No. 2 Florida chomps No. 7 South Carolina 44-11

A hard-fought Southeastern Conference battled turned into a one-sided blowout on Saturday when the No. 2 Florida Gators, led by a career-high four touchdown pass performance by sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, trampled the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks 44-11 in Gainesville, FL.

On a day in which ESPN’s College GameDay emanated live from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) proved that it is a new team in year two under head coach Will Muschamp, preventing head coach Steve Spurrier and South Carolina (6-2, 4-2 SEC) from winning a third-straight game in the annual series.

The Gators turned three fumble recoveries into 21 first-half points and went five-for-five in the red zone, scoring a touchdown on every trip as they put the SEC East crown within their grasp pending the outcome of next week’s game against Georgia.

Florida started the game on fire as sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy forced a fumble that was recovered on the South Carolina two-yard line by redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray on the first play from scrimmage. Faced with a third down, Driskel hit redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed for a short touchdown to give UF a 7-0 lead less than a minute into the game.

Read the rest of the game story and watch video highlights…after the break!
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10/16: Pease looks at Florida’s passing game

With the team preparing for its seventh game of the season, a 3:30 p.m. home game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks, No. 2 Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media Tuesday to discuss his unit’s passing game and players that have stepped up recently.

…BUT CAN THEY THROW IT?

The Gators have run all over opponents this season, but Florida has not been very productive throwing the ball last two weeks. Part of that is due to how well the Gators have run the ball but there is also some concern that Florida’s passing game may not be up to par as sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel is rarely (if ever) throwing the ball vertically down the field.

Pease addressed that issue Tuesday, noting that being last in the Southeastern Conference in passing offense is concerning but winning is the most important thing.

“I care because you don’t want to be last and we talk about balance,” he said, “but you’ve got to understand something. There’s always give-and-take. We got a game plan every game. There’s a situation where, especially in my spot, I’m probably going to have to rely on that more. In this game, knowing how the game flows and what you can do, all of a sudden we find a couple plays that we can hit on that they can’t adjust to, so we stay with that and see if they can find answers to them. And they didn’t find some answers to a few plays. Whether [Driskel] ends up throwing for 300 or rushing for a record like he does, I don’t really care how it gets done as long as we’re productive with what we do and score points.”

Pease then expanded on his give-and-take philosophy.

“Once you get into a game, depending on the flow of the game and how the game is going, some things are going to have give-and-take,” he said. “LSU it had a give-and-take based on we were running the ball well so we are taking it and putting it in the O-line’s hands, so to speak. In this last game, all of a sudden we found those plays.

“Come on guys, when you hit 10 plays for explosive plays, the bottom line is: Run them again. Run them again. Let’s not get greedy here as a coach and say, ‘I don’t like that. I’m throwing the ball because that’s what we all love to do.’

“If Jeff Driskel can carry the ball 70 yards and out-run everybody, he’s getting the ball. If Mike Gillislee can carry the ball and out-run everybody, he’s getting the ball. And if our O-line blocks like they block, we’re giving them the ball. I’m not going to be stubborn as far as playing off numbers every week. I’m going to do what’s best for this team and what they create for us to be productive and score points and win football games.”

Adding more passing plays into the game will help Florida achieve the balance that Pease wants and many Gators fans feel the offense needs. More talented defenses like South Carolina will be able to put another guy in the box and still be efficient in the secondary, which is something UF will have to avoid to keep the running game going while also adding in some effective and game-breaking passes going forward.

Pease also noted that getting the passing game going is not all on Driskel shoulders as the players around him also have to do better in order to make that happen.

“We threw the ball 20 times [on Saturday]; we completed 11 of them. What’s going on in those? Some of those guys made catches; they got to make people miss. Some of them, we had drops. Some of them, we got to make better reads. Some of them, we got to have better protection. You can still be productive because it’s all self-evaluation. Some of them could maybe be better calls by me. All of that comes into account. It’s not like it can’t be done. It is being done, it’s just you got to continue to get better at it,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the reserve offensive linemen stepping up against Vanderbilt: “Yeah, how about it? We go down three guys… It’s impressive. Three guys come in that probably don’t take as many reps during the week with [Sam [Robey and D.J. [Humphries] and Ian [Silberman] replacing all those guys and still kind of have the continuity. There’s still a lot of communication. There was a lot of communication from what Vanderbilt was doing defensively with the zone blitz. Those guys communicated and [were] productive in the run game. It’s a credit to Coach [Tim] Davis and those guys in the room and getting it done like they did. It’s good to have depth like that. It’s good that those guys can play other positions if they have to move around. Robey can go to guard, sometimes he’s played tackle. He’ll get out there and get better this week and same with the other guys. Hopefully we get some guys back.”

