Florida puts Bowling Green away late
Published: Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 9:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 12:54 a.m.
Anyone looking for the positives in Florida’s opening-day performance Saturday might discover their search to be futile. Or at least very close to it.
Let’s see, senior Mike Gillislee rushed for a career-high 148 yards and two touchdowns, Frankie Hammond Jr. made a nice catch-and-run for a critical touchdown early in the fourth quarter, and the Gators managed to win the game, beating Bowling Green 27-14 before a sometimes-nervous, sometimes-frustrated Swamp crowd of only 84,704.
And, well, that’s about all there is to report on the positive side.
On the negative side, there is a mountain of stuff — stuff that adds up to the No. 23 Gators looking very much like the same struggling team of a season ago.
And the performance left a lot of important questions unanswered — like who is the starting quarterback? Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett looked equally uncomfortable, equally inconsistent, and UF coach Will Muschamp announced after the game that the quarterback situation would be re-evaluated today.
Many probably were assuming Driskel had earned the starting role Saturday when he played the entire second half after sharing playing time with Brissett in the first half.
“I haven’t made that decision, and we felt like Jacoby did a good job. There is nothing he wasn’t doing,” Muschamp said. “I felt the rhythm of the game dictated that we were going to need more pocket movement as far as some boots and nakeds and moving the pocket. Felt like Jeff gave us that better opportunity.
“We just felt like we were going to need some pocket movement and stuff as the game rolled along.”
Muschamp was asked if there was a chance the two quarterbacks would share playing time again this week against Texas A&M.
“We’re going to discuss it Sunday,” he said. “We haven’t made any decisions. I felt like in today’s game, the flow was with Jeff where we were headed.
“It doesn’t mean we’ve made a decision. (Offensive coordinator) Brent (Pease) and I will talk tonight.”
Both quarterbacks started the game — Brissett at QB and Driskel lining up at end. Then Driskel played the rest of the first quarter at quarterback, and Brissett took over in the second.
Driskel then played the entire second half.
Brissett threw only five passes, completing three for 31 yards. Driskel was 10 of 16 for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Driskel said he’s comfortable with the situation at quarterback — whatever it is.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” he said. “The goal was to get a win, and that is what we came out with. We were worried about game one and that is it. We are happy with the win.”
Quarterback doesn’t appear to be the Gators’ only question mark coming out of Saturday’s opener.
When the Gators weren’t hurting themselves with penalties — 14 in all, for 106 yards — they seemed determined to force their running game in short-yardage situations against a stacked defensive front. The result was UF converted only five of 16 third downs.
“Again, it’s something we’ve worked on,” Muschamp said of the penalties. “I addressed the team after the game. We’ve exhausted every measure. We’re going to continue to do so.
“I told Brent ... Brent is a lot more imaginative, I can assure you of that. I told him we were going to run the football. We need to establish who we are. You can’t talk about it. We’ve got to go do it.
“I made the decision going in that that’s what we were going to do with this football team.”
Muschamp admitted being too stubborn about running the football on short-yardage situations against eight-man defensive fronts.
“I’ve got to give the offensive coordinator a little more latitude to throw the ball in those situations,” Muschamp said.
“As our competition heats up a little bit, we’ve got to be able to open our offense more, and we will. It’s a long season. You have to understand that it is not just about what we did here in game one. We needed to win the game and move to week two. There are some things we need to work on.”
The Gators did not seal this victory until there was a turn of events in the fourth quarter. Clinging to a 17-14 lead, cornerback Marcus Roberson intercepted a Matt Schilz pass and returned it 31 yards to near midfield.
Three plays later, Driskel competed about a 10-yard pass to Hammond, who made a great cut and turned it into a 50-yard touchdown play.
Five minutes deeper into the quarter, Caleb Sturgis made a 51-yard field goal to put the Gators up 27-14.
The other big positive was the performance of Gillislee, who rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns in his first start after being a little-used backup the past three seasons.
“This is the opportunity I always dreamed about. Now is the moment,” Gillislee said. “I think I handled it pretty good for the first time.”
Overall, the opening-day negatives seemed to far outnumber the positives. But Muschamp did not seem discouraged.
“I like this football team and I like where we are,” he said. “We wanted to be 1-0 leaving today and that’s what we are. There are certainly things we can improve on from game one to game two.
“I certainly feel a lot better than I did a year ago.”
Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson feels pretty good about his team, too.
“I’m extremely proud of our football team,” he said. “I thought our guys prepared hard, competed hard and played very hard for four quarters. We did some things you can’t do to win the game in the fourth quarter.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.