Florida offense still leaning on its defense

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel knows Saturday wasn't his best performance. With defensive linemen constantly in his face and a Florida rushing attack that was slow to get started, the sophomore quarterback wasn't put in many positions to succeed on Saturday. However, he knows that he missed some throws, too. It wasn't an eye-popping performance from the offense yet again.

The Gators finished the day with 276 yards of offense with Driskel throw for 106 through the air. Of his total, 45 yards came on a screen pass to Mike Gillislee. The Gators weren't able to air it out, and on the few occasions where they tried, the Missouri pass rush made trips into the backfield to break it up.

The Gators did hit a 43-yard touchdown pass from Driskel to Frankie Hammond, but it was called back because of a holding penalty on Jon Halapio. Regardless of the situation, there was always something holding the Florida offense back from working down the field.

"Sometimes it gets frustrating, but you've got to keep playing and move on," Driskel said. "We came in down at half like numerous times this year, but we bounced back and responded."

It happened again versus Missouri. The Gators didn't have any points at halftime but were able to get into the end zone twice to secure a 14-7 win.

Part of it is the game plan. The Florida coaches trust the defense so much that there isn't always a reason to take multiple deep shots at the end zone. They'll hold onto the football and stay risk averse, knowing that they can turn to All-American candidate Kyle Christy to stick the opponent deep in its own territory.

"We turned the ball over a lot against Georgia and ended up losing," Driskel said. "We've held the ball in the rest of them and have won them. It comes down to taking care of the ball and taking shots when they come.

"We know they can make a stop, but you don't want to put them in a bad situation. We want to move it down the field and score touchdowns."

The uneasiness in the stadium has been easy to sense when the Florida offense struggles. The Florida players and coaches have been clear that they want more with the ball. They want the long gains and explosive plays that produce touchdowns. It's just not the way the roster is built right now.

Until that changes, the Florida offense will be similar to what it showcased on Saturday. There's plenty of room for improvement from every position on the field, but part of the problem is the way the roster looks. There just aren't offensive players that are consistently capable of breaking off explosive plays.

"We haven't been taking many shots this year," Driskel admitted. "I don't know if it's because of our scheme or because we don't have to. When you have a defense that plays like ours has been playing, just don't turn the ball over. When you've got a defense like that, just don't turn it over."

However, the expectations of the offense won't change. There's always an expectation to put up big numbers and explode on offense.

"That comes with it," Jeff Driskel said with a laugh. "Everyone wants us to win big, and obviously we want to win big, too, but it comes down to us winning football games. We've done that a lot this year."

The most explosive play for the Florida offense came on the screen pass for a touchdown from Driskel to Gillislee for 45 yards. It was well timed and caught the Missouri defense in an aggressive blitz, vacating half the field for Gillislee to catch the ball in space.

Driskel sold the play perfectly to give his offensive line time to get downfield. With pass rushers, including All-SEC candidate Sheldon Richardson, bearing down on him, he stood in the pocket before lobbing the ball over the outstretched arms of the pass rush.