a brief glimpse of what lies ahead for the Gators and, as Dave Massey points out, Jones’ career as well.

  7. G2 says:

    For us to pound it up the middle like against Ky we need to go wide, some misdirection stuff. Dont think the OL is good enough to open gaping holes against a better team. Oh, and the QB’s got to run the ball. If Jeffs not doing it, Treons needs to come in and run the Trey Burton, and actually throw the ball, imagine!
    We got nothing to lose, need to open things up!

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