Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review his team’s dominant 37-20 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday in Knoxville, TN. He and some players also looked ahead to this week’s game as Florida hosts Kentucky on Saturday at 12:21 p.m. in Gainesville, FL.
Junior cornerback Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb) remain out with their respective injures though Muschamp expects to have an update on Jenkins (he may be able to play with a club on his hand if swelling goes down).
Muschamp also announced that junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who appeared to injure his knee in the fourth quarter on Saturday but was said to be fine after the game, has swelling in the knee and is currently day-to-day. Easley tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the same knee last season against Florida State.
Finally, senior running back Mike Gillislee appears to be fine once again after carrying the ball 18 times on an injured groin. “He felt better after the game than he did before is what he told me. Everything we have from the injury report [Sunday] was very positive,” Muschamp said.
Offensive Players of the Game: sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel and junior RB Trey Burton (Driskel was also named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.)
Scrap Iron: entire offensive line
Big Plays: redshirt senior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed (touchdowns)
Defensive Player of the Game: redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray
Hard Hat: junior defensive end Dominique Easley
Special Teams Players of the Game: sophomore punter Kyle Christy and redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis
Scout Team Players of the Week: freshman guard Jessamen Dunker, redshirt freshman walk-on defensive back Ben Peacock, freshman walk-on RB Mark Herndon
27-0 vs. 22-72
The biggest takeaway from the first three games of the season for the Gators is how well the team has played in the second half. Florida spent the entire offseason focused on being better conditioned and more mature late in games, which is evident by what the team has shown on the field so far this year.
Three of the four players that spoke with the media on Monday expressed that exact same sentiment.
“Over the offseason [Jeff] Dillman pretty much engrained that in our minds basically to finish out games. I think they had a score up from last year about the fourth quarter scores from us as far as our opponents. We just keep that in the back of our minds,” Hammond said. “We just want to outscore opponents and finish games. I want to say it was 72-22. Every workout we came into he reminded us. It stuck in our heads and we don’t want to have that score. I mean, it needs to be flipped around this season, so that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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Driskel agreed. “Going into the offseason the strength staff and the coaches really drilled it into our head that we got outscored big-time in the fourth quarter last year [72-22],” he said. “We went into this year knowing that we were going to have to be more conditioned – physically and mentally – to be able to hand the fourth quarter and thus far we’ve done a good job.”
Senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic said that the team was not only aware of the scoring disparity but also how tired they were during games. So far in 2012 the Gators are outscoring opponents 27-0 in the fourth quarter of games.
“That was one thing we had a big emphasis on this offseason,” he said. “We said we want to play better in the second half. We got to be able to last longer than we did last year. We kind of got tired toward the end of games and couldn’t get teams off the field. That was one thing we said this offseason – we got to make sure we last longer than our opponents, be able to get them off the field and get the offense back on it.”
Muschamp equates the improvement not only to the conditioning but the experience and maturity that the team has gained over the last few months.
“We’re a more experienced football team than we were a year ago. We’re a little bit more mature football team at times. From a standpoint of understanding what it takes to be successful, buying in with each other, I think a lot of that camaraderie and those things are certainly much improved. But experience and maturity has a lot to do with it,” he said.
He is also excited for what the second-half dominance can mean for the team going forward. “As much as anything, it brings the guys confidence and poise,” he said. “Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, we can make this thing happen. I also think it helps guys recognize when you’re doing things well and when you’re not doing things well. Part of being a good player and being a good team is understanding why you’re having success and why you’re not having it.”
TIM TEBOW COMPARISONS
The way Driskel played on Saturday – moving the ball with his arm and legs – some have begun drawing comparisons between him and former Florida Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. Though their styles are certainly different and the ability to run is mostly what the players have in common, Driskel seemed flattered at the thought on Monday.
“I’ve definitely heard those comparisons, even back in high school, just because of our body size and the way we can run the ball,” he said. “It’s nice to be compared, but I wouldn’t go that far and say that I try to be like him or watch his film and try to be like him, but I guess we do play similar styles.”
Muschamp later expressed how Driskel’s mobility has been a huge boost to the Gators’ offense (both in production and versatility) so far this season.
“A one-back set is a two-back set now; a two-back set is a three-back set,” he said. “You create a lot of issues for a defense when a guy has legs at the quarterback position.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on Saturday’s win being a true team effort: “Really proud of the team win Saturday night there in Knoxville. That’s what it was – a team win, a collective effort offensively, defensively and special teams. I thought our players did an outstanding job managing through the game, managing the ups and downs and the ebbs and flows through playing on the road and playing in this league. Really proud of their effort. Together Everyone Achieves More. And that’s what we’re talking about with our football team at this time.”
» Muschamp on improvements the team needs to make: “We obviously need to improve on third down. Short-yardage and goal line we’ve addressed every week. […] What we’re doing is not working. If you continue to do the same stuff, you’re going to get the same result.”
» Muschamp on kicking the 49-yard field goal with Sturgis instead of going for it on fourth down late in the game: “A guy that’s just so reliable to be able to extend it to a three-score game. Most situations you probably would have gone for it there on that fourth down but when you have Caleb you put your All-American on the field and you make it a three score game. And that’s what we did.”
» Muschamp explaining the term “pattern match” in regards to a defense: “A ‘pattern match’ team is basically a man coverage team. We are – we’re a pattern match team for the most part. What that means is you’re matching patterns down the field. Well, when you do that, you turn your back to the quarterback sometimes to match routes. When you do that and you have a guy that’s got legs at the quarterback position and you don’t have the right pass rush discipline or you get knocked out of a pass rush lane and the guy takes off running, your back is to the ball.”
» Muschamp on the new NCAA helmet rule (players must exit the field for one play if their helmet comes off while on the field): “We’ve talked about it a bunch. Helmets are going to come off – that’s part of the game. I know we’re trying to do it for safety reasons but when you rush the passer and those offensive linemen stick their hand in your face and they knock your helmet off or the defensive lineman sticks his hands in a guy’s face and knocks his helmet off…no one meant for it to happen, it just happened. Obviously we’re playing a lot more attention to it now because it is a rule and you have to leave the game. That’s the rule so we follow the rules.”
» Hammond on preseason comments that the team did not have playmakers: “We have them. We just have to get the ball in our hands and we’ll do the rest. Like I said, the playmakers are there. We just have to get opportunities and take advantage of them.”
» Hammond on redshirt junior WR Andre Debose playing a bit more on Saturday: “It’s improvement from day to day, from week to week, from game to game. Slowly but surely he’s working his way in. He’s being more consistent and the reps are starting to come along.”
» Driskel on winning the SEC award: “It’s a great honor. All kinds of great players out there putting all kinds of crazy numbers up. It’s cool to get that honor but wouldn’t have any numbers like that if Frankie wouldn’t have taken a little hitch 75 yards or the offensive line creating holes all over the place. It’s kind of a team thing.”
» Driskel on quarterbacking during practice: “I’d still say it’s a competition. We’re both out there every day in practice making each other better. The experience of being out there and getting game reps has really helped out a lot.”
» Driskel on the best throw he made on Saturday: “I’d say the one to Jordan reed in the end zone. There was some pressure on me and I threw off my back leg. I knew the route and I knew where he was, and I knew it was cleared out over there. I just gave him a chance to make a play – and he did.”