Driskel gets stamp of approval from Muschamp

Naming Jeff Driskel his starting quarterback on Monday may very well have been a touch decision for the coaching staff, but Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made it clear Saturday that he never had any doubt that the sophomore would be able to lead the team under any set of circumstances.

Asked immediately after his team’s 20-17 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies what he learned about Driskel following his performance on Saturday, Muschamp simply quipped, “Nothing. I knew it going into the game.”

What Muschamp knew was that Driskel can throw the ball accurately and with a measure of strength either in the pocket or on the run, create plays with his legs and get the team out of seemingly difficult situations.

He also knew about his player’s character and the type of competitor he is on the gridiron.

“The guy’s a tough guy; he’s a tough guy. He plays through it,” Muschamp said. “I didn’t learn anything that I didn’t already know. I mean that as a very big compliment to him. I didn’t learn anything today. I knew it.”

Driskel rewarded Muschamp for his trust, completing 13-of-16 passes for 162 yards and leading the Gators to a 10:14 advantage in time of possession. He also made a number of clutch plays with his legs including a game-ending 21-yard run on a naked bootleg to ice the contest late in the fourth quarter.

“I was excited. I knew that the defense was going to bite on the power [run] up the middle, so I was excited to get a chance to get the edge and just wanted to stay in bounds and make sure I secure the ball,” he said of the play.

Driskel’s performance was not without criticism, however. He was sacked eight times during the game, a few of which were doe to him holding onto the ball too long, and lost yardage on plays where he ran out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away.

“I got to get rid of the ball, plain and simple,” he admitted after the game. “We knew they were going to pressure. I got to get rid of the ball, throw the ball away if I have to. I have to work on that a little bit.”

Muschamp was not as concerned with Driskel’s miscues.

“I thought he played well,” he said. “Again, you got to go back and watch the film with the sacks. I do think he could have gotten rid of the ball at times. Again, there were some protection issues. They have two good edge rushers. They led the country in sacks last year, so they do have some guys that can rush the passer. We had a busted route on one sack.

“Again, [he threw for a] high-percentage, took care of the football and critical third-down conversion there late in the third quarter to flip the field on a 3rd-and-6, created that. Another boot[leg] late in the game; they had it played well, he made a play. All of those situations, to me, you put a young quarterback in those situations and you get a win, that is very positive.”

Driskel is not only a young signal caller but one who on Saturday started the first game of his collegiate career behind center. He did so in front of the infamous 12th Man at Kyle Field, an environment he had only heard about until he stepped onto the field.

“That crowd was everything that was advertised,” he said. “It lived up to its hype.”

It is yet to be determined if Driskel will live up to his hype, but he is 1-0 as a starter (2-0 if you consider the fact that he played most of Florida’s season opener) and got to end Saturday’s contest in the sweetest way possible – kneeling out the clock.

“That’s the best play in football,” he said. “It was exciting, exciting to come out with a big win.”

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9/8: Florida at Texas A&M post-game report

No. 23/24 Florida Gators football (2-0, 1-0 SEC) struggled in the first half but turned things around in the final 30 minutes and defeated the Texas A&M Aggies (0-1, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon in both teams’ Southeastern Conference opener at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. After the game head coach Will Muschamp discussed what occurred on the field and in the locker room.

MUSCHAMP’s OPENING STATEMENT

“It was a good win for our team. The guys continue to fight hard and play the game and play it for 60 minutes. And it wasn’t always pretty – first half defensively. Third down was an adventure. You’ve got to give them credit. Johnny Manziel is a fantastic athlete. He’s a guy that really has got legs and he extended plays and made plays for them. You got to give him credit. A lot of off-rhythm plays, very difficult to defend. We did a better job in the second half of controlling the line of scrimmage. That was the difference. There was no magic potion. We came in and told the guys just to squeeze blocks, play thicker on blocks, quit running up the field. You get an illusion that these guys are a passing football team and really they’re not right now with Johnny. They’re a running football team; a screen, short, controlled passing game. He’s going to have high percentages in every game because of the throws that they’re making and asking him to do.

