GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp knows that 21 passes aren’t going to get it done against Texas A&M on Saturday.
The Gators will need to be a little more equitable than they were against the Aggies, running the ball on 67 percent of their offensive snaps. They will have to throw the ball, and not just wide receiver screens, either. They’ll have to take shots down the field.
Muschamp says that will happen, that he won’t handcuff offensive coordinator Brent Pease the way he did against Bowling Green.
"As our competition heats up a little bit we’ve got to be able to open up our offense more," Muschamp said moments after the Gators’ 27-14 victory. "We will. It’s a long season and you’ve got to understand that it’s not just about emptying your bullets [from your gun] here in Game 1. We’ve got to win the game, do what we need to do to win the game, and that’s what we did.
"As we move to Week 2, we need to be able to open ourselves up a little bit more."
That means throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field, which the Gators rarely did against Bowling Green. Jacoby Brissett overthrew Andre Debose on a post pattern but did hook up with Quinton Dunbar on an 18-yard throw. Frankie Hammond’s 50-yard touchdown came after he broke a tackle on a 10-yard pass, and Jordan Reed’s 16-yard catch-and-run came off a 10-yard pass.
Other than those three plays, the Gators had just one other pass play gain more than 10 yards.
The game plan was conservative by design. Muschamp said he wanted the Gators to establish their identity as a power-run team and the only way to do that was to run, run and run some more. He told Pease to pound the football.
"Brent’s a lot more imaginative, I can assure you of that, but I told him we’re going to run the football," Muschamp said. "We need to establish what we are. You can’t talk about it. You’ve got to be about it and you’ve got to do it. And we made the decision going into the game that’s what we were going to do in this football game.
"… I think that you can preach a certain sermon over and over and over again but until you’re willing to go do it out there in front of the Gator Nation and fans, it’s not what you’re actually about. We’re going to be a physical organization and you’ve got to do it. You can’t talk about it."
So the Gators played power football, which at times turned out to be difficult because Bowling Green put extra players near the line of scrimmage. But Muschamp said he was stubborn about sticking with it.
The cost was a chance to really get a look at the two young quarterbacks who have been competing for the starting job since the spring, which is what Muschamp said he wanted to do by rotating Brissett and Driskel. Driskel ended up playing the bulk of the game and threw 16 passes -- all conservative throws. Brissett was on the field for 11 snaps and threw five passes. But even though Driskel got significantly more work, Muschamp said he wasn’t ready to name a starter for the game in College Station yet.
Regardless of which quarterback starts or if they rotate, Muschamp has to give Pease more freedom to call the offense he brought with him from Boise State. That means going full bore with the motions and shifts, which weren’t used heavily against Bowling Green, and using the passing game as a weapon and not a change of pace.
"It makes the game easier," Hammond said. "It makes defenses back up off you and makes the run game easier because it will open things up for us vertically."
Three things of note in Saturday’s game:
CB Loucheiz Purifoy lined up at receiver several times, which seems a bit odd. Unless there were suspensions we didn’t know about, the Gators had six healthy receivers available: Hammond, Quinton Dunbar, Debose, Solomon Patton, Stephen Alli and Latroy Pittman. Plus, Raphael Andrades was dressed (though he didn’t play, according to the game book) and TE Kent Taylor is essentially being used as a slot receiver. It would seem to indicate that the coaching staff has little confidence in the group -- unless it was a move designed to get a better blocker on the field. Purifoy is 6-foot-1, 189 pounds and bigger than Patton, Hammond and Debose.