Florida airs it out, tops EKU 52-3 on Senior Day; Gators become bowl-eligible

The Florida Gators (6-4) rolled to a 52-3 win over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-3) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, subsequently becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012.

Florida quarterbacks freshman Treon Harris and redshirt junior Jeff Driskel combined for six total touchdowns, as wide receivers sophomore Demarcus Robinson and redshirt senior Quinton Dunbar each eclipsed 100 yards and hauled in two scores.

Harris completed just 4-of-12 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns, while Driskel was 9-for-11 for 164 yards with three passing touchdowns as well as a rushing score.

For Dunbar, who was playing his last game in The Swamp, the performance was the best of his Gators career. He registered a career-high 107 yards, caught his first touchdown since Nov. 24, 2012, and scored twice for the first time in his career.

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South Carolina fight back in The Swamp, defeats Florida 23-20 in overtime

Two blocked kicks – first on a field goal, then on a punt – kept the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) alive, and a powerful running game allowed the visitors to pull out a 23-20 overtime victory over the Florida Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida spoke all week about its plans to “take back The Swamp,” and the Gators appeared to have the game well in hand until late, when after failing to gain a first down that would have run out the clock, UF had a punt blocked with 39 seconds remaining. USC rumbled into the end zone a couple plays later to force overtime and eventually outscored the home team 6-3 in the extra period to end the contest with a win.

The Gators dropped an overtime game for the first time in five tries and are now 4-3 all-time in such contests including 3-2 in The Swamp and 1-1 this season. UF is also now 22-7 against unranked opponentsa nd 13-5 against unranked Southeastern Conference teams under head coach Will Muschamp.

Muschamp falls to 1-3 against South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier, and his ability to keep his job is in serious question after another late meltdown cost UF another win at home.

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10/15: Muschamp updates injuries, quarterbacks

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp participated in the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday, looking to his team’s next game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. (ESPN2).

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (knee) and junior wide receiver Latroy Pittman are both expected to be practicing with the team on Wednesday. Orr is expected to be available for Saturday’s game, while Pittman’s status is a bit more up in the air as he will only be taken limited practice repetitions.

QUARTERBACK DECISION

Outside of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper declaring Tuesday that redshirt junior Jeff Driskel would get the start, Muschamp said there has been no solid decision made about how the quarterback rotation will go on Saturday.

“We’re going to see who has the hot hand and see who’s helping move our football team and gives us the best opportunity to win. We’ll make that decision as we go through the game,” he said. “Both guys deserve and have earned the opportunity to play. We’re still kind of going through that through [Wednesday]’s practice into the game. Kurt and I will sit down Friday morning and make a decision on what we need to do.”

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10/14: Roper explains Florida’s rushing approach

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Kurt Roper met with the media on Tuesday to provide some thoughts on Florida’s second loss (at home against LSU) and the Gators’ upcoming contest against the Missouri Tigers, which is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

RUNNING THINGS

To say that Florida’s approach to running the football last Saturday was questionable is an understatement. The Gators entered the game with their starter, junior running back Matt Jones, injured (ankle) and questionable. UF planned to run redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel a lot in the contest, too.

Despite Jones’s health and the prospect of overworking a quarterback who had not carried the ball that much in any other game this season as very real concerns, Florida did not appear to have a power rushing backup plan.

Sophomore Kelvin Taylor and redshirt senior Mack Brown, who combined to tote the rock 259 times for 1,051 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013, touched the ball early in the contest but were not used late when it mattered the most – on 1st and Goal at the 2-yard line, 2nd and Goal at the 1-yard line, and 3rd and Goal at the 1-yard line.

Instead, the Gators ran 5-foot-9, 177-pound freshman tailback Brandon Powell on first down, gave Driskel a chance to run it in out of the shotgun on second down, and ran a triple option on third down (that would have succeeded had the pass not been dropped).

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10/13: Muschamp says Gators will play two quarterbacks – Driskel and Harris – on Saturday

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team continues to recover from its latest loss while preparing for the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening. Florida will host Mizzou at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida; kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the agme will air live nationally on ESPN2.

INTRODUCING THE TWO-QUARTERBACK SYSTEM

In what was likely to be the original plan last week against LSU, Muschamp confirmed Monday that Florida will employ a two-quarterback system this week against Missouri with redshirt junior Jeff Driskel likely to take the first snaps in the contest.

“They both will play this week. We’ll work through the week and see how things go. We’ll see how it goes there,” he said. “Right now, Jeff would probably start, but they’re both going to play.”

