TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida snapped a two-game losing streak to Florida State by ripping right through the nation’s top-ranked overall and rush defense.
Here are the good and bad from the 37-26 victory at Doak Campbell Stadium:
Ground and pound: UF coach Will Muschamp said after the game that the coaching staff was confident the Gators would be able to run the ball on the Seminoles because “we’ve run it well vs. better defenses.” He was right. FSU had the nation’s top rush defense (70.6 yards per game allowed) but UF more than tripled that with 244 yards. Mike Gillislee had 140 yards and two touchdowns to go over 1,000 yards. Here’s how dominant the Gators were on the ground: Gillislee suffered an injury his left side in the fourth quarter and could have returned to the game, but the staff was fine with reserve Matt Jones taking his place. Jones ended up running for 81 yards, which are more than six teams managed against the Seminoles. UF ran it 47 times, which allowed the Gators to have a 13-minute edge in time of possession.
Turnovers: The biggest difference in this defense than a year ago? It’s ability to force turnovers. The Gators managed just 14 in 2011 but they finished with 29 after taking the ball away five times against FSU. They picked off three E.J. Manuel passes and forced him to fumble in the fourth quarter on a play that turned the game around. Freshman LB Antonio Morrison jarred the ball loose and the Gators scored on the next play to take the lead for good. UF scored 14 points off the turnovers.
Driskel didn’t falter: QB Jeff Driskel’s ankle didn’t bother him early in the game, as was evident on his 31-yard run on third down. But there was some doubt about how well he’d perform against FSU’s defense. But the sophomore was very good against the Noles. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown and made two big-time throws on rollouts to TE Jordan Reed and Gillislee to convert third downs. The 31-yard run was on a third down, as well. He wasn’t perfect -- he got called for intentional grounding, should have seen DE Bjoern Werner coming at him, and held onto the ball too long a couple times -- but Driskel grew up a little on Saturday.
Sub-par special teams: K Caleb Sturgis kicked three field goals and P Kyle Christy averaged 43.2 yards on four punts, but the Gators’ coverage units struggled. FSU averaged 22.4 yards on five kickoff returns and 22 yards on three punt returns. The Noles set up one touchdown by returning Christy’s shortest punt of the day (39 yards) to the UF 25-yard line. The biggest blunder of the day -- and one that appeared might cost the Gators the game -- came when Trey Burton and Clay Burton couldn’t connect on a fake field goal. It wasn’t all bad, though, because UF did make two big plays on special teams: Marcus Roberson’s 50-yard punt return and Darrin Kitchens forced Karlos Williams to fumble on a kickoff.
Penalty problems again: UF committed 12 for 101 yards. Fans will grumble because it was an ACC crew officiating the game, but the penalties were legit. UF committed eight in the third quarter, which was a big reason why the Gators gave up 17 points and the offense couldn’t get into any rhythm.
Poor execution on trick plays: Give the Gators credit. They tried several trick plays in the hopes of catching FSU off guard, but the execution just wasn’t there. The fake field goal was a great call. The play was open and should have gone for a touchdown, but Clay Burton stopped and re-started his route. That threw the timing off and Trey Burton’s pass hit him in the helmet. There also was a reverse pass that started with Trey Burton at quarterback and ended with Driskel getting sacked for a big loss.