» On if he always knows when fake punts and field goals are being called: “I am because I sit in staff meetings. Do I know when they’re coming sometimes? I didn’t know the other one was coming [Saturday] until I saw the formation because I was about to get up and go to the bathroom. And then soon as I saw Solo[mon Patton] go in motion, I thought, ‘Oh goodness, they’re hitting it.’ Great call by him. Great call by Will [Muschamp].”

» On how Florida can fix the numerous drops the team had against Vanderbilt: “It is really probably more hitting the Jugs machine and creating the situation of having people around them. You really got to create the balls that are off their frame as far as catches – low below the waist, high above their shoulders or back – create a better range of their catch radius.”

» On Driskel’s mobility: “Jeff, come on, you out-run those DBs like that and you got something gifted in you.”

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10/15: Muschamp on injuries, winning, Clowney

No. 2 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s big 31-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores and preview Saturday’s home game against the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (thumb, hamstring) missed Saturday’s game with a hamstring injury after returning one week prior with a cast on his hand. Though a “modified” version of the cast will remain on Jenkins’s hand, he is now back to full speed and will be active against South Carolina.

Florida’s offensive line wound up playing without three starters on Saturday as redshirt senior guard James Wilson (eye) did not travel with the team and both senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (concussion) and redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (elbow) went down with injuries during the game.

Muschamp said Monday that Harrison “should be ready to go” and both Wilson and Nixon “should be fine” for Saturday. We’re really hopeful to get all those guys back,” he said. “They are all definitely going to be fine – or at least ‘probable’ at the worst.” Included in that group is junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who traveled to Vanderbilt but experienced some swelling around his knee and did not play.

The news is not as positive for three other players. Freshman WR Latroy Pittman hurt his ankle on Saturday and is questionable for this week’s game. Additionally, junior CB Cody Riggs (foot) and redshirt junior T Matt Patchan (pectoral) will both miss the game. Muschamp said that Riggs may try to run this week but that both players have an outside chance of returning in two weeks.

PLAYER AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Game: sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel

Scrap Iron: redshirt junior guard Jon Halapio
* Halapio was also named SEC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week.

Defensive Player of the Game: senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic
“He played extremely well. Very productive, active in the middle, made a lot of plays, playing blocks extremely well. Jon’s really progressed this year as far as his physicality of playing in the core of the formation and playing blocks and disengaging, getting off people. Real proud of him.”

Ball Hawks: Bostic, redshirt sophomore Sam LB Neiron Ball, redshirt senior defensive lineman Earl Okine, sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy

Special Teams Player of the Game: sophomore running back Chris Johnson
“He had three tackles inside the 20 on kickoff. They were doubling him and he ran through every one of him. He’s a guy who I’m real proud of his efforts.”

Big Play: junior wide receiver Solomon Patton

Read the rest of this post…after the break!
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10/13: Florida at Vanderbilt post-game report

No. 4/6 Florida Gators football (6-0, 5-0 SEC) kept the positive momentum going on Saturday with a 31-17 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores (2-4, 1-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN. The Gators became bowl eligible with the victory and matched their win total from the 2011 regular season while getting off to the team’s best start since 2009. Florida head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / NOTES

» Florida now holds a 22-game winning streak against Vanderbilt including 21-straight in the annual series dating back to 1992. Those 21-straight wins rank second-longest nationally in an uninterrupted series (UF’s 26-in-a-row over Kentucky ranks first).
» The Gators have started the season 6-0 for the first time since 2009.
» UF is 11-1 against unranked opponents and 2-5 against ranked teams since Muschamp took over the program in 2011.
» Florida is 9-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards and 0-4 when rushing for fewer than 100 yards. UF is also 10-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points and 8-3 when scoring first.
» The Gators had been converting 41.7 percent of their third-down attempts this season but went just 2-of-11 (18.1 percent) against the Commodores.
» Florida had been holding opponents to 25.3 percent on third-down conversions but allowed Vanderbilt to convert 7-of-17 attempts (41.2 percent) on Saturday.
» UF out-possessed opponents by an average of 10:38 through five games but let VU win the possession battle by 6:20.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 98-23 in the second half and 54-10 in the fourth quarter. The Commodores’ 10 fourth-quarter points on Saturday were the first UF has allowed all season.
» Florida had not allowed a touchdown in nine-straight quarters before Vanderbilt scored on on its opening drive Saturday.
» The Gators are +7 in turnover margin through five games after being -12 in 2011. UF has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (329) since 2000.
» Florida did not grab an interception for the first time this season.
» Vanderbilt sold out a home football game for the first time since 2008.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (hamstring), who was expected to be active for the game, was indeed dressed but did not play as his injury gave him issues. Muschamp believes he will be fine for the South Carolina game.

