Brett Heggie and the rest of Florida’s offensive line weren’t the stars of Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The announcers weren’t hailing them on long runs. They weren’t praised as heavily as the running backs for Florida’s five rushing touchdowns. But without that unit playing better than in previous weeks, the running game couldn’t have done what it did. And the front five have noticed.
“If we do our job,” right tackle Jawaan Taylor said, “great things can happen.”
Great things did happen for Florida’s offense on Saturday. After not having a running back rush for a touchdown since Oct. 29 against Georgia, the duo of Lamical Perine and Malik Davis combined for five rushing touchdowns against the Commodores. Davis was especially explosive, pacing the backfield with 124 yards on 17 carries.
He now leads the team in rushing with 319 yards on the year, which is more than double second-place Perine (148).
“That kid's fantastic,” offensive line coach Brad Davis said. “You could put me in there and he'd still probably get a yard or two.”
He added that the backs overall have done a good job of taking what the line has given them.
“The other guys,” Brad Davis said of the running backs, “their job is to go out and execute and make us look good, and they've done a pretty good job of that so far. So hopefully (we'll) get better."
That was the theme for Davis when he spoke to reporters before the Vanderbilt game: Getting better. Of course every coach wants his players to get better, but the emphasis has shown.
The Gators allowed six sacks in Week 1 against Michigan. They’ve allowed four in the three games since.
The Gators managed 11 rushing yards against Michigan. That number increased to 168 a week later, 186 another week later and 218 this past weekend.
Coach Jim McElwain attributes much of that success to the continued development of the offensive line, in addition to the emergence of Malik Davis. Combined, those factors have the offense humming.
“Played with a little more consistency on offense and that was good to see,” he said following the win over Vandy. “The energy of our offensive line was really good.”
Heggie said some of the improvement is thanks to better communication.
“We communicate very well,” he said, “but we’re gonna continue to get better in that area.”
Because even though Heggie was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week and Davis was named SEC Freshman of the Week, Heggie subscribes to what Brad Davis said: the group is still a work in progress.
“You'll continue to hear me say that,” Davis said.
— McElwain became a grandfather this past week, though it’s not clear when exactly. The baby’s name is Grace.
“Two days later, my other daughter got engaged,” he added. “Busy week.
— “SEC Nation,” the Saturday morning pregame show that features Marcus Spears, Laura Rutledge, Paul Finebaum and Tim Tebow and airs on the SEC Network, will be in Gainesville for Saturday’s game against LSU. The show will run from 10 a.m. to noon and will take place on the Plaza of the Americas.
— Aside from Tyrie Cleveland and Luke Del Rio, the only other Gators player injured against the Commodores was defensive tackle Kyree Campbell. McElwain said he’s having his knee looked at and that he’d know the results after Monday’s press conference.
You can follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebaueri, and contact him at [email protected].