- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After suspending five players, including two starters on defense, the No. 10 Gators were forced to use their depth against Toledo on Saturday. Several backup players came through, as Florida showed off an improved offense to go with its usually stingy defense in a 24-6 victory.
Florida has won 24 consecutive season openers, the second-longest streak in the nation.
It was over when: Florida freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, ESPN's No. 3-ranked prospect overall in the Class of 2013, stepped in front of a third-quarter Terrance Owens pass and returned the interception to the Toledo 23-yard line, which set up the Gators' offense for its third touchdown drive and a 24-6 lead.
Game ball goes to: Florida junior running back Mack Brown might be the understudy to sophomore Matt Jones, who was out with a viral infection, but he carried the Gators' offense all day. Brown paced Florida in the first half with 97 yards on 17 carries with two touchdowns. He finished with 112 yards on 25 carries.
Stat of the game: It might be unfair to highlight time of possession when Toledo runs an uptempo offense that likes to get up and down the field quickly, but with a 39:48-to-20:12 advantage on the time clock, Florida was able to control the game from start to finish. The Gators took advantage of a big mismatch coming into this game -- Florida's grinding running attack against Toledo's suspect young defense up the middle.
What the Gators learned: Gainesville, you have an offense. The passing game might still lack a downfield threat, and the statistics don't show dominance, but there were far fewer miscues, far more open receivers and overall more creativity than at any point in the past few seasons. The Gators will still be an offense that is defined by downhill running, but with its variety of plays and role players, Florida can move the ball in more ways than before.
What the Rockets learned: Playing an SEC opponent for the first time in program history, Toledo got a taste of an SEC atmosphere with a vocal fan base on a very hot Southern day. The Rockets' uptempo offense put pressure on Florida and was at times effective in the heat, but Toledo's inability to turn scoring drives into touchdowns cost it any chance of staying in the game.