It was something he had never been a part of before.
Crossing the goal line to score the winning points for the Gators, Matt Jones heard the thunderous roar of the crowd. He couldn’t get up, his teammates piling on him in celebration.
In what was a nerve-racking night for Gator Nation, the junior running back was cool under pressure, running for 156 yards on 29 carries, with his lone touchdown coming in the third overtime to give Florida a 36-30 win over Kentucky. This marked the second time Jones has ran for 100 yards or more in his Florida career.
With Kentucky’s defensive ends Za’Darius Smith and Alvin Dupree getting pressure on the outside, the team was able to attack the middle of the defense and get significant yards. Jones and fellow back Kelvin Taylor had similar stats leading up to the fourth quarter when Jones saw and increase in his workload. Head coach Will Muschamp said the team wanted to go with what was working and continue to exploit the center of the line throughout the game, and with Jones’ frame and ability to pick up yards after contact, the game plan proved to be successful.
Jones finished with more rushing yards than Kentucky, which only had 81 total. The running back said the team never panicked or got discouraged, the key players realizing they had to step up to the challenge presented. As the game drug on the running back felt the defense weaken, allowing him to break tackles and push the ball forward. Eventually he knew the team was going to be able to break a run open for a big gain.
“It was great, I ran hard, that’s what I was supposed to do,” Jones said. “In the fourth quarter they were tired, especially overtime, they were tired of tackling.”
Jones bruised Kentucky the entire night, keeping a low center of gravity and dishing punishment to whomever lay in his path. A short-yardage play in the second half became a highlight run as Jones’ two stiff arms to two Kentucky defenders would’ve been enough to make honorary Mr. Two Bits and WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil consider a new tag team partner.
Jones said the run was the product of adrenaline, skills and revenge after the Wildcats hit Taylor after he was down in the first half. The running back was hoping his teammate would get up- and that he could dish out hits on any white jerseys in sight.
“Nah, nobody really was,” Jones said. “Number 2 [Dupree] was talking a lot of trash, but we kind of got off on him too.”
Going forward the Gators have a tough road ahead of them, with consecutive road games against Alabama and Tennessee. While the game may have been closer than most at The Swamp would have liked, Jones felt this way they grinded out the victory was important as the team goes deeper into conference play.
“It’s definitely good,” he said. “We needed this game, we needed some adversity to get through to go to Alabama, because we know they’re a tough team too. This definitely prepared us to go to Alabama.”