Florida football: Running backs finding their groove in conference play

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — All Malik Davis needed on his final run was 1 yard.

One simple yard on fourth down, with the Gators already up by a touchdown, would have sealed No. 21 Florida’s victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The freshman decided to turn it up a notch, like he has all season.

Davis broke past the line of scrimmage and darted down the right sideline into the end zone for a 39-yard game-piercing touchdown, the final triumph of a 38-24 victory at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

It was a worthy exclamation point on the Gators’ best performance in the run game to this point in the season.

All told, Florida (3-1, 3-0 SEC) rushed for a season-high 218 yards and 5 touchdowns against Vanderbilt.

It marks just the sixth time in 31 games under coach Jim McElwain that Florida has rushed for at least 200 yards in a game and it’s the first time the Gators had 5 rushing touchdowns since a 38-20 win over Georgia on Nov. 1, 2014.

And considering how the season started — with Florida mustering just 11 rushing yards in a season-opening loss to Michigan — the Gators are finally showing they can attack the ball on the ground.

“I think there’s been bits and pieces and as you guys have been up there watching, it seems like something will go haywire and we can never recover,” McElwain said. “I thought we recovered today and didn’t let the negatives affect us, which is good. I think they got a little confidence the week before in that fourth quarter and kinda decided, yeah. Yes we can. And it was good to see that.”

Davis, the freshman, once again led the pack. He ran for a career-high 124 rushing yards with 2 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 yards per rush. Davis became the first Florida freshman to record at least 100 yards and 2 touchdowns in a game since Jeff Demps did so against Arkansas on Oct. 4, 2008.

For the season, Davis has a team-high 319 rushing yards and is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.

“Now, the nation should know about Malik Davis,” sophomore running back Lamical Perine said. “That’s a good dude. He’s a good running back. He’s going to score a lot of touchdowns in The Swamp and in a lot more stadiums, too. I’m glad to see that.”

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Florida RB Lamical Perine breaks free on a run against Vanderbilt, Sept. 30, 2017. (Jordan McPherson/SEC Country)

Perine also had a good game in his own rights. The sophomore may have only rushed for 58 yards on 15 carries, but he also scored 3 touchdowns in the win.

Neither Perine nor Davis had a rush for negative yards on Saturday.

Perine gave most of the credit to his offensive line, which had arguably its best game up front this season.

“Hats off to those guys,” Perine said. “They played real good. We just have to keep going forward with that.”

The running backs played real good, too.

Since the Michigan loss, Florida is averaging 190.7 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per rush.

They don’t plan to stop the upward trend anytime soon.

“Opening up the run game is going to open up the pass game as well,” Perine said. “We’re going to be real dominant when we start doing that.”

The post Florida football: Running backs finding their groove in conference play appeared first on SEC Country.

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