NEW ORLEANS -- A year ago in the MAACO Bowl, it took Boise State running back Doug Martin 14 seconds to make an impact. That's how much time ran off the clock on Martin's 100-yard kickoff return to open Boise State's 56-24 win over Arizona State.
Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease was in the same role at Boise State in the game and relied heavily on Martin that night in Las Vegas. Martin was named the MAACO Bowl MVP for his 301 all-purpose yards.
Martin's name popped up Sunday when Pease was asked if he still felt comfortable in comparing Gators senior running back Mike Gillislee to Martin, who capped his rookie season with the Tampa Bay Bucs on Sunday by rushing for 142 yards in a 22-17 win over Atlanta.
Martin finished his rookie season with 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 90.8 yards a game. Meanwhile, Gillislee rushed for 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season, averaging 92 yards per game.
As for Pease's answer Sunday, he simply said, "I do."
"I think Mike's really focused,'' Pease continued. "He's a kid that's studied a lot of football while we've been here. Now that he's got some time off, he's fresh. And he understands what we're doing, where we're going to fit [him in] in the game plan. He's dialed in."
Gillislee has been dialed in all season, starting in the season opener when he rushed for 148 yards against Bowling Green. He stalled some in midseason when teams began to stack the box to stop him, but Gillislee kept churning and capped the regular season with a 140-yard game in a 37-26 win at Florida State, becoming the Gators' first running back to eclipse 1,000 yards in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
He arrived in New Orleans with the same approach he has carried throughout his Gators career. Don't expect to find the low-key Gillislee roaming up and down Bourbon Street.
"I've been here before so this trip is more about being with the team and having the family getting together at the hotel,'' Gillislee said. "We've spent most of our time in the hotel room, so we haven't really gone downtown other than to eat. We've spent a lot of time together playing cards and video games."
One of Gillislee's goals at the beginning of the season was to rush for 1,000 yards, which means a framed photo on the wall in the running backs' meeting room at The Swamp.
"It's a great feeling. It's something I always wanted to do,'' Gillislee said. "I always wanted to be remembered. I think getting 1,000 yards I will be remembered."
Gillislee said his body "feels great" after the extended layoff after the regular season. After the Sugar Bowl he will turn his attention to the NFL Draft and preparing to play in the Senior Bowl.
While Gillislee had to wait his turn to be Florida's featured back, he has fond memories of the Sugar Bowl. As a freshman Gillislee entered the game late and rushed for a team-high 78 yards in Florida's win over Cincinnati three years ago.
He should have a much more significant role in Wednesday's game against Louisville.
Gillislee has the Cardinals' attention.
"If we want to stop Florida's offense we will have to stop him,'' Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith said Sunday. "I think he's the best player on Florida's offense."
Smith has a lot of company in that assessment.