Redshirt senior left guard James Wilson, who had started all five games this season, injured his eye in practice on Wednesday and could not make the trip, Muschamp explained. He is expected to miss practice on Monday, return Tuesday and be able to play against USC.

Junior defensive end Dominique Easley, who tore his ACL last season and has experienced swelling in his knee throughout the season, had more again this weekend and did not dress for the game. He should also be able to play next week.

Five players got injured on Saturday. Senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (upper body), redshirt junior center James Harrison (arm), freshman wide receiver Latroy Pittman (ankle), freshman tight end Kent Taylor (ankle) and redshirt junior TE Jordan Reed (eye/head) all got hurt with Reed the only one to return to the game. Muschamp did not have more extensive updates on the players but said he would on Monday.

“I’m extremely pleased to be able to rush for that many yards and have three starting offensive linemen down. That says a lot about our guys stepping up and ‘man down and man up,’” Muschamp said, pointing to freshman LT D.J. Humphries, redshirt sophomore LG Ian Silberman and senior senior C Sam Robey. “When you run for 300 yards, you’ve done something right. Very pleased with those guys stepping up and doing a nice job for us.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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QB Jeff Driskel’s 177 yards, three touchdowns lead No. 4/6 Florida over Vanderbilt 31-17

The Vanderbilt Commodores gave the No. 4/6 Florida Gators everything they could handle on Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN, but it simply was not enough to pull off the upset as Florida (6-0, 5-0 SEC) always had an answer for Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-3 SEC) and picked up a hard-fought 31-17 victory.

The Gators out-rushed the Commodores 327-126 in an effort led by Florida sophomore Jeff Driskel, who scored three rushing touchdowns and bested Tim Tebow by setting a school single-game record for a quarterback with 177 rushing yards.

Vanderbilt got on the board first, completing a six-play, 66-yard drive that resulted in quarterback Jordan Rodgers’s first touchdown pass since the second week of the season. The Commodores benefited from a 15-yard penalty at the beginning of the drive when kick-catch interference was called on Gators sophomore cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy for hitting the punt returner too soon after he caught the ball.

Purifoy then got beat by wide receiver Chris Boyd for a 37-yard reception, and Florida junior safety Matt Elam was leapt over in the end zone three plays later as WR Jordan Matthews hauled in the touchdown. It was the first touchdown UF had given up in nine quarters dating back to the Tennessee game in week three.

The Gators finally registered some points on their first possession of the second quarter. Florida took over at its own nine yard line and put together an 11-play, 91-yard drive to score its first points of the game. Senior running back Mike Gillislee tallied 27 yards on the possession, but it was sophomore QB Jeff Driskel who scampered 37 yards down the left sideline for the touchdown.

UF then decided to go for two and converted as junior RB Trey Burton took a keeper into the end zone on a spread-out formation to give the Gators an early 8-7 lead.

Read the rest of the Florida-Vanderbilt story…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Jeff Driskel’s 177 yards, three touchdowns lead No. 4/6 Florida over Vanderbilt 31-17

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9/19: Will Muschamp’s SEC teleconference

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made an appearance Wednesday during the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team and its upcoming game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday at 12:21 p.m. live on SEC Network.

INJURY UPDATES

The injury situation up to this point has not been as devastating for the Gators as it has been in years past though some key players are still on the mend and attempting to rejoin the team this season.

Muschamp announced Wednesday that redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins received a new hand cast for his broken thumb recently and has a very good chance of being ready to play against LSU after the bye week. “In eight days they’re going to pull the pin out of there and take another look at it, but he’s going to start lifting and running [Wednesday] as far as getting back into the swing of things, getting his body back. We’ll go from there,” he said.

The news was not as positive for junior defensive end Dominique Easley and fifth-year redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan.

Easley, who looked like he may have re-injured his knee (torn ACL against Florida State last season), did not do any major damage but still has swelling in the area and is “questionable” for Saturday’s game against Kentucky. Patchan (pectoral) continues to be out and Muschamp does not know when he will be back despite the fact that his injury was only expected to cost him a few weeks.

