Gators eager to feed young playmaker Toney
caught the pass and juked a pair of defenders.
It was a familiar play on Saturday.
Toney, a versatile freshman playmaker, earned significant playing time during Florida’s first home game of the season and took advantage of it. He made Tennessee defenders miss nearly every time he touched the ball, using an array of moves to elude would-be tacklers in the open field and help the No. 24 Gators earn a 26-20 win over No. 23 Tennessee.
“There’s something pretty cool about having a human joystick out there,” UF coach said of Toney.
After catching two passes for 27 yards during Florida’s season-opening loss to Michigan, McElwain said he wanted to get Toney more touches. Toney was targeted more on Saturday, catching four passes for 40 yards and rushing one yards.
“They couldn’t tackle him at all,” UF receiver Brandon Powell said. “He does the same thing in practice, so it doesn’t surprise us at all.”
Toney’s first touch came in the second quarter. He caught a pass from Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks along the right sideline, sidestepped a defender and time for five juked another before being tackled after a 19-yard gain. Soon after, he gained eight yards on a slant across the middle of the field.
Florida even lined him up at quarterback in the first half, and he gained five yards on a rush up the middle.
“He’s gotta still learn and learn how to play, but he was a guy that we felt needed to get touches,” McElwain said. “He’s an electric guy, man.”
There was no one in front of
He almost reached the end zone, but just as he was about to complete his 72-yard touchdown run, Tennessee linebacker
swiped at the ball from behind, forcing a fumble. The ball bounced out of the back of the end zone, giving possession back to Tennessee.
And Florida’s rushing problems continued.
The Gators have gone eight games without a rushing touchdown, the longest streak in the nation.
“It’s disappointing,” running back said. “It pisses me off.”
Florida’s running backs also fumbled twice — one from Davis and one from sophomore to start the third quarter.
“We can’t do that,” McElwain said. “Especially next week on the road.”
Even though they didn’t score, Florida’s running backs were serviceable on Saturday. The group combined for 179 yards on 22 carries, with Thompson and sophomore Perine receiving a bulk of the touches. Both Thompson and Perine had impressive moments, like Thompson’s seven-yard rush through several Tennessee defenders in the second quarter and Perine’s eight-yard run in the first quarter.
But both failed to reach the end zone.
“[We need to] play with some consistency. Play with some energy,” McElwain said of the offense. “When they do that, they go play pretty good.”
Davis led Florida with 94 yards on four carries, while Perine had 55 yards on 11 carries and Thompson had 30 yards on seven carries.
“We need to get a rushing touchdown,” Thompson said. “To not have a touchdown in eight games, it’s disappointing.” SATURDAY’S BOX
UF’s Kadarius Toney (17) caught 4 passes for 40 yards against Tennessee, part of a concerted effort to get him the ball.