Strong finishes due to maturity & responding

Florida's roll can't be attributed to its first moments on the field. The Gators' success has remained sealed at the start, only to be unleashed in the second half for big-time finishes. Three games deep into the season, the orange and blue has outperformed its opponents to secure victories in the quarters that unravel after halftime — something Coach Will Muschamp attributes to character.

In the season opener against Bowling Green, Florida's offense took its time revving up, leaving a hole on the board in the first quarter. However, when it came to a tied, 14-14 contest in the third quarter, the Gators surged to the top leading to an eventual 27-14 victory to set the tone of the season.

When the Florida welcomed Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference the following week, a slow start, again, ensued. The Aggies were up 17-10 heading into halftime, but Mike Gillislee's touchdown paired with Caleb Sturgis' field goal in the fourth pushed the Gators to another win with a final chalk up of 20-17.

Florida also headed into the locker room in Knoxville at a deficit come halftime, down by 4. But the third and fourth quarters against Tennessee proved, once more, to be the Gators' kryptonite. The Gators posted 27 points in the later chunk of the game, leading to its third win of the season, this time with a final score 37-20.

Muschamp said he pins his team's comeback ability to maturity, experience and heightened understanding.

"Part of being a good player and being a good team is understanding why you're having success and why you're not having it," Muschamp said.

Muschamp said this all goes back to his players being able to take in the coaches' feedback and constructive criticism during halftime.

"In our society nowadays, no one ever wants to be corrected and told they did something wrong or they didn't do something exactly right," Muschamp said.

Muschamp said his team is able to do that this season.

"That's a good quality to have," he said.

However, the players pin the successful late surges to the tenacity they built physically and mentally during the offseason.

"The strength staff and the coaches really drilled it into our head that we got outscored big-time in the fourth quarter last year," quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "We went into this year knowing that we would have to be more conditioned physically and mentally to be able to handle the fourth quarter. Thus far, we're doing a good job."

Driskel added that the coaches drilled getting better in the fourth quarter into their heads, telling the players it's a "fourth-quarter" game.

Teammate and wide receiver Frankie Hammond, who posted a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Tennessee Saturday, said Florida is a better second-half team this year. He also said strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman continually referenced 72-22, Florida's track record for being outscored in the fourth quarter last season.

"Every workout we came into (Dillman) reminded us," Hammond said. "It stuck in our heads. We don't want to have that score. It needs to be flipped around at the end of this season. That's what we're trying to do."

Florida's ability to come back and secure the win late in the game this year — whether that be due to maturity, conditioning or experience — is bringing the team a little something else as well, according to Muschamp.

"I think as much as anything, it brings these guys confidence," he said. "We can make this thing happen."


Fightin Gators Top Stories