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.
“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.”