Muschamp Notebook: Winning the Fourth Quarter

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS—Florida coach Will Muschamp spent the offseason trying to toughen his team. He wanted the physical and mental toughness to be able to close out games. On Saturday, the Gators showed the first signs of learning the philosophy. It wasn't always pretty, but the Florida offense was able to control the ground game and milk the clock, especially when they needed it most.

Florida forced a punt from Texas A&M with 3:13 left in the game. The Aggies were trying to pin Florida deep with the punt, force a quick three-and-out and get the ball back in time to at least tie up the game at 20.

The Gators never gave them that chance. After spending spring practice and fall camp running situations just like the one given to them on Saturday, Florida pounded the football and ran the clock out to leave College Station with a win.

"Happiest moment at Florida for me," Muschamp said after the 20-17 win. "That and the Ohio State game. Winning the game right there in our league, when they know you're going to run it. (Offensive coordinator) Brent (Pease) did a great job tonight. He really did."

The Gators managed to run out the final 3:13 without Mike Gillislee, who didn't get back in the game after his touchdown run with 13:05 left in the game. Muschamp was unsure about the injury after the game. With two running backs—Mack Brown and Matt Jones—that combined for 15 career carries coming into the season, the Gators pounded the ball until the clocked turned to zeros.

After the Florida offense ran the ball on two-thirds of its plays against Bowling Green last week, the Gators had success on the ground Saturday. Muschamp followed with a rant about the perception of the win over Bowling Green.

"I got killed for last week, but there's a reason why we did it," Muschamp said. "We had a superior football team than Bowling Green. We needed to play that way in order to play that way this week in this ball game.

"It's a long season. When they start having one-game seasons, we'll start putting everything we can into one game so that we can win one game, and I'll be really, really happy. I like to look at it with a 12-week season, and we've got to do what we can to improve our football team and win football games."

The offseason strength program under Jeff Dillman was focused around the fourth quarter. The Gators struggled in the fourth during 2011, but they started this season by proving they are capable of being a different team in the final quarter.

"When they knew we were going to run it, we ran it," Muschamp said. "We had to run it. Last year? I don't know, man. I don't know if we win this ball game."

SACKS AN ISSUE: Texas A&M totaled eight sacks for a total loss of 48 yards on Saturday. There were multiple times when Driskel held the ball too long and forced the sack, but Muschamp didn't want to put it all on his quarterback. There were protection issues, busted routes and issues reading coverages that also contributed.

"It's a combination of things," Muschamp said. "It's protection. He took care of the ball. He didn't try to make a throw. He ate the ball. There are good sacks, too.

"There's nothing wrong with ending a series with a punt. I know that's not allowed to be said at Florida, but there's nothing wrong with that. Take care of the football."

The Aggies also led the country in sacks during the 2011 season. Muschamp was happy with the way his quarterback stood in the pocket and faced the rush.

"They asked me after the game what I learned about Jeff Driskel, and I said ‘nothing.' I knew it going into the game. The guy is a tough guy. He plays through it. I didn't learn anything that I didn't already know, and I mean that as a very big compliment."

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