UF worked on ball security

Florida coach Will Muschamp said QB Jeff Driskel has to improve on his decision-making.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.

A simple and obvious pattern has emerged over the past two seasons concerning the success or failure of Florida football.

When quarterback Jeff Driskel takes care of the football, the Gators win.

When he doesn’t, they lose.

In UF’s only three losses over the past two seasons (Georgia, Louisville and Miami), Driskel has turned the ball over 10 times (six interceptions and four fumbles). In the latest Gator setback, the 21-16 loss at Miami on Sept. 7, Driskel threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in an overall five-turnover disaster for No. 19 Florida.

Of Driskel’s nine career interceptions, six came in those three losses.

So, the offensive emphasis in UF’s open date last week was ball security, Driskel said.

“Kind of just taking care of ourselves,” Driskel said. “No one’s been able to stop us when we haven’t had a turnover or a penalty, so just worry about us first and then taking care of the other team second. If we can handle us, we’ll be fine. That’s what we worked on this week. On an off week you do work on yourself before you get into your opponent, so it timed out well for us.”

Driskel was asked what he can do to eliminate the turnovers that have been so costly.

“First of all, don’t try to do too much as a quarterback,” he said. “I’ve been out here this whole year trying to do so much (in terms of taking care of the football). Just go with what you’re coached and don’t try to do too much and hold onto the ball when you’re running.

“We know that teams are going to be going for the ball this year. We’ve really got to work on ball security and really lock in, especially in the red zone.”

In the loss to Miami, Driskel threw two interceptions in the red zone and lost a fumble. His first interception came in the first half when he tried to force a pass into triple coverage to wide receiver Solomon Patton. His second pick was the result of senior wide receiver Trey Burton running the wrong route.

“Obviously, we forced one ball in there that he knew he should have thrown the ball out of the end zone and played for the points,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “Jeff had a route to Quinton Dunbar that he missed a little bit, was high on that, probably would have been a touchdown.

“Had two shots at Demarcus (Robinson) he would have liked to have back. The one deep ball to Quinton probably shouldn’t have been thrown. There were four or five plays in the game he would have liked to have back, but he also made some really nice throws.

“He was very accurate with the football. Two drops. Without two drops, you’re 24 of 33 and feel a little different about it if you take care of the ball in some other situations. He knows that. We’ll move forward and learn from that. I think we’ve done that.”

Driskel seems like he’s ready to move on. He said his confidence has not been shaken by his three-turnover performance against the Hurricanes.

“No, not really at all,” he said. “My coaches and my teammates have full confidence in me, and that’s all that really matters.

“I think when we eliminate turnovers our offense has been doing really well this year. Like we've said all along, when we handle us we'll be fine. That's what we're going to try and do.

“For me, cleaning up the reads, taking what’s there and not trying to force anything. That’s what I’m going to have to do, and I really took that to heart. Just get back to the basics, take what’s there and move on to the next play.”

Two players, one offensive and one defensive, said Monday the team has not lost any confidence in its quarterback.

“We have total confidence in Driskel,” starting tailback Matt Jones said. “We get down there and break down in protection sometimes. We really beat ourselves in the red zone, we can’t score. We moved the ball up and down the field. We had a lot of total offense yards and stuff like that. Our trust is there with Driskel.”

Senior cornerback/safety Jaylen Watkins said the players have Driskel’s back.

“Yeah, definitely. He’s our starter, our quarterback and he’s a guy we believe in,” Watkins said. “So as a team we had to let him know that no one person lost that game. We could have done a better job on defense and I’m sure receivers and linemen feel like they could have done better. As a whole team, we could have done better.”

Driskel isn’t the only Gator who turned the ball over at Miami. Jones and Burton also lost fumbles that impacted the outcome of the game.

Thanks to that five-turnover game, the Gators are dead last in the SEC in turnover margin at minus-four.

“That’s why we’re sitting here 1-1,” Muschamp said.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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