Another 4-0 start, but this feels different

On the surface, this Florida team is kicking off at the same pace as last year's squad. In 2011, the Gators dipped into October 4-0. Now, as September closes, the orange and blue is, again, sitting four wins deep — unblemished by a single loss. But with a new offensive coordinator and what Coach Will Muschamp describes as "a more talented team," this year's Florida Gators differ.

With the LSU game peering around the corner in just less than two weeks, UF can bask in the comfort of the three teams it has edged in the conference thus far, including a shutout.

"It's definitely a little bit different this year," quarterback Jeff Driskel said. "We've played three SEC teams already. That's huge — going 3-0 in the SEC to start the year."

Last season's 4-0 start only housed two SEC victories — Tennessee and Kentucky.

Following Saturday's shutout, Muschamp said this year's team is more physical on both lines of scrimmage. He also praised the depth, maturity and experience of this year's squad — something he has been preaching about the orange and blue from the very start of the season.

"They understand what it takes to be successful," he said. "They understand when they practice well, they usually play well. They get the results they want."

Driskel defined the team's maturity in terms of practice, also — where no player lets up, despite his clocked playing time.

"We practice hard every day," Driskel said. "We don't take days off at practice. It has really shown on the field. Guys that aren't getting as much reps in the game are still working hard at making the team better. We're really together as a unit."

The focus of the past week's practice, Driskel said, was third-down work, something the Gators illustrated beautifully over the Wildcats this weekend. Florida went 12-for-17 on third-down conversions Saturday. Compare this to last season's third-down conversations against Kentucky: 5 of 12.

"I was pleased with our offense's production with third down (Saturday)," Muschamp said. "I thought we did a good job of moving the chains and keeping drives alive."

The 12 conversions, in fact, were more third-down conversations combined from the three games leading up to Saturday: 11.

The collective improvement of this year's offense compared to last year can be pinned to a different playbook, wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. said. This stems from the shift in offensive coordinators from the former, Charlie Weis, to the current, Brent Pease.

"It's different opportunities, guys in different spots," Hammond said. "Different opportunities that present itself while we're on the field."

Such an opportunity presented itself in the third quarter Saturday, when Florida chalked up a 15-play, 9:03-minute drive.

"That was huge," Driskel said.

Driskel scored a 1-yard touchdown to finish the extended drive.

Despite this team's early success, Muschamp acknowledged the long road looming ahead.

"I do think we're a more talented team than we were a year ago in some spots — in some critical spots," Muschamp said. "We have to continue to press forward. We're not where we want to be. We have a lot of things to clean up — a lot of errors here and there that we need to clean up as far as we move forward to the teams we're going to play against."

Florida has some time to mend such errors with its bye week prior to the Oct. 6th Louisiana State matchup in the Swamp.

Fightin Gators Top Stories