GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida running back Mike Gillislee had been waiting for Saturday ever since he stepped foot on campus in 2009.
Gillislee finally got his chance to be the Gators’ No. 1 tailback, and the 5-foot-11, 201-pound senior responded with exactly the kind of game Florida needs from its running backs. Gillislee pounded his way through Bowling Green’s defense for a career-high 148 yards and two touchdowns in UF’s 27-14 victory.
"It’s the chance and the opportunity I’ve always dreamed about," said Gillislee, who had rushed for 930 yards and 10 touchdowns in spot duty during his first three seasons. "And now it’s the moment. I think I handled it good for the first time ever starting a football game and playing a whole game in college."
Gillislee is a much better fit for the pro-style, between-the-tackles running game Muschamp wants. He was sort of lost in Urban Meyer’s spread-option offense, which relied on speedsters Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey to get to the edge and make people miss. Gillislee is a one-cut runner who has the power to run through arm tackles and enough speed to break away.
He showed the latter on his 38-yard touchdown run, in which he broke off tackle, stuck his right foot into the ground and cut off Jordan Reed’s block and outran the secondary to put Florida ahead 14-7.
"I just saw the safety and saw that he was coming down, so I gave him a head fake and cut up north," Gillislee said.
Gillislee finished with 24 of UF’s 42 carries, and Muschamp said that’s a workload he hopes Gillislee can sustain throughout the season.
"I thought he played very well," Muschamp said. "Got the ball north and south and made some really nice runs and made some big runs for us -- ran through some tackles and broke some tackles. That was refreshing to see."
Redemption for Hammond: Receiver Frankie Hammond wasn’t having a good day. The redshirt senior dropped two passes and couldn’t make a block on a wide receiver screen that might have sprung Latroy Pittman for a big gain.
But he made up for those early struggles in a big way in the fourth quarter when he caught a 10-yard pass from Jeff Driskel, broke Cameron Truss’ tackle, and dashed 40 yards to complete a 50-yard touchdown that gave the Gators a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
"Once I caught my balance, I think the safety was overplaying me and I saw green grass and ran for it," said Hammond, who ended up with three catches for 62 yards. "As you get closer (to the end zone) you just turn on the jets and want to run. As you get closer to that goal line it makes you hungrier to get there."
It was a career-long reception for Hammond, and just the fourth touchdown of his career.
"He’s been a consistent guy for us," Muschamp said. "A guy that I’ve always said it’s just a matter of going out and making some plays and he finally did it."
Raining flags: Cutting down on penalties was a big focus for the Gators during the offseason. You’d never know it by what happened on Saturday.
Florida was penalized 14 times -- three shy of the school’s single-game record (17 vs. Vanderbilt in 1996) and two shy of last season’s high (16 vs. Tennessee) -- for 106 yards. The Gators had 11 penalties in the first half alone.
"That’s something we’ve worked on," Muschamp said. "I addressed it with the team at the end of the game. Believe me, we’ve exhausted every measure I know. We’re going to continue to do so."
Etc.: Florida has now won 23 consecutive season openers, which is the longest current streak in the SEC and the second-longest current streak in the nation (Nebraska, 27). … K Caleb Sturgis’ 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter was the sixth field goal of 50 or more yards in his career. He already owns the school’s career record in that category.