GAINESVILLE -- Jeff Driskel made some major mistakes in the loss to Georgia, but some of that was because of poor blocking and lack of a ground game.
Fairly or not, Jeff Driskel has received the brunt of criticism for the offense’s six-turnover loss to Georgia on Saturday.
As Florida’s quarterback, and the player who accounted for four turnovers in the 17-9 defeat that handed the Gators their first loss of the season, Driskel accepts that burden. He put the ball on the ground twice in Florida’s first three plays from scrimmage and cost the team crucial points with an interception in Georgia’s end zone just before halftime. And his second interception led directly to three points for the Bulldogs.
“With two teams like that, with two great teams, you can’t have turnovers,” Driskel said. “A lot of times it comes down to just a couple of plays, and we had more turnovers than [they] did. … I can’t turn it over four times myself.”
Although Driskel accepted much of the blame for the loss, offensive coordinator Brent Pease said Tuesday, that the quarterback was not the only reason for the Gators’ struggles.
For the third game in a row, running back Mike Gillislee was held in check with fewer than 100 rushing yards. After averaging 5.42 yards per carry in Florida’s first five games, Gillislee has struggled to a 3.1 yard average over the past three as defenses have stacked the box and forced Driskel to beat them.
To counter, the Gators must hit passes downfield to open up the run, Pease said. But those connections have not come, despite opportunities, and the blame is widespread. It’s not as simple as pointing the finger at Driskel.
“We’ve got to be better for certain reasons, in blocking and catching it, making a throw. There’s all kinds of things involved in it. Protection [as well],” said Pease, adding that the Gators’ offensive linemen “can get better” in blocking one-on-one in the passing game.
Through eight games, UF ranks 114th nationally with 26 sacks allowed. Against Georgia, Driskel was sacked five times, and although he is at fault for not having better ball security on the two fumbles and the ill-advised decision on the pick in the end zone, other factors led to the loss as well, including the pressure allowed by the offensive line, the stalled running game and lack of a dominant wide receiver were also factors, coach Will Muschamp said.
“Could he have made better decisions? Certainly, he recognizes that,” Muschamp said. “But we also need to play better around him. We need to protect better. We need to be more precise with our route running. We need to do a better job of running the football. There are a lot of things that revolve around that position that we can do a better job of.”
Driskel also drew criticism for holding on to the ball too long in the pocket, something that was an issue against Texas A&M, too, when he was sacked eight times. But Pease said he definitely has seen a difference in his pocket presence since then.
“We’re going to deal with what we have to deal with. I think early on, he was probably guessing on things. The other day, I don’t think he was guessing,” Pease said. “I don’t think he had some time. Things were caving in on him pretty fast.”
On all but one of Driskel’s turnovers — the interception in the end zone — pressure led to the mistake. Right guard Jon Halapio said the offensive line lost its composure against rival Georgia, leading to errors in communication and breakdowns that allowed defenders free runs at Driskel.
“We were too aggressive after plays,” Halapio said. “I felt like we agreed that we were doing too much talking, talking trash to the Georgia front and we should’ve just done our jobs better.”
Center Jonotthan Harrison said the line met Sunday after watching film to analyze its mistakes.
“We’re going to bounce back this Saturday and make sure everyone is fundamentally sound on the offensive line,” he said. “You guys won’t see that anymore out of the offensive line.”