CONFIDENCE A HUGE FACTOR FOR FLORIDA

Starting the 2012 campaign with a 3-0 record including two big road victories against tough SEC opponents has been exactly what the doctor ordered for the Gators. Muschamp believes the team’s overall maturity, coupled with this confidence boost, is what has Florida rolling right now.

“Any time you win and have success it brings some confidence to you as a player. Confidence is such a key part of athletics,” he said. “When you feel good about something and you think positively about something. I always tell the players: A positive attitude doesn’t guarantee anything but a negative one does. Any time you’re negative or you think in a negative way, you’re not usually going to have much success. Our guys expect to play well. Our guys expect to win in every situation. That’s what you want in your program and that’s what happened around here for a long time. We got a lot of tradition in our program. Guys came here to Florida to play in games like they’ve played and they’ll play in again on Saturday at 12:21 p.m.”

Though the Wildcats are 1-2 with losses to Louisville and Western Kentucky and their sole win at home against Kent State, Muschamp said UF’s players have not begun looking ahead and are completely zoned in on this week’s game.

“My approach has always been every game counts as one regardless of the situation or circumstances of where you play or who you play,” he said. “That’s how we try to approach every game for that reason. I thought we had very good practice [Tuesday]. I thought we had really good tempo. Our guys went out and worked. We need to clean some things up, but I thought their focus was there. I thought they were tuned into what we were trying to do in the meetings and those sorts of things.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On if Florida has been trying to block punts through three games: “We’ve gone after one in every game and we plan to do so presented the situation. Had an opportunity against Bowling Green and Matt Elam barely missed it; I mean, got his hand right there – it was really close. I take that back. At [Texas] A&M I don’t believe we rushed one. We never were presented a situation. At Tennessee we did rush one and of course they changed and went to a rugby-style with the kicker. They didn’t even punt their punter against us because of the blocked punt from a year ago. They changed it up, which was a good play on their part. They were able to flip the field on us there. We went after open and weren’t successful on two situations.”

» On if he has more confidence now than he did last year in the wide receivers: “Certainly do, got a lot more confidence in playmaking ability and run after the catch and things that they’re doing. There’s a lot of things that goes into that. The number one thing that goes into that is we’re blocking well up front. I think it all goes back to our offensive line. We’re able to run the ball, which creates opportunities down the field. When you’re able to run the ball – you’re able to run the ball inside, you’re able to run the ball on the perimeter – it creates one-on-one matchups outside because people want to be able to load the box to stop the run. When you’re able to do that and those people can’t do those overload pressures and the different things they’re able to do because of the legs Jeff [Driskel] has and because of how we’re blocking up front, we simplify people also with our motions and shifts. We simplified some people defensively. I’m very pleased with the production obviously of Frankie [Hammond, Jr.]. Quinton Dunbar I thought made some big plays and blocks for us in the ballgame. Latroy [Pittman] and Raphael [Andrades] both played as true freshman. But when I talk in terms of wideouts, I always throw Omarius Hines and Trey Burton into that category as well. And then you talk about Jordan Reed and his production. And Andre [Debose] continues to come on for us. We just need to continue to give that group, collectively, moving forward [opportunities]. Solomon Patton has been huge for us as we’ve moved through the season here as far as some of the running things that Brent [Pease] has asked him to do. I think a lot of that is credit to Brent from the standpoint of finding out what the guys can do and let’s do what they do well. He’s put those guys in situations, to this point, to be very successful.”

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9/18: Pease gives props to players, talks offense

With the team preparing for its fourth game of the season, a 12:21 p.m. home contest on Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media Tuesday to discuss improvements being made by his side of the ball and some of the standout players on offense.

PLAYER THOUGHTS

» On the game slowing down for sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel: “He’s just starting to see the whole picture. He’s understanding what defenses are doing to him, how the moving parts are going to take place at the snap of the ball. Your anticipation is much better where before he might have been waiting for things to happen, hoping for receivers to get there. Now he’s seeing them get open, knowing the zones they are going to get into or the man match-ups before they actually happen.”

» On junior wide receiver Solomon Patton: “Solo, he’s such a threat on the edge. The kid’s fast. He gets good, productive yards. He’s very smart as a football player, and his role is growing. You saw him do a great job on Jeff’s scramble, make a catch and get his toes down on the sideline. He’s worked at it, and you give him a lot of credit. He’s practiced hard, and he’s getting better.”

