Prior to No. 12 Florida’s second possession of its 27-2 loss to No. 13 Florida State on Saturday, a former UF great, running back Fred Taylor, took the field to be honored as UF’s 2015 Southeastern Conference Living Legend.
He received a raucous ovation from the record 90,916 who packed into The Swamp for Florida’s regular-season finale.
And while the Gators suffered their fourth-most lopsided loss to the Seminoles in the rivalry’s 60-year history, Fred’s son — tailback Kelvin Taylor — gave Gator fans reason for optimism in the game.
Kelvin rushed for a season-high 136 yards against FSU, with three of his 24 runs going for at least 20 yards.
It was his fourth game with at least 100 yards on the ground in the last five outings.
The junior now has 977 yards on the season, putting him on the brink of being Florida’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Mike Gillislee in 2012.
"This guy plays with energy, practices with energy, plays hard," UF coach Jim McElwain said. "He loves to play the game. He loves his teammates. It’s great to see."
Despite playing behind an inexperienced and makeshift offensive line and with a lifeless passing game, Kelvin has found success late this season.
In the first seven games of the season, Kelvin rushed for 463 yards and eight touchdowns on 129 carries (3.6 yards per carry).
But in the last five games, he has tallied 514 yards and five touchdowns on 112 runs (4.6 yards per carry).
He had seven runs of at least 20 yards in the last five games, highlighted by a 53-yard scamper against South Carolina three weeks ago that set up Florida’s game-sealing touchdown.
He had just one such run through the first seven games.
Kelvin’s 13 touchdowns this year are tied with his dad and Emmitt Smith’s 1987 campaign for fifth most in a single season in UF history.
"I was really impressed, really all season, (with) the way he’s fought," tight end Jake McGee said. "There haven’t been any big holes for him but he’s been running his tail off and really giving everything he has to this football team and this program."
But with the Gators struggling to sustain drives against FSU, Kelvin’s efforts on Saturday went mostly without benefit.
Of Florida’s 13 full drives, nine ended in punts, two ended in a turnover on downs and two resulted in missed Austin Hardin field goals.
"They made some plays and we didn’t," McElwain said. "It’s plain and simple. We had opportunities. Didn’t feel like we took advantage of them. That’s something we’ve got to learn from."
Saturday’s loss was more than likely Kelvin’s final game in The Swamp.
With him wrapping up a career year, a senior season could provide more harm than good.
But while a decision is looming as to whether to declare for the draft, Kelvin said he isn’t worrying about that yet.
The Gators have a date with No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship on Saturday and a bowl game to follow.
With those two games still to be played, Kelvin’s focus is making sure Florida finishes its season on a high note.
"We got a really big game ahead of us," Kelvin said. "I’m ready to just get back in the film room and see what I could’ve done better and what my teammates could’ve done better for us to be successful on offense."
Follow Jordan McPherson on Twitter @J_McPherson1126
UF's Kelvin Taylor rushes during Florida's 27-2 loss to Florida State on Nov. 28, 2015, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.