No. 19 UF vs. Tennessee | 3:30 p.m., Saturday

Against Tennessee, Gators out to fix problems in red zone

 

Florida has been its own worst enemy when it gets in scoring position, as the Gators lead the SEC with six turnovers in two games.

 
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel warms up prior to an NCAA college football game against Toledo at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Aug. 31, 2013.
Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel warms up prior to an NCAA college football game against Toledo at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville on Aug. 31, 2013.
John Raoux / AP

Saturday: Tennessee at No.19 UF

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, Gainesville.

TV/radio: CBS; WINZ 940.

Favorite: UF by 161/2.

Records: Florida 1-1 (0-0 SEC); Tennessee 2-1 (0-0 SEC).

Series: UF leads 23-19.

UF injuries: Questionable — DL Jordan Sheriff (knee). Out — DB Nick Washington (shoulder), LB Matt Rolin (ACL), OL Chaz Green (shoulder), WR Andre Debose (knee).

Tennessee injuries: Doubtful — DB Riyahd Jones (illness). Out — LB Curt Maggitt (knee), WR Ryan Jenkins (knee), DL Trevarris Saulsberry (knee), DL Joseph Ayres (ACL), WR Devrin Young (hand).


Miami Herald Writer

Butch Jones’ new-look Tennessee Volunteers were gashed for 59 points and close to 700 yards of offense in the loss to No. 2 Oregon last weekend.

The Vols (2-1), losers of 17 consecutive games against ranked foes, have dropped the past eight meetings against No. 19 Florida (1-1).

And yet Tennessee has a chance — albeit a slim one — to end several ugly streaks in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. because of two significant factors.

The Volunteers top the Southeastern Conference in takeaways (nine) and red-zone defense (66.7 percent): booby traps for Florida’s enigmatic offense.

The Gators are a league-worst 6-of-12 scoring in the red zone. Florida also leads the SEC in turnovers (six) — despite playing just two games.

“We’re four of 12 scoring touchdowns in the red zone for the season,” coach Will Muschamp said. “If you end every possession with a kick, you win the game. We’re minus four [turnover margin], and that’s why we’re sitting here 1-1.”

The Gators continue to struggle generating explosive plays — their 5.61 yards per play ranks No. 13 in the conference ahead of only the Volunteers — but UF has moved the ball fairly well in 2013.

Its offense is up 80 yards a game compared with last season, and quarterback Jeff Driskel is actually tied with Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron in total passing yardage (444).

But Florida’s opponents’ 20-yard line has been the doorway to a house of horrors.

The Gators scored on just 2 of 6 chances in the red zone in the close loss to Miami, turning the ball over three times, including a pair of Driskel interceptions.

“No one’s been able to stop us when we haven’t had a turnover or a penalty,” Driskel said. “So we just worry about us first and then taking care of the other team second. If we can handle us, we’ll be fine.”

Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said the team has complete confidence in Driskel but suggested the quarterback’s options in the red zone will be limited moving forward.

“I’ve got to do a better job of maybe controlling what we give him. The sort of options,” Pease said. “He’s mature enough. He’ll handle things.”

Driskel had the best game of his career last season against the Volunteers, completing 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards, two touchdowns and zero turnovers in Florida’s 37-20 comeback win.

“It was the first time I really took over a game,” he said. “We played well against a good team, and we’re going to have to do that again this Saturday.”

Florida torched Tennessee for 555 yards in 2012 — its highest total yardage in the Muschamp era.

Although Oregon shredded the Volunteers’ defense last weekend, and the once-thriving UF-UT ’90’s rivalry has dissipated, the Gators still expect the Volunteers’ best shot this weekend.

“We told our kids, ‘You gotta throw out [UT’s game vs. Oregon] because one, this is the SEC, they’re coming here to play us and it’s a rivalry game,’ ” Pease said. “We gotta understand that the passion between the two teams and probably some hatred between the two teams, and the competition level of what you’re gonna get from them.”

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