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August 31, 2013

Instant Analysis: Florida takes season opener

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    It wasn't pretty, but wins seldom are in the Will Muschamp era. Florida opened its season against Toledo Saturday in a game light on style points. The No. 10 Gators set a physical tone early on both lines of scrimmage and rode their defense through a second half in which the Rockets appeared to make successful adjustments. Instant Analysis examines the season-opening 24-6 victory.

    IT WAS OVER WHEN: Florida got the ball with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and a 24-6 lead. Playing reserve running backs (and quarterback Tyler Murphy) for the first time Saturday, the Gators led a run-heavy drive down the field that expired the clock.

    HE STOLE THE SHOW: Redshirt junior running back Mack Brown is the choice, if only for his first-half performance. By the end of his first drive, Brown had outgained his career game-high total for yards and scored his first touchdown. He finished with 25 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Honorable mention goes to defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who was borderline unstoppable all day for the Gators inside.

    THE STAT DOESN'T LIE: Toledo simply couldn't keep drives together long enough to bring its up-tempo offense into relevance. The Rockets went 1 for 13 on third-down conversions. Florida wasn't outstanding in its own regard - 6 for 12 - but it wasn't difficult to be better than Toledo. Credit Florida's pass rush and specifically its "rabbits" package on third and long. It was Easley's penetration inside that made the run game difficult in short-yardage situations.

    WHAT A PLAY: Everyone in the stadium knew Florida was running it on third and one from the Toledo 14. The Gators were in their seven-lineman jumbo package with no receivers out wide. Brown took a carry up the middle, found a hole and then bullied through multiple Toledo defenders as he rumbled into the end zone for Florida's second touchdown.

    THIS MATCH-UP PROVED KEY: The Rockets' offensive line was severely outclassed by Easley, as well as returning linebacker Ronald Powell. Easley specifically pushed Rocket interior offensive linemen all over the field and was a key part of the run defense as well as disruption in the pass game. Powell got a sack on his first drive back - thanks to Easley's push inside. Easley finished with three tackles.

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