Offensively I thought we ran the ball extremely well. Obviously whether it was protection, holding the ball too long at the quarterback position or we had a busted route I know on one of the sacks where the ball should have gone – we got to get that stuff cleared up. A 3rd-and-1 late in the game was critical for us; we did not convert, which was very disappointing. But we ran the ball well, we stayed balanced in the game, and we moved the football. Coming into this environment, which is a pretty solid environment, I thought our guys responded well, hung in there and did what we had to do to win the game.

Guys, we’re going to have a lot of games like this now. It’s just who we are. We’re going to grind it out. We’re going to win. That’s what we kind of are as a mentality as a football team as we continue to grow and mature through the year.”

WINNING THE FOURTH QUARTER

SEC opponents outscored the Gators 72-22 in the fourth quarter during Muschamp’s first season in 2011. Florida was much better not only in the fourth quarter but in the entire second half on Saturday, coming from behind out of the break for the first time in Muschamp’s tenure (1-5). The coach undoubtedly noticed this improvement and praised his team for its efforts.

“The second half we just played more disciplined football. They were 0-for-6 on third down; we forced six punts. We did a nice job of flipping the field in some situations,” he said. “[We] really won the game on offense there at the end. When they knew we were going to run it, we ran it. We had to run it. The 3rd-and-1 [failure] was disappointing but other than that, heck man, when you line up and are able to run the football and people know you’re going to run it, that’s what you have to do.”

He continued, “Last year, I don’t know, man. I don’t know if we win this ballgame. As far as running the football when you had to [in order] to win. Making stops defensively when you had to. Doing the things you got to do to win football games.”

Muschamp said the biggest change defensively in the second half was the defensive line. Florida’s aggressiveness was hurting them as Texas A&M invited the rushers to run up the middle while Manziel hit the creases that were created by those actions.

“I told them, ‘I’m firing you if you run up the field again. Sit on the line of scrimmage, squeeze blocks inside and quit running up the field. That’s what you want to do. Just sit on the line of scrimmage and get your hands on people and play thick on people. If you’ll do that then we won’t have run lanes anymore.’ And we didn’t have any run lanes in the second half,” he explained.

Muschamp called the final possession the “happiest moment in Florida history for me – that and the Ohio State game,” noting that being able to run it successfully when your opponent knows that is your intention puts a smile on his face. He was also ecstatic about the victory as a whole, especially one coming in such a tough road environment.

“I told our team, ‘I’m not big into those sort of things.’ With all of our hospitality in the SEC, we’re trying to make everybody happy. Everybody wanted the glory story here with A&M and they didn’t get it. I’m very proud of our team to come in here, play well and do what we had to do to win the game,” he said.

“We played two games and we’re 2-0. That’s what you’re supposed to be.”

”I’M NEVER GOING TO…APOLOGIZE FOR WINNING”

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M post-game report…after the break!

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Gators “gig” Aggies 20-17 in SEC initiation

It was a tale of two halves for the No. 23/24 Florida Gators on Saturday as they faced the Texas A&M Aggies for the first time in 35 years at Kyle Field in College Station, TX. Florida (2-0) struggled defensively in the first half but was dominant in the latter portion of the game, stifling Texas A&M (0-1) offensively and coming away with a 20-17 victory in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

Senior running back Mike Gillislee led the Gators with 83 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries but missed most of the second half after seemingly pulling his groin on his second score. Joining him as an effective member of Florida’s offense was sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who made his first career start but still went 13/16 for 162 yards and made plenty of plays with his legs.

The Aggies’ offense was led by freshman QB Johnny Manziel, who was 23/30 for 173 yards and carried the ball 17 times for a net of 60 yards with a touchdown. Senior RB Christine Michael also chipped in 13 carries for 33 yards and a score for Texas A&M.

The Gators defense allowed 270 yards of offense and 17 first-half points but clamped down at the end of the game, holding the Aggies scoreless and allowing them to register a total of 64 yards of offense.

