By Dory LeBlanc
Despite playing without several starters due to injuries and suspensions, the Florida Gators open the 2013 season with a 1-0 record, after defeating the visiting Toledo Rockets 24-6.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel finished the contest 17-of-22 for 153 yards and one touchdown, after an impressive first half where he completed 11-of-12 passes for 101 yards. Driskel added 19 yards on the ground with eight attempts. His first half completion percentage of 90.9-percent is the highest completion percentage in a first half by a Florida QB in at least a decade.
Running back Mack Brown rushed for 112 yards and two TDs on 25 carries, eclipsing his 2012 season total of 102 yards.
The defense, ranked fifth in the nation a year ago, lost key contributors from last season's squad including LB Jonathan Bostic, safety Matt Elam, and DL Sharrif Floyd, and coordinator Dan Quinn. However, against Toledo didn't look like they missed a thing due largely in part to the highly anticipated return of DE Ronald Powell.
Powell, the No. 1 overall recruit in the country in 2010, suffered a torn ACL in the 2012 Spring Game, then a setback to his rehab in fall camp last year, causing him to miss the entire 2012 season.
Against the Rockets, Powell looked to be back to his 2011 form when as a sophomore registered six sacks; recording Florida's first QB-takedown of the season within the first two minutes of Saturday's win.
The Gators clinched their 24th consecutive season-opening victory without RB Matt Jones (viral infection) and OL Jon Halapio (back) due to injuries, while LB Antonio Morrison, CB Loucheiz Purifoy, DT Darious Cummings, WR Latroy Pittman, and OL Quinteze Williams did not see the field while serving suspensions.
Morrison was originally suspended for the first two games of the season after two seperate arrest over the summer, but reports surfaced earlier this week that the linebacker will only miss the opener.
The other four suspended players did not dress Saturday after breaking team rules, as reported yesterday by GatorCountry.com. In their article, they alleged that defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick was also suspended, but according to a University spokesperson, this was not the case.
All players with the exception of Halapio should return for next week's matchup with the Miami Hurricanes. The senior offensive lineman is expected back when the Gators host SEC East rival Tennessee on September 21.