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September 21, 2013

Notebook: Running back by committee



Florida left spring camp with a definitive feature back offense. A mysterious stomach virus and three games later, the Gators find themselves sporting a backfield with plenty of questions.

Despite promising on Monday to be the Matt Jones fans and coaches expected in 2013, Florida's sophomore back didn't seem all there once again. Jones got the majority of carries early and notched a touchdown run late, but somewhere in the middle, he was essentially replaced in the offense by junior Mack Brown.

Brown went on to carry the ball 24 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, showing the only sense of explosiveness the Gators had out of the running back position all day. Jones finished with 12 carries for 49 yards.

"Mack was being a good job running it," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "Both guys did some pretty good things. We need to continue to improve and get better."

Jones fumbled in the first quarter attempting to switch the ball to his other hand while getting tackled. Muschamp said the Gators have drilled ball security repeatedly, but apparently not enough. It was Jones' second fumble in as many games.

Freshman Kelvin Taylor made a brief appearance in the first half, picking up a three-yard carry to the delight of the crowd and then leaving the game. Going forward, Muschamp's running back strategy is going to be an ever-changing one.

"Whoever has got the hot hand and whoever is running well," Muschamp said. "Whoever has the hot hand, we're going to go with. Mack was moving the pile pretty good."

Patton finds his way: One year after serving as more of a specialist than a wide receiver, senior Solomon Patton has become a legitimate threat in Florida's passing game. He turned a Tyler Murphy screen pass into a 52-yard touchdown and finished the day with 73 yards receiving.

"We challenged him: 'Do you want to continue to just be a set-sweep guy or do you want to be a major contributor to our football team?'" Muschamp said. "He saw an opportunity in his senior year in his last go-round at Florida and he decided to take advantage of his opportunity."

Ejection: Muschamp spoke out during the off-season about his disapproval of the new NCAA rule that calls for an ejection to players who are called for a head targeting foul. Saturday, sophomore cornerback Brian Poole became the first Gator ejected for the new policy. He'll likely be suspended for the first half of the Kentucky game. Poole apologized via Twitter.

"It was the right call," Muschamp said. "I don't have any problem with the call. I have a problem with the rule. Brian Poole was not trying to flagrantly hurt anyone. It's a bang-bang play."

Missing bodies: Florida had four players scratched from its lineup in the hours leading up to Saturday's game. Offensive tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) and cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) were both game-time decisions and neither played. Muschamp said he expects both back against Kentucky. Running back Valdez Showers injured his ankle in practice Wednesday and will be out "a week or two" according to Muschamp.

Freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson was suspended for one game for a violation of team rules. He will return against Kentucky.

Cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy let the game with a "contusion" on his thigh after a kickoff return. Muschamp said he believes Purifoy will be fine.


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