Gators debut fast start

It only took one minute for Florida to hit the scoreboard Saturday. The crowd was still filing into the rows of the Swamp's stands and players' brows had barely begun to break a sweat. But with a comfortable 14:01 left in the first quarter, quarterback Jeff Driskel rifled a 3-yard pass to Jordan Reed to put Florida ahead early.

This season, the Gators have been pinned as a team who takes its time greasing its wheels, waiting until the second half to make its impact. However, this weekend's hot start against South Carolina flashed what Florida is capable of before halftime.

Before UF even tallied its first game in September, its staff and players emphasized the need to start fast and finish faster. However, up until Saturday, the Gators had only been keeping up the back-end of that mantra.

UF had executed the most touchdowns in the fourth quarter with a collective 54 points. Though, fourth-quarter stamina was honed in on during the offseason as the Gators were continually reminded of that dreadful stat: 77-22 — Florida's number for being outscored in the last quarter of the '11 season in conference play.

As this season began to roll, the Gators strung its victories on comeback finishes at the tail end of their contests. Coach Will Muschamp attributed Florida's delayed success to effective half-time adjustments and the maturity of his players. "I'm not sure what it is," Driskel said. "It's not like we're trying to go out in the first half and not put up points."

The sophomore quarterback also said executing in the second half is a mentality that has developed among the team. They enter the field after the second half knowing that it'll all work itself out, he said.

"We go in and we know that we're going to be OK," Driskel said. Indeed, the Gators have been finishing faster this season, but they haven't exactly been starting fast as UF has only chalked up touchdowns in the first quarter in half of the season's games before Saturday. Florida had only rocketed touchdowns in the first quarters in three of the six games of the season. In the Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas A&M contests, Florida pocketed a collective 17 points in the first quarter — the least amount of points posted throughout the four quarters.

However, as the door shut on the first quarter against the Gamecocks, the Gators had already punched in 7 points helped by a turnover deep in enemy territory and stemming from Reed's touchdown and kicker Caleb Sturgis' successful kick attempt, proving that Florida is starting to make adjustments to uphold the front-end of their mantra.

Trey Burton said starting off strong from the get-go provides that extra padding when moving through the game.

"It's really important for our defense if we start fast in the first half on offense," he said. "They don't have to worry about where the points are going to come from and then try to make extra plays. It helps out a lot."

Driskel said the Gators have been effective in taking advantage of scoring touchdowns when the opportunity presents itself. Against South Carolina, he said, Florida was served plenty of opportunities. After all, the Gators didn't hold back on racking up production in the end zone, finishing with a wide, 44-11 score.

But, Driskel said, it boils down to what you walk out of the stadium with.

"It comes down to winning games and that's what we're doing," he said. "We find ways to win. You can't be any better than 7-0."


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