Driskel Manages Offense to Road Win

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—With his ear-to-ear smile shining through his facemask, Jeff Driskel looked around the offense and breathed deep. One more snap from victory in his first start at quarterback for the Gators. With a three-point lead and the Aggies out of timeouts, Driskel went under center, took the snap and fell to a knee, securing the 20-17 win for Florida.

"That's the best play in football," Jeff Driskel said with a grin. "That clock couldn't have ticked down (quicker)."

In the early part of the game, it didn't look like that relief would come. The Texas A&M offense marched the ball up and down the field on the Gators in the first half and took at 17-10 lead into halftime.

Despite that, Driskel corralled the offense at halftime and helped them remember that the game was still in reach.

"We were really composed here," Driskel said. "No one hung their head or was pointing fingers at each other. We came in, got the things corrected that we needed corrected and knew there was a whole other half to play."

Sacks slowed the Florida offense. Texas A&M led the country in sacks during the 2011 season, and they got off to a good start in 2012 by sacking Driskel eight times on Saturday. Head coach Will Muschamp said he would have to watch the film to get a better idea of who was at fault, but he said that protection, incorrect routes and Driskel missing receivers all played a part in it.

The sophomore quarterback put the fault on his shoulders.

"I've got to get rid of the ball—plain and simple," Driskel said. "I'll throw it away if I have to. I've got to work on that a little bit."

With Florida down four points at the start of the fourth quarter, Driskel hit Omarius Hines, the only Texas native on the Florida roster, for a 39-yard pass that set up the game-winning touchdown for the Gators. After throwing short passes because of the heavy pass rush from the Aggies, Driskel decided to air it out.

It was only one play, but the sophomore quarterback knew the team held back most of its offense against Bowling Green in week one. The long pass to Hines was the first step in what he hopes is a continuing theme of opening up the offense.

"He was one-on-one. I saw a guy running with his back to me. I knew Omarius was going to make a play. He's a big time player for us. I laid it out there for him, and he made a play.

"(Mike) Gillislee and those guys ran hard with a couple big plays, but we're all excited to throw the ball more vertically."

Driskel went 13-for-16 through the air for 162 yards and didn't throw an interception. The added dynamic was his athleticism and moves with the ball in his hands. Taking out the sacks, Driskel ran the ball six times for 56 yards.

The Gators used play action plays where Driskel kept the ball and got into the open field. The deception hurt the Aggies throughout the day.

"There is no doubt that's frustrating," Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "Driskel frustrated us all day."

The most exciting part for Driskel could be what's still to come. After splitting reps through the spring and fall, he will only get more comfortable with increased reps with the first team offense.

The Gators will also be able to open up the offense more in the future, starting with a road matchup at rival Tennessee next weekend.

"Any game experience is going to make me more comfortable," Driskel said. "Knowing where guys are going to be really helps me a lot."

Regardless of what happens next weekend, the Gators leave College Station with an answer at quarterback. Driskel didn't light the scoreboard up on Saturday or showcase an offense similar to Florida's in 2008, but he managed the offense and led the Gators to a win at Kyle Field in front of a raucous stadium.

"Jeff Driskel did a heck of a job getting them out of tough situations," Texas A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart said. "He really used his legs today. Whenever we had coverage sacks and he'd break a tackle and get out of there. We just didn't wrap him up enough and missed tackles."

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