Taylor started in place of junior Matt Jones — the team’s leading rusher who has been hampered by knee and ankle injuries — but UF’s backup running back carried the ball just twice as the Gators utilized a committee approach against one of the nation’s worst rush defenses.
Jones played sparingly on Saturday and watched the second half in street clothes. He finished with just 11 yards on four carries.
Taylor , who had no yards on two carries, whiffed on a blitz-pickup on Florida’s opening drive and was benched, forcing offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to get creative with the run game.
Senior Mack Brown — who hadn’t recorded a carry in three games — saw significant action, while Florida utilized a bevy of quarterback powers and counters.
The Gators amassed just 123 rushing yards on 32 attempts against the nation’s 90th-ranked rushing defense, and aside from Andre Debose’s 35-yard jet sweep, failed to generate explosive runs with Jones banged up.
▪ Florida’s defense wasn’t quite at full-strength Saturday, but it was close. Starting senior linebacker Michael Taylor returned to action after missing the Tennessee game with a swollen knee. Taylor battled the flu all week, but UF’s second-leading tackler started.
▪ Meanwhile, first-team defensive tackle Leon Orr missed his second consecutive game (meniscus). Coach Will Muschamp said the senior practiced some this week, but he never changed Orr’s status from “questionable.”
▪ Freshman tailback Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach) saw action for the first time since Florida’s season-opener. Powell, limited with a hamstring strain in recent weeks, was heavily involved in Florida’s short passing game. On the second play from scrimmage, Powell slipped past a tackle in the backfield to gain eight yards on a swing pass.
Later, he gained 21 yards on a simple wheel route. Powell finished with 66 yards on six catches.
Miss Two Bits
For the first time in school history, Florida’s honorary “Mr. Two Bits” had a different look.
Gator All-American softball standouts Hannah Rodgers — the 2014 SEC female athlete of the year — and Stacy Nelson — the program’s all-time leader in wins, ERA and strikeouts — teamed up to lead the pregame cheers.
This past season, Rodgers pitched UF to its first national title in softball, while Nelson hurled the Gators to their first-ever appearance in the Women’s College World Series in 2008.
Rodgers and the rest of Florida’s 2014 title team was honored at the end of the first quarter.
This and that
▪ The Gators, last in the SEC in penalties, were flagged four times for 34 yards.
▪ Florida players sported pink socks, cleats, towels and wristbands in a sign of support for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
▪ Saturday was a huge recruiting weekend for the Gators, headlined by five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey (Apopka), four-star linebackerTevon Coney (Palm Beach Gardens), five-star defensive ends CeCe Jefferson (Baker County) and Bryon Cowart (Armwood), four-star tailback and Miami commit Dexter Williams (West Orange) and a number of highly-ranked 2016 prospects in attendance.
▪ NFL scouts from the Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints observed the game.