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October 12, 2013
BATON ROUGE, La. - To the common eye, freshman running back Kelvin Taylor just might have had his breakout game Saturday afternoon on one of the Southeastern Conference's most intimidating stages.
Starting running back Matt Jones left the game in the first half with an left knee injury - "I'll know more about Matt Monday. I don't know much now," Will Muschamp said - and junior backup Mack Brown was slowed in the second half by an ankle injury. That pushed Taylor into action as the Gators' top back, and he answered by moving the ball better than anyone else.
Taylor rushed 10 times for 52 yards on a night when Florida averaged 3.8 yards per carry otherwise.
"He was hitting the holes,' quarterback Tyler Murphy said. "A kid like that is very explosive, and he was close to breaking a few tackles and taking one to the house. We were a few big plays away."
Muschamp wasn't as impressed. The same things that supposedly have kept Taylor off the field in Florida's first five games were present to Muschamp again Saturday. Taylor played in just three of those games, only entering against Arkansas for the kneel-down play. He had six carries for 46 yards entering Saturday's game.
On a third and goal from the 10, Taylor missed a blocking assignment that forced Murphy into a broken play incompletion. At other times, Taylor had to be told where to line up multiple times.
"We've still got to clean some things up in protection," Muschamp said. "He runs the ball, that's one thing, but we also have to block and block the right guy and be in protection and understand who to block. A lot of those passing situations aren't always on the offensive line."
More kicker drama: There was a new face on the road this week. For the first time in his UF career, redshirt junior walk-on kicker Francisco Velez didn't watch a road game on the couch with his girlfriend. Velez was Florida's starting kicker, and he will keep that job going forward after making field goals of 44 and 27 yards.
"We play the best players, regardless of who they are," Muschamp said. "He kicked the best this week in practice."
The plan coming in was for Velez to attempt any field goals inside the 30-yard line, while redshirt freshman Austin Hardin would kick anything longer. After the game, Muschamp confirmed the job now belongs to Velez.
"I've been waiting four years," Velez said. "I've been working hard and I finally got my opportunity."
The news regarding Florida's punter situation continues to be less than ideal. A bad season got worse for former Ray Guy Award finalist Kyle Christy. Given two opportunities to pin LSU deep in its own territory during critical periods of the second half, Christy boomed punts into the end zone. Florida's lone punt downed inside the 10-yard line came on a pooch from quarterback Tyler Murphy.
"Kyle had two opportunities and he didn't do it," Muschamp said. "Again, I'll open (the competition) up. Seriously considered during the game taking the redshirt off (backup) Johnny Townsend."
Odds and ends: Defensive tackle Damien Jacobs left the game briefly in the first half after losing his helmet in a pile. He returned to the game and said afterward he is fine. ... Cornerback Marcus Roberson returned after missing three games to a knee injury. He played solely as a nickelback, with Vernon Hargreaves III getting the start. ... The Gators spoke about all of their goals involving winning the SEC East remaining intact Saturday night. "This is an SEC team, a rivalry team, a team that we damn sure wanted to beat," linebacker Michael Taylor said. "But they're not in the East, luckily. We've got all our East opponents ahead of us. I know we're capable to beat all of them, so that's what we'll have to do."