Florida coach Dan Mullen chuckled last week when asked about incorporating Kadarius Toney more into the Gators’ offense.
“Statistically speaking, it would be really smart for me to get him the ball more,” Mullen said of the sophomore receiver, who had a big 35-yard rush in the Gators’ 47-21 win over Tennessee.
Mullen’s words proved true in Florida’s 13-6 upset of No. 23 Mississippi State in Starkville. Toney’s number was finally called, and he became one of the most impactful players of the contest as a result.
It wasn’t what Toney did with his legs and feet that had the biggest influence. It was his arm.
Toney played quarterback at his high school in Mobile, Alabama, and his ability to throw the ball showed against the Bulldogs.
“Really good quarterback, also as you guys know, a really good athlete as well,” said Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks. “But that’s just something that he does. He makes plays like that.”
His most impactful play of the game came in the third quarter with the Gators trailing 6-3.
Running back Lamical Perine had helped the Florida move the ball deep into MSU territory. Mullen then turned to his playbook and his reliable receiver, Toney.
Toney went in the game and received a pass from Feleipe Franks in the flat then stepped forward as Bulldogs defenders charged in his direction.
Then came tight end Moral Stephens sprinting toward the left side of the endzone. Toney sent the ball sailing in Stephens’ direction and connected for a 20-yard touchdown pass that put the Gators up 10-6.
“We been going over it since summer,” Toney said about the play. “And I was like ‘[Mullen] ain’t ever call it, he ain’t ever call it.’ But when it came I just had to have competitive excellence and just come through.”
Despite throwing the game’s only touchdown pass and putting together a season-best performance, Toney said after the game that he only wants to do what’s asked of him, whether that means getting more touches moving forward or not.
“I do whatever it takes,” he said. “If I gotta sit out a play or this and that, I’m gonna do it … It’s more about the team, not really about me.”
This game did seem to be about Toney, however, as that one play turned all of the game’s momentum in Florida’s favor.
“That was something we’ve had for a couple of weeks,” Mullen said. “I’ve always said that, about deceptive and trick plays like that, it’s not really the play design, but more when you call it and how you execute it. It’s a play that we’ve had in the game plan every week this season.”
The trick play perfectly illustrated Mullen’s gumption Saturday as the former MSU head coach showed no reluctance to pull out his most intricate plays to get the win against his old team.
“We came in here and we found a way to win a different style game,” Mullen said. “Which in our program, in this league, you’re gonna win all different styles of games.”