Gillislee carries Gators past Bowling Green, 27-14

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Mike Gillislee had a career-high 148 yards rushing and two touchdowns, helping No. 23 Florida edge Bowling Green 27-14 in the teams' season opener Saturday.

The performance was far from perfect for the Gators, who struggled part of the game on offense and failed to generate much pressure on defense. Still, it was enough for Florida to win its 23rd consecutive opener. The streak is the second longest in the nation behind Nebraska (27).

The Gators can thank Gillislee, Frankie Hammond and two missed field goals for the latest one.

A senior who spent the last three years playing behind Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, Gillislee scored on runs of 15 and 38 yards in the second quarter. Hammond turned a short pass into a 50-yard score early in the fourth. Bowling Green could have had a second-half lead, but fifth-year senior Stephen Stein missed field-goal attempts of 31 and 29 yards.

Florida's quarterback rotation — and thousands of empty seats — got most of the attention on a sweltering day in Gainesville.

The Gators rotated sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel in what was dubbed a final chance to earn the starting job. Driskel seemingly prevailed, but it certainly wasn't a landslide victory.

Brissett started the game, and then went to the bench on the second play. Driskel also started — lining up at receiver for the first snap — and played the first quarter. Florida coaches decided at halftime to stick with Driskel.

Brissett completed 3 of 5 passes for 31 yards. Driskel was 10 of 16 for 114 yards. His big play was a 10-yard pass to Hammond, who put a hand on the ground for stabilization, turned up field and broke two arm tackles en route to the longest reception in his five years in Gainesville.

That made it 24-14, enough to put away the offensively challenged Falcons.

Florida, though, was on its heels in the third quarter.

Driskel threw a poor pass to Trey Burton on a fourth-and-1 play, and the Falcons seized the momentum.

Brian Schmiedebusch, who looks more like a fullback than a punter, gained 8 yards on a fourth-down fake. He juked Jabari Gorman on the play, which ended with an extra 15 yards for a late hit out of bounds.

Anthon Samuel capped the drive with a 12-yard run on a counter play. A game in which Florida was favored by more than four touchdowns all of a sudden was tied at 14.

The Gators, though, took advantage of a 10-yard punt to take a 17-14 lead. Even then, things were dicey after Omarius Hines fumbled in Florida territory. Bowling Green didn't capitalize, though.

Matt Schilz threw an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter. Chris Gallon tipped the ball over the middle, and it landed in Marcus Roberson's hands.

Three plays later, Hammond changed the tenor of the game.

Schilz completed 24 of 49 passes for 204 yards.

Florida finished with 365 yards, and had 13 penalties for 101 yards. The Gators were one of the most penalized teams in the nation last year, something coach Will Muschamp vowed to correct in his second season.

Of course, if the Gators keep winning, the flags will be moot.

Gillislee could be the key to turning around a program that finished 7-6 last season and no longer sells out non-conference home games. There were 84,704 on hand for the opener, but many didn't return for the second half.

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