The Florida Gators ran roughshod over the Georgia Bulldogs in their shocking upset last season, amassing 418 yards on the ground in a 38-20 win that temporarily saved Will Muschamp’s job.
“It was crazy,” wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood said.
“They knew what we were going to do and we still dominated them.”
Don’t expect a repeat performance Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS).
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Although the Jim McElwain era has gotten off to a blazing start, Florida’s run game has mostly been stuck in the mud.
The Gators rank 13th in the SEC in rushing (126.7 yards per game), and starting tailback Kelvin Taylor has the worst per carry average (3.37 yards) in the conference.
“It’s not good enough, and it’s obvious,” McElwain said.
“We’ve got to get better. We haven’t created explosive runs. And look, the guys are trying. But obviously it’s not where we expect it to be or where it’s going to be. We’ve got to get better there. …. To be a dominant football team, you’ve got to be able to stop the run and run the football, and we haven’t done that.”
The Gators tallied just 35 net rushing yards in their loss at LSU, and they haven’t matched last year’s output against the Bulldogs in their past four games combined (377 yards).
With so much youth, Florida’s offensive line is struggling with communication against veteran SEC fronts. The inexperienced bunch isn’t consistently winning the point of attack, either.
“It’s on us,” said sophomore guard Antonio Riles, who was recently benched for inconsistent play.
“We’ve gone against some tough teams. It’s all on us.”
But Florida faced similar issues heading into Jacksonville last season, and a dormant and punchless attack suddenly awoke to railroad Georgia.
“Oh my gosh, that was one of the funnest games I’ve ever played in,” said Taylor, who rushed for a career-high 197 yards and two touchdowns in the same stadium his father, Fred, starred in with the Jaguars for 11 seasons.
“Just because my father played there. I remember going there when I was little, watching my dad playing in that stadium. … It’s an awesome experience. It was one of the best feelings because of what I did.”
The Gators (6-1, 4-1) hope Taylor has more good feelings Saturday when they square off against the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-2) for Southeastern Conference East supremacy.
Last year, Florida’s ground game allowed quarterback Treon Harris to ease into his first career start. The former Miami Booker T. Washington standout attempted just six passes in the stunning upset over the Bulldogs , but Harris won’t be afforded such protection Saturday.
The Bulldogs rank 25th nationally in rush defense and allow just 3.30 yards per rush. They have been susceptible to dual-threat quarterbacks in the last several years, though.
Still, Taylor aims to shoulder the load again.
“I have to be a better running back,” he said.
“This week everyone will see I will be a way better running back than I was in the past game. I can’t wait. I have a great big chip on my shoulder, and I’m just ready for Saturday.”