Florida QB Jeff Driskel fumbles as he is hit by Toledo defensive end Jayrone Elliott. The Gators fumbled twice and lost one ball.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The question was placed on a tee for Matt Campbell, and all the coach had to do was give it a rip.
Only one University of Toledo player was banged up against a physically superior opponent, and defensive lineman Jayrone Elliott was just a little dehydrated. He is expected to practice today.
Maintaining health is the greatest positive to take from this loss, especially staring at another match up with a Southeastern Conference opponent a week from now. Right coach?
"No, the one plus I saw was a young defense that had as many young guys as I’ve ever been a part of," Campbell said after a 24-6 setback to 10th-ranked Florida. "And I give credit to Florida. That’s a pretty good offense led by a darn good quarterback. I saw our defense after the first couple of drives kind of settle in."
Wait a minute. The Rockets were gashed for 262 rushing yards and 5.9 yards per play. They allowed touchdown drives of 84 and 83 yards. They were on the field for more than 10 minutes in the first and fourth quarters.
That warrants praise? Indeed, says Campbell, who realizes his young unit must crawl before it walks and walk before it runs. Five first- or second-year players started, and several other fresh faces were among the rotation.
The Rockets improved in the second half against the run and forced punts on Florida’s first three drives. The lone score Toledo allowed in the second half came after a Terrance Owens interception put the defense in a tough spot, beginning a drive at its own 23.
"I saw our defense grow today," Campbell said. "Are we there yet? I’m not saying that. But I saw great growth from our young guys today."
Cheatham Norrils caused Florida’s lone turnover, charging freely on a corner blitz and knocking the ball loose from quarterback Jeff Driskel. Norrils recovered, leading to a first-half field goal. Elliott also had a sack.
The Rockets in the second straight season opener allowed 24 points in a loss. Unlike last year, when Arizona rolled up 600-plus yards but made repeated miscues, Saturday’s effort leaves room for optimism.
"We didn’t execute some of the detail things that we of course want to execute, but I never saw our kids give up," Campbell said. "That attitude, that effort, the commitment level we preach, I saw it carry on for four quarters."
Junior Sylvestre had 11 tackles and Trent Voss 10.
LISOWSKI STARTS: Rob Lisowski, who was listed No. 2 on the depth chart all offseason, moved past Chase Nelson last week for the final starting position on the offensive line. Lisowski, who can play all line positions, started at right guard, with Greg Mancz sliding to right tackle. Nelson entered the game after two series and played right tackle, moving Mancz inside.
"It’s constant competition," Campbell said. "Lisowski had a good week. At the end of the day we’re going to play the guys that practice best and put themselves in position."
PENZA PUNTS: Vince Penza enjoyed perhaps the best day of any Toledo player, averaging 45.9 yards on seven punts. Three of his kicks landed inside the 20, and one traveled 50 yards.
"Vince did a nice job," Campbell said.
Penza, a senior, averaged 40.5 yards per punt in 2012.
FLORIDA SUSPENSIONS: Starting cornerback Louichez Purifoy was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. Also suspended were defensive tackle Darious Cummings, wide receiver Latroy Pittman, and offensive lineman Quinteze Williams. News of those suspensions came down late Friday. Starting linebacker Antonio Morrison was previously suspended following two arrests this summer.