Third Downs Mostly About Execution

Coming into the game with Kentucky, the Florida Gators were hitting just 27 % on third down conversions. 11 of 41 just looks bad for that particular statistic. Saturday, things got going a little better and in the 38-0 swamping of Kentucky, the Gators were able to covert on 12 of 17, third down attempts in the game. Florida head coach Will Muschamp said the Gators executed better on Saturday.

Will Muschamp isn't laying all the blame on players not carrying out their assignments in the first three games. He does believe in that 11 for 41 span that the coaching staff definitely could have put the players in better situations at times. But, for the most part, the film shows the play was there.

When asked about the improved play on third down, Muschamp quipped about something he no doubt heard all week and the Gators did run for a touchdown on Saturday.

Several folks have been clamoring for the Gators' 6-4, 235 pound quarterback to keep the ball and surge at the snap when the Gators need just a yard. Jeff Driskel's size, strength, and athleticism most would argue should be able to get a yard.

On Saturday, Florida had first and goal at the one yard line and Driskel took the snap from under center, tucked his head and bulled for a touchdown. It wasn't a third down, but the yardage was something the Gators have faced with a lot this year and not been able to overcome.

"We went to that complicated quarterback sneak," Muschamp said with a smirk as he shook his head.

But for the Gators, the third down issues weren't just in short yardage. When you are making only one out of every four conversion, there are a whole lot of things going on.

"We went back and looked and talked and in the Tennessee game, we had throws there," Muschamp said indicating that the play was drawn up right, yet something didn't transfer to the field of play. "We had guys that were open."

Muschamp knows this is a young team, especially at the leadership position on offense and he knows that there are things to consider when dealing with youth and inexperience. He also knows that coaches aren't perfect and prone to mistakes or imperfections in play calling.

"The first thing you ask is ‘was it schematic?'. Did we not put the guys in position to be successful? There has been a little bit of that, but for the most part we felt comfortable with the plan and what we tried to do.

"Then, is it execution and are we asking them to do too much? Today, we had some throws, we made some plays, we made the catches, we made the conversions and that was very pleasing to see."

On Saturday it was nice to see the season third down conversion rate climb to almost 40% for the year. Muschamp says the player just followed through with the plan.

"I think execution," he said as the reason for success on Saturday. "The throws have been there in previous games and we just didn't get them. Whatever happened whether it was protection or whatever, there were multiple things that happened. We made some nice throws and conversions. We made some short yardage stuff and we were able to convert those."

A lot has to do with a sophomore quarterback who is growing up quickly and a lot has to do with a supporting cast that still needs to grow as well. The key phrase is growing up and they seem to be doing just that.

There was no better sign than a 15 play, 72 yard, nine minute drive where the gators converted four third-downs and scored a touchdown on the first drive of the second half. Driskel completed passes on two of the conversions sand ran for another. The drive was a thing of beauty.

"Coming out of the third quarter, the 15 play drive taking close to 10 minutes, it really wore them down and ended the game," Muschamp would say in the press conference following the game.

That drive also helped establish a mindset for this young group moving forward.

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