In Saturday’s season-opening win over Toledo, Florida — shepherded by coach Will Muschamp’s workmanlike philosophy — did what it always does since Muschamp took over the program.
It ran the ball. Non-stop.
Despite facing the nation’s 119th-ranked passing defense (290.8 yards per game) in 2012, Florida rarely forced the issue downfield.
The Gators rushed the ball 48 times — including 27 of 34 first-down snaps — and quarterback Jeff Driskel efficiently completed short passes against the Rockets’ loose coverage.
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“We ran the ball well. We’ve been doing that for a couple years now. We just took what the defense gave us,” Driskel said. “They were playing off-coverage. We were taking underneath routes and guys did a great job with the ball in their hand of getting vertical cuts and getting as much as we could. Had a few shots down the field. Would’ve liked to take advantage of one of those, but that happens.”
Florida’s junior quarterback finished the afternoon 17 of 22 for 153 yards and one touchdown.
Driskel remains adamant that UF’s offense has big-play potential, but to most the unit looked a lot like the offense of 2012: predictable and yet effectively ugly.
The Gators averaged 5.5 yards per carry — totaling 262 yards, including 101 yards in the fourth quarter against a gassed Toledo front. Florida possessed the ball for 40 minutes, something it plans on repeating Saturday against the University of Miami.
“I think that’s the way we’re going to win this game,” right tackle Tyler Moore said.
Florida’s ball-control, conservative gameplan appeared by design, but coordinator Brent Pease was offended by the notion that the Gators would limit their gameplan so as not to tip their hand to Miami
“I’ve heard the word vanilla. I don’t know what vanilla is,” Pease said. “I’ve never made a gameplan with vanilla. I would feel too uncomfortable saying, ‘We got to save all this, save all that.’ ”
And yet, the Gators seemingly saved plenty for the Hurricanes. Pease rarely called his patented jet sweeps or reverses, while the Gators’ heavy-motion packages were non-existent. Florida also ran just two ‘Wild Gator’ plays all game.
Like Pease, Driskel swore the Toledo gameplan wasn’t “limited or basic” — “We just didn’t have too many vertical plays”— but UF’s quarterback acknowledged the offense will change some facing an aggressive Hurricanes unit.
“They’re going to play tighter coverage than Toledo did,” Driskel said. “They’re going to have more one-on-one matchups, so our guys are going to have to win one-on-one matchups. We will be ready.”