- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Mike Gillislee needs just 36 yards to become the first Florida running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in eight years.
He'll need way more than that, though, if the Gators are going to have a chance to beat Florida State on Saturday.
The 5-foot-11, 201-pound senior running back -- who ran for 122 yards and a touchdown in UF's 23-0 victory over Jacksonville State on Saturday -- has been the key to Florida's offense all season. He was rolling in the first half of the season, and so were the Gators. But when defenses started stacking the box with eight and nine players, Gillislee's production went way down -- and with it went the offense.
In the first five games of the season, Gillislee ran for 548 yards and seven touchdowns and averaged 109.6 yards per game. The Gators averaged 373.4 yards and 27.2 points per game in that span. That included a game against LSU, which entered the weekend with the No. 2 defense and No. 2 rush defense in the SEC.
But in the last six games, Gillislee has rushed for 416 yards and one touchdown and averaged 69.3 yards per game -- and that's after Saturday's performance against the Gamecocks. UF has averaged 299.2 yards and 24.7 points per game and hasn't scored more than 27 points in any game.
Granted, the sixth-ranked Gators (10-1) won all but one of those games in the second half and are still alive in the national championship hunt, but snapping a two-game losing streak to the Seminoles will require a performance reminiscent of the first part of the season from the offense and Gillislee.
"We need to get better," said UF coach Will Muschamp, who admitted the Gators' offensive production the past two weeks won't get it done against the Noles. "We need to be more consistent. There's no question they've done a really good job recruiting defensive players. Mark Stoops does an outstanding job with their defense. They've played well all year. We need to get more production offensively. More than anything we need to be more consistent offensively. We can't continue to self-inflict wounds on ourselves as far as the penalties and different mistakes."
1dSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf