Toledo wastes chances to pressure No. 10 Florida
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Trailing 17-3 early in the third quarter and coming off a defensive stop, the Rockets had first and goal at the 9-yard line. But little went right from there, leaving Toledo to settle for a field goal.
Failing to fully capitalize on those kinds of opportunities left the team from the Mid-American Conference looking something positive following a 24-6 loss to the Gators on Saturday.
''We didn't execute some of the details, but I never saw our kids give up,'' coach Matt Campbell said. ''I think that attitude, that effort, the commitment level that we've reached as a foundation of our football program, I saw that for four quarters. So that's what I take as a great positive out of this.''
Mack Brown ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns, Jeff 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 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 were picked to finish second in the MAC'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 Toledo in 90-degree heat and sweltering humidity.
The Rockets finished with 205 yards and were 1 of 13 on third down.
Terrance Owens completed 17 of 38 passes for 155 yards, with an interception. David Fluellen ran nine times for 46 yards, including a 28-yard burst. And Bernard Reedy caught seven passes for 50 yards.
''They're tough,'' Fluellen said. ''They're ranked for a reason. ... They didn't do anything schematically. They just went out there and played.''
Florida totaled 414 yards of offense, including 262 on the ground.
The Gators 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.
''That's a heck of a deal,'' Muschamp said.
Toledo had several chances to make it a game.
But the Rockets squandered several opportunities. Reedy's unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter turned what would have been a third-and-2 play into a third-and-no chance. After getting a sack and some momentum, Owens threw an interception that gave Florida great field position and set up Driskel's short TD pass.
Toledo will need to eliminate those kind of mistakes to have a better chance at Missouri next week.
''I really saw those kids stay in there and stay dedicated to finishing the football game,'' Campbell said. ''Shoot, games happen like that and I think that is the one thing I am proud of because there were times in the last year that maybe we, at the end of games, kind of let it get away. That certainly didn't happen today.''