(AP) No. 10 Florida beats Toledo 24-6 to open season
By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
Mack Brown had a career day, Jeff Driskel was efficient and No. 10 Florida opened the season with a 24-6 victory over Toledo on Saturday.
Brown ran 25 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. Driskel completed 17 of 22 passes for 153 yards and a score. And Florida’s defense, which ranked fifth in the country in 2012, looked every bit as good as last year’s version despite losing eight starters and its coordinator.
The Gators controlled both lines of scrimmage, opening holes for Brown and keeping steady pressure on Toledo’s experienced spread offense. It was exactly the style of play Florida has become known for under third-year coach Will Muschamp. No flashiness. Few highlight-reel plays. But a win in the end.
It was Florida’s 24th consecutive season-opening victory, the second-longest active streak in the country. Only Nebraska (27) has a longer current run.
Some thought Florida would struggle against the Rockets, who are picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference’s West Division. Toledo returned nine starters on offense, four on defense, played in three consecutive bowl games and even beat a ranked team last season.
But the Gators pretty much dominated from the start, wearing down the Rockets in 90-degree heat and sweltering humidity. They had two 80-yard-plus touchdown drives in the first half, including one on their initial possession. It was the first time in the post-Tim Tebow era (since 2009) that Florida scored a TD on its opening drive of the season.
Brown capped the 84-yard drive by going untouched from a yard out. He was even better on his second score, breaking tackles and turning heads with a 14-yard scamper that put Florida up 17-3.
It was the first start of Brown’s four-year career. He was in the lineup in place of Matt Jones, a powerful sophomore who missed the opener while recovering from a viral infection.
Jones is expected to return next week at Miami. But Brown’s big game proved he can be a capable backup and might even get a chance to split carries with Jones the rest of the season.
Driskel, meanwhile, is the unquestioned starter. And he looked considerably more comfortable in his second season under center.
Driskel completed 10 of his first 11 passes, including the first seven, for 101 yards.
The Gators, as usual, didn’t ask Driskel to do too much. Instead, they rolled the pocket often and had him getting rid of the ball early. He found fullback Gideon Ajagbe all alone in the flat for a 4-yard score in the third quarter, giving Florida a 24-6 lead.
Driskel’s day wasn’t perfect, though.
He was sacked twice and fumbled both times. He lost one, and a teammate recovered the other.
Little else went wrong for the Gators.
Valdez Showers, a safety who moved to offense, ran for 23 yards and caught four passes for 23 more. Freshman Kelvin Taylor, the son of retired NFL standout Fred Taylor, got on the field in the fourth quarter and ignited the remaining crowd with consecutive runs of 27 and 10 yards.
Florida had five players suspended for opener.
Linebacker Antonio Morrison, who was arrested twice in a five-week span this summer, and cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy were suspended. So were defensive tackle Darious Cummings, receiver Latroy Pittman and offensive lineman Quinteze Williams.
Toledo was 1 of 13 on third down, a big problem for the offense.
Terrance Owens completed 17 of 38 passes for 135 yards, with an interception. David Fluellen ran nine for 46 yards. And Bernard Reedy caught seven passes for 50 yards.