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Saturday November 3, 2012Two Big Plays Were Enough for Gators Offense

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida's offense was sputtering along like a '72 Volkswagen, relying heavily on punter Kyle Christy to keep Missouri pinned deep in its own territory.

It was early in the second half and the Gators not only trailed by a touchdown, they had yet to score. They needed something to happen after Pop Saunders' 16-yard punt return gave them the ball at Missouri's 40-yard line.

First play: Mike Gillislee took a handoff from quarterback Jeff Driskel and gained four years. Driskel departed and Trey Burton lined up at quarterback in the wildcat formation on second down.

The wildcat has worked big this season -- i.e. at Tennessee -- and had little impact in last week's loss to Georgia.

Burton took the shotgun snap, handed off to Omarius Hines, and 36 yards later the game was tied.

The Gators finally got the big play they needed.

"Motion across, and he gave me the ball, and I saw the hole and I saw the end zone, so I ran for it,'' Hines said. "It felt amazing. It's always good to put points on the board."

Hines' touchdown run was the first of two big second-half plays that lifted the Gators to a 14-7 win over the Tigers.

The other one came early in the fourth quarter following an interception by Matt Elam.

This time, it was Burton out -- he picked up eight yards out of the wildcat on first-and-20 -- and Driskel in. Facing second-and-12 at Missouri's 45, Driskel tossed a screen pass to Mike Gillislee.

Gillislee caught the pass, trailed lead blocker Jon Halapio briefly, and then split a pair of Missouri defenders on the way to what stood as the game-winning touchdown.

Gators coach Will Muschamp liked the play's chances of going for big yardage when offensive coordinator Brent Pease dialed it up.

"They were pressuring a lot on second down,'' Muschamp said of Missouri's defense. "They were in a lot of man coverage, and man coverage, if you can block the defender who has the back, you've got a chance for a big one.

"That's what happened."

The 45-yard reception was the longest of Gillislee's career and his first touchdown receiving of the season.

Gillislee added 68 yards rushing on 16 carries to help the No. 8-ranked Gators improve to 8-1, 7-1 in the SEC.

"Gilly is a phenomenal running back,'' Hines said. "Whenever get gets the ball he makes stuff happen. As soon as he caught it, I already knew."

Gillislee offered a more practical approach to the go-ahead score that came with 13:32 left in the game.

"I'm supposed to leave when the guard leaves,'' Gillislee said. "It was great timing. I just saw daylight and I just burst."

The two scoring plays covered 81 yards, which represented 29 percent of Florida's 276 yards of total offense. Florida managed only 11 first downs while Missouri racked up 23 first downs and 335 yards of offense.

Still, it was the Gators who walked off Florida Field victorious.

"We didn't come out as fast as we wanted to,'' center Jon Harrison said. "[Our defense] has been a luxury, but we do realize that as an offense, we need to keep working to get to get to where we want to be. We're not there yet."

Muschamp agreed with Harrison's assessment. While Driskel has managed the offense effectively other than his four turnovers against Georgia, the Gators still lack a big passing game.

That is one area they will continue to develop. Driskel finished 12 of 23 for 106 yards and one touchdown Saturday. It was the fifth consecutive game that Florida has not reached 200 yards passing.

"You don't score any points in the first half is obviously disappointing,'' Muschamp said. "There are just so many things that we need to continue [to improve]. Consistency of our performance down in and down out, and position-by-position is not there. That's where we've got to get some more production.

"Moving forward, we're going to continue to improve offensively and we're going to become more explosive and more of what we want to be. But we're doing what we have to do to win football games."

 

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