Florida Gators passing on throwing

Florida Gators passing on throwing

October 23rd, 2012 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) throws a touchdown pass as South Carolina defender Jadeveon Clowney (7) tries to swat it in Florida's 44-11 win last Saturday. Driskel had four TD passes but fewer than 100 passing yards.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

The Florida Gators enter this week's game against Georgia hoping for a successful afternoon of rushing and passing the football.

Well, the passing part might be optional.

The same program that once boasted the Fun 'N' Gun offense couldn't be further from it, as Florida ranks last in the Southeastern Conference and 114th nationally with 131.7 passing yards a game. The 7-0 and third-ranked Gators have gone three consecutive games without throwing for 100 yards, yet they've found other ways to dispatch LSU (14-6) and Vanderbilt (31-17) and decisively dispatch South Carolina (44-11).

"It doesn't matter to me that we haven't been throwing the ball more," sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "We're undefeated with some great wins on the road, so it doesn't matter to me at all."

Florida second-year coach Will Muschamp said after opening wins over Bowling Green and Texas A&M that his team would be sorely lacking in pizzazz. Senior tailback Mike Gillislee already had been labeled the identity of the team when he pounded out 146 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries against LSU, and then Driskel rushed for 177 yards and three scores at Vanderbilt.

Gillislee and Driskel were held to a combined 32 yards on 28 carries this past Saturday against the Gamecocks, but the Gators turned to their defense and special teams for the convincing win. Where Muschamp and first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease haven't turned is to a passing game that produced Frankie Hammond's 75-yard touchdown at Tennessee but little else of significance.

"I think a large part of it is going with what is getting you yardage," Muschamp said, referring to a ground game netting 212.7 yards a contest. "We have been moving people really well at times, and when we play defenses that stunt, we eventually hit them on some things, but we feel much more comfortable with our passing game than what you're seeing."

Said Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham: "I think that's a credit to them and their mentality. We will have to be ready to match their physicalness and match their play, because it's obviously an important game."

Driskel has completed 85 of 127 passes (66.9 percent) for 929 yards in seven games, with eight touchdowns and only one interception.

The Gators have gone consecutive games without 100 passing yards for the first time since 1989, the year before Steve Spurrier's arrival as coach. Florida's lowest passing average under Spurrier was 263.8 yards per game in 1999, and the Gators averaged 405.2 aerial yards in 2001, his final season.

Pease was offensive coordinator last season at Boise State, which averaged 313.1 passing yards a game.

"If Jeff Driskel can carry the ball 70 yards and outrun everybody, he is getting the ball," Pease said. "If Mike Gillislee can get the ball and outrun everybody, he is getting the ball. I'm not going to be stubborn as far as playing off the numbers every week."

Which is a big reason Muschamp hired him after last year's offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, accepted the head-coaching job at Kansas.

"We've identified who we are, and Brent's done a fantastic job," Muschamp said. "Most of these offensive guys are stats guys, but he cares about doing what we need to do to win football games. He played to his strengths at Boise, which was Kellen Moore, and he's playing to our strengths of good defense, good special teams and running the ball.

"He's also creating some opportunities down the field in the passing game, and that's just a matter of time. I think we will do it when it happens. It's just a matter of the opportunities presenting themselves."

Odds and ends

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was the SEC offensive player of the week for his 427-yard, four-touchdown performance at Kentucky. Murray also is among 16 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien Award. ... CBS has used a six-day option for Nov. 3, but the Bulldogs will host Ole Miss either at noon or 3:30. ... Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, one of the 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, was not listed on the injury report following Monday's 60-minute workout.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.