Driskel, who learned of his demotion to part-time player when Muschamp made the announcement, said he has no qualms with the decision because he knows he needs to pick up his play going forward. Freshman Treon Harris, of course, will be the other signal caller taking reps with Driskel.

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10/11: Florida-LSU post-game report

A soul-crushing 50-yard game-winning field goal pushed the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) ahead of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, as LSU took advantage of multiple Florida miscues to pull off a 30-27 come-from-behind victory in The Swamp.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the close loss, and OnlyGators.com takes a look at a number of key moments in the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» After the win, LSU is now 27-31-3 all-time against Florida, trailing the Gainesville portion of the series 12-15-3. The Tigers have won four of their last five meetings with the Gators.
» Saturday was the 44th consecutive year, dating back to 1979, that UF and LSU squared off on the gridiron.
» The Gators are now 21-5 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 12-3 against unranked SEC teams during his tenure.
» Florida has converted 19-of-20 red zone trips into points this season but have only scored 11 red zone touchdowns through five games.
» The Gators scored more than 21 points in regulation for the first time in nine SEC games.
» UF’s offensive line once again did not allow a sack; the Gators have only given up five through five games, including none against Eastern Michigan, Alabama and LSU.
» Florida entered Saturday with a +8 turnover margin but lost three turnovers in the game and did not gain any back; the Gators are now +5 for the season. UF gained 15 turnovers in its first four games.
» Florida’s run defense had only allowed 11 double-digit runs on the year entering Saturday’s game but gave up nine more over the course of the LSU contest.
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar entered Saturday having caught a pass in 32-straight games. He dropped his only target of the evening and came three games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.

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Late field goal lifts LSU over Florida 30-27

An intense, hard-fought, back-and-forth affair Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, came to a close as Colby Delahoussaye booted a career-long 50-yard field goal to push the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a 30-27 victory over the Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC).

LSU benefited from three forced turnovers – all coughed up by Florida redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel – tough running and some questionable penalty calls throughout the contest, while the Gators had multiple chances to win the game late but came up short by making numerous mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Freshman running back Leonard Fournette was beastly for the Tigers, taking 27 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. LSU sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural also broke through for 52 yards and a one-handed touchdown, hauling in a huge 41-yard reception on 3rd and 25 late in the game to put his team in position to score.

For Florida, Driskel completed 14-of-25 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, but a fumbled early in the contest and a late interception (one of two for the game) that led to Delahoussaye’s game-winning field goal. He also carried the ball a team-high 21 times for 71 yards and another score.

Redshirt senior WR Andre Debose was the Gators’ best playmaker on Saturday, returning one punt 62 yards for a touchdown and another 53 yards to set up a second Florida score. He also had one carry for 35 yards. Sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson, the beneficiary of a 73-yard bomb from Driskel late in the fourth quarter, led the wideouts with 104 yards on the evening, and freshman RB Brandon Powell took six receptions for 66 yards.

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Coaches want Gators’ playmakers to step it up

For weeks now, the Florida Gators coaching staff has claimed that redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel is only part of the problem when it comes to the offense’s ineptitude. Last Saturday, the Gators proved head coach Will Muschamp and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper right as drops, protection and other miscues – plus Driskel’s mistakes – seriously limited how effective Florida’s offense was through the first three quarters of the Tennessee game.

On Wednesday, Muschamp made it quite clear that the onus will not solely be on Driskel to play better in Saturday night’s showdown with the LSU Tigers. The skill players in particular must drastically improve, too.

“Fifteen drops at the [wide receiver] position, which is, you know…” said an exasperated Muschamp. “I look at the situation with the receivers, we’re trying to get some things going in the throwing game and we drop a slant on the first drive. And it’s like the air comes out of it a little bit. We’ve got to overcome those situations. We’ve got to finish on some plays; we’ve got to be able to place the ball on 3rd and 6 to an out route to a tight end on the money. There’s a lot of things involved in it. I think from the standpoint of us making some plays, creating some confidence for our guys is critical.”

In an effort to show the Gators’ playmakers how their minor mistakes – jumping too early for a pass, running the wrong route, failing to block effectively or altogether – are affecting Driskel and the offense as a whole, Muschamp addressed the unit Monday and stressed that the players need to take ownership of their roles on the team.

By doing so, he also attempted to take some pressure off of Driskel by pointing out to his teammates how the signal caller is not the only one causing the offense to appear as if it is stuck in the mud during games.

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