Florida’s defense looked dominant on the first two plays of the game, but a 16-yard rush by Manziel followed by a personal foul penalty on sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson gave Texas A&M the ball across midfield.

The Aggies then converted on a 4th-and-1 before being stopped in the red zone as junior safety Matt Elam and Roberson broke up consecutive fade passes. TAMU was forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal and take an early 3-0 lead.

The Gators answered back immediately with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive led by Driskel. He moved Florida down the field nicely, but UF was put in a tough spot when sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer was stopped short on 3rd-and-1 at the 16-yard line.

Florida executed a fake field goal run with junior running back Trey Burton, and a personal foul facemask added to the end of the play put the Gators in scoring position. Two plays later Burton took a Wildcat snap and handed it off to Gillislee, who tumbled into the end zone with 3:51 left in the first quarter.

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M game story…after the break!

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Gameday: No. 23 Florida Gators at Texas A&M

Location: Kyle Field – College Station, TX [Capacity: 82,589]
Weather Forecast: 89°F, partly cloudy, winds N at 21 mph
Time: 3:30 p.m. EDT / 2:30 p.m. CDT

TV: ESPN/ESPNHD (Brent Musburger, Kirk Herbstreit, Heather Cox)
SiriusXM: 94/199 | Radio: Gator Radio Network (affiliates)
Online Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(23) FLORIDA GATORS TEXAS A&M AGGIES
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Kevin Sumlin
Record: 1-0 (0-0 SEC) Record: 0-0 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -1; O/U 49.5

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on what happened with the Gators over the last week? No problem. OGGOA has been here the whole time posting a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam on Saturday.

Jeff Driskel named starting QB | LS Drew Ferris out | CB Jaylen Watkins steps up | CB Jeremy Brown returns | Sumlin gives edge to UF | Quinn talks defense

EXTRA CREDIT: Four things Florida must do to top Texas A&M on Saturday

HISTORY / STREAKS

» Saturday’s contest between Florida and Texas A&M is not only TAMU’s season opener but also the school’s first-ever SEC game. The Gators are 1-1 historically against the Aggies with their last meeting coming in the 1977 Sun Bowl.
» Florida, however, is 1-7-2 all-time playing in the state of Texas and 10-11-2 all-time against seven total teams from the state. TAMU is 25-2 in home openers.
» Saturday’s game will be featured as a host site for ESPN’s College GameDay. It is the 21st time (14-7) that the Gators will be on the road for College GameDay. The Aggies will be hosting College GameDay for the third time (0-2).
» Florida is 8-1 against unranked opponents and 0-5 against ranked opponents since Muschamp took over the program in 2011.
» Sumlin is coaching his first game at Texas A&M after the team had its season opener postponed due to Hurricane Issac. He coached Houston to a 13-1 record in 2011.
» The Gators had eight true freshmen play in their season opener including three on defense, four on offense and one on special teams.
» Florida is not scheduled to face Tennessee to open their conference slate for the first time since 1996. (UF-UT was slated for the third week of the 2011 season but was postponed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.)
» The Gators were scheduled to face Louisiana-Lafayette in week two but are instead playing an SEC game in the second week of the season for the first time since 1995.
» The Aggies are playing a conference opponent in their season opener for the first time since 1967 and just the third time in program history.
» Florida sophomore Jeff Driskel and Texas A&M redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel will both start the first games of their respective college careers at quarterback on Saturday. Driskel played as a reserve in 2011 and saw plenty of action last week; for Manziel it will also be the first college football game in which he has ever played.
» The Gators rushed for 220 yards (5.2 yards per carry) last week in an effort to prove that the team has a power running game worth respecting. UF is now 8-2 under Muschamp when eclipsing the 100-yard rushing benchmark and 0-4 otherwise.
» Florida’s offense converted just 5-of-16 third-downs (31 percent) against Bowling Green last Saturday.
» The Gators held the Falcons to 4-of-17 on third down (23.5 percent), continuing a trend from 2011 in which UF was second nationally in third-down defense (27.3 percent).
» Florida has forced eight turnovers in its last five games dating back to last season.
» The Gators are 8-1 under Muschamp when leading at the half but 0-5 when tied or trailing at that point in the game.
» Florida has at least two kickoff returns for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons after never having more than one in a single season before 2010.
» Texas A&M set school records in 2011 in passing, scoring and total offense (seventh nationally). TAMU is returning eight starters from that offense but neither their starting quarterback nor primary running back.
» TAMU’s offensive line allowed just nine sacks in 13 games in 2011 and was only flagged for holding twice (the last time in the second game of that season).
» The Aggies led the country in 2011 with 51 total sacks and are returning their top two pass rushers from last season.
» Some college football rule changes for 2012: kickoffs moved up to the 35-yard line, touchbacks moved up to the 25-yard line, player losing his helmet in action results in halting participation immediately and sitting out one full play.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida and Texas A&M have only met on the gridiron twice before with their last showdown occurring in El Paso, TX in the 1977 Sun Bowl. The Aggies stomped the Gators 37-14 that day, forcing five turnovers and enveloping their opponents with a hard-hitting defense. Then-Florida head coach Doug Dickey lost starting quarterback Jimmy Fisher to a dislocated ring finger in the first quarter and was irked at the end of the game when Texas A&M went for a two-point conversion on their final touchdown. The teams’ only other meeting was in Gainesville, FL back in 1962 when the Gators routed the Aggies 42-6 by winning the battle on the ground 206-72.

