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The Gators hope to give quarterback Jeff Driskel more time to throw Saturday.

Thursday November 1, 2012Gators Strive to Overcome the Adversity, Show Improvement

The Gators hope to give quarterback Jeff Driskel more time to throw Saturday.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – By the time Gators coach Will Muschamp left the locker room for the start of the second half, the words he yelled into radio reporter Brady Ackerman’s microphone at the end of the first half were already attached to a hashtag on Twitter.


Following Muschamp’s forceful statement, the Gators went out after halftime and did just that in a 44-11 win over South Carolina on Oct. 20. After a week away, they return to Florida Field on Saturday to face Missouri. It’s the Gators’ final Southeastern Conference game of the season and one they need to win to maintain hope of claiming the SEC East title.

Once again, the Gators will look to bounce back -- or overcome the adversity. They had a chance in last week’s 17-9 loss to Georgia but a sixth turnover in the final minutes spoiled Florida’s bid to clinch the SEC East title.

The Gators now need to beat Missouri on Saturday and then get help from either Ole Miss or Auburn to knock off the Bulldogs.

While the Gators (7-1, 6-1) were obviously disappointed to suffer their first loss at such an inopportune time, they appear in a good frame of mind heading into Saturday’s showdown with the Tigers, only the second meeting between the schools. The first came in the 1966 Sugar Bowl.

Muschamp hasn’t seen a hangover following Saturday’s loss, adding the players have shown the same type of resiliency as they have all season.

“I’ve looked at the opportunity of eight games, and we accomplished what we wanted to in seven of them,’’ Muschamp said Thursday. “What I see on tape is a team that is playing fast and playing physical and playing motivated and playing together.

“Regardless of the adversity or the situation or the circumstances, I think we’re a team that is playing hard, playing with toughness, playing the way we want to play. It’s not always been exactly what we’ve wanted but for the most part we’ve done some good things.”

The loss to Georgia showcased some of Florida’s weak spots, including an inconsistent downfield passing game. The offensive line, one of the team’s strengths for most of the season, also took its share of lumps as Georgia constantly pressured Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Driskel fumbled twice and threw two interceptions. The defense kept the Gators close, intercepting Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray three times in the first half. Still, the loss outweighed any positives. The Gators returned to practice on Monday focused on improvement.

Florida has three home games remaining before closing the regular season at Florida State on Nov. 24.

The passing game is one place Muschamp wants to see progress made against Missouri. The Gators won three consecutive games prior to the Georgia loss despite less than 100 yards passing. Driskel threw for 185 yards against the Bulldogs but turnovers, a limited rushing attack and five sacks were too much for the sophomore to overcome.

Muschamp said the improvements must come from every phase in the passing game.

“It’s a lot of things. Its protection, it’s getting open, it’s taking the ball to the right spot,’’ he said. “Protection ties into more than just the offensive line. It ties into our backs, our tight ends, our receivers seeing an overload of pressure on a certain side and being able to get the hot off, there’s a lot of things that go into getting the ball down the field.”

Center Jon Harrison accepted some of the blame for the way the offensive line failed to protect Driskel from constant waves of Georgia defenders running at him.

Harrison and his fellow offensive linemen met this week as a unit to discuss ways to improve.

You guys won’t see that anymore out of the offensive line,’’ Harrison said this week. “I just know that we’re going to bounce back this Saturday and make sure everything is fundamentally sound on the offensive line.”

Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease has one less weapon to use this week after receiver Solomon Patton suffered a season-ending broken arm against Georgia. Pease plans to use junior receiver Andre Debose more in Patton’s role.

As for Driskel, he took much of the heat for Saturday’s loss due to his four turnovers.

Pease remains pleased with the development of the sophomore quarterback, who will make his eighth career start on Saturday against Missouri.

As I evaluate him still and work with him, he’s doing a lot better job with the pocket,” Pease said this week. “He’s sitting in there now; he’s taking some hits. The kid’s got heart. The kid’s a tough kid. You can see that. He’s not gun-shy back there. He’s making his reads and making throws. He’s gotten better.”

So have the Gators. They can surpass their win total from last season with a victory over the Tigers. To do so, they will have to bounce back – and overcome the adversity.


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