» On sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer: “He’s really improved on his blocking. He’s developed a form of physicality that we need. It is a thankless job sometimes. He brings a threat that – he can catch some passes for us. Occasionally he’s going to have the ball in his hands. And he never complains about what the situation is. He’s smart; he understands all the movement of everything. He just brings that hard work ethic. I guess I kind of relate it to like a Mike Alstott when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That type of guy that just works like that and never complains, goes out and he doesn’t get a lot of credit all the time because he doesn’t have rushing yards and touchdowns and all that. If it wasn’t for him, our plays wouldn’t break the way they do.”

» On junior running back Trey Burton’s six touchdown game against Kentucky in 2010: “I’ve heard about it. He informs me every day.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On running the Wildcat and how it benefits the offense: “Wherever we’ve been we’ve always had that little package. Having Trey, especially when you hit an 80-yarder like that, it forces the defense to play a different hand, make different calls. There’s ways of defending it, but you got to have some answers to it and somewhere along the line they’ll probably have some things we’re not prepared for that they can defend it with.”

» On if he makes a lot of adjustments for the offense at halftime: “There’s not a lot of adjustments. There’s some minor things. You kind of eliminate some things that haven’t worked. [...] We got to make our adjustments to how we’re going to attack them. I told the kids at the half that we have to turn this into a little bit of a throwing game because they were hitting us pretty well on our inside run stuff.”

» On Florida’s notorious short-yardage issues through three games: “Penetration. We just got to get in and block our gaps better, especially on the goal line. I probably did a bad job on the second call down there. Mike hit it down to the one. I thought we could get it in from the one. The next call I probably should have done something different than putting the kids in the situation I did. I can help them out. I can go back and look at the calls. But we still got to, up front, cover people up, get our cleats in the ground and move people. We should be able to move people in that situation with the kids that we have.”

» On redshirt senior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. going for big yards-after-catch twice already this year: “Once you kind of develop that motor habit then you get good at it. I think the kids, all of them, have done a good job of that at practice. Frankie’s is noticeable because he went 75 yards. And he had to make kind of a touch catch because his route was going back out and Jeff threw it inside a little bit because of the urgency of the pressure and that’s where it had to be. All the guys – you don’t notice the kid that’s catching the five-yard route and just knifing through to get to eight yards. That’s big in the coaching aspect of things, too. You guys don’t see that as much because he’s not taking it that far. But he’s putting us in a 2nd-and-2 situation, whoever that is. And all the kids work to get that. They understand what vertical cutting is all about.”

» On the other side’s perspective when on a long losing streak against a particular team: “We [at Kentucky] knew at that time we had to be on our game. We couldn’t have a lot of mistakes. We had to keep the game close.”

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Second half surge sends No. 17/18 Florida to 37-20 victory over No. 23 Tennessee in Knoxville

Following a rough first 30 minutes that left fans wondering whether or not the No. 17/18 Florida Gators were up to the task of winning a second-straight game on the road, Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC) once again proved that they are a second-half team as they outscored the No. 23 Tennessee Volunteers (2-1, 0-1 SEC) down the stretch to take a hard-fought 37-20 victory on Saturday night at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, TN.

The Gators registered 227 yards of offense in the third quarter alone and outgained the Volunteers 555-340 over 60 minutes on the way to their eighth-straight victory against their SEC rivals. Florida outscored Tennessee 17-6 in the second half and possessed the ball for nearly seven more minutes over the course of the game.

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel came through big in his second start for the Gators, going 14/20 or 219 yards and two touchdowns while adding seven carries for 81 yards on the ground. Senior running back Mike Gillislee, hampered with a strained groin heading into the contest, carried the ball 18 times for 115 yards including two breakaway rushes that helped lead UF to victory.

After kicking off to start the game and forcing a punt, Florida took over from their own 11 but was pushed back to the two after redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose fumbled a pitch on a reverse. The Gators were saved, however, by a 55-yard punt from sophomore Kyle Christy that flipped the field nicely.

Tennessee brought the ball across midfield on its very next possession, but redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray intercepted quarterback Tyler Bray on 3rd-and-12 to get the ball back for Florida. It was the first pick of his career.

The Gators did not waste much time from there as Driskel hit redshirt junior tight end Jordan Reed on a 20-yard pass and junior running back Trey Burton followed that play up with a fake Wildcat handoff that he took 14 yards into the end zone.

Read the rest of his Florida-Tennessee game story…after the break!
Continue Reading » Second half surge sends No. 17/18 Florida to 37-20 victory over No. 23 Tennessee in Knoxville

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