ESPN: KEYS TO THE GAME

Read the rest of the Florida-Texas A&M preview including injuries and absences and which players to look out for from both sides of the field.
Continue Reading » Gameday: No. 23 Florida Gators at Texas A&M

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ESPN College GameDay at Texas A&M on Sept. 8

ESPN College GameDay will eminate from College Station, TX next Saturday as the Texas A&M Aggies (0-0) host the No. 23 Florida Gators (1-0) in a game that is not only the season opener for the home team but also their first-ever league game as a newly-established member of the Southeastern Conference.

Florida will take on Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The game will be aired live on ESPN at 3:30 p.m.

The Gators will be making their first appearance on the program in two seasons after last being featured three times in 2009 – at home against Florida State, on the road at LSU and in a neutral site game against Alabama in Atlanta, GA for the SEC Championship.

ESPN will take the program to College Station for the third time since it began in 1993; the Aggies last hosted GameDay on Nov. 4, 2006.

College GameDay begins with a one-hour show at 9 a.m. on ESPNU before shifting over to ESPN for the primary two-hour broadcast beginning at 10 a.m. It features host Chris Fowler, analysts Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit, Desmond Howard and David Pollack and contributor Samantha Steele.

The network will put Brent Musburger (play-by-play), Herbstreit (color commentary) and Heather Cox (sideline reporter) on the call for the featured contest.

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Sumlin cracks back at Muschamp’s barb

For two guys who have not been head coaches in the Southeastern Conference for long, Florida’s Will Muschamp (one year, five months) and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (five months) may be forming the beginnings of a rivalry that the Gators’ head coach sparked last week with a relatively innocent jab.

“You ever been to College Station?” he asked rhetorically to a group of Florida fans at a Gator Gathering in Lakeland FL. “It’ll be the only time you go.”

Sumlin was apparently none-too-pleased when he heard about Muschamp’s barb, responding Wednesday with a very simple comment in a mind-your-own-business vein.

“He needs to worry about his own team,” said Sumlin, who has coached in the state of Texas since 2008, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Muschamp is plenty worried about the Gators, which after a 7-6 season in his first go-around with the team are looking to make a big jump in year two.

Sumlin is in the first year of his rebuilding project after being hired to replace head coach Mike Sherman in December.

Florida will have an opportunity to get off to a hot start when they open up the 2012 SEC slate against, you guessed it, Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Sept. 8. The game will be the Aggies’ first in their new conference and, as the Chronicle notes, “might be the most hyped game in history between two programs coming off 7-6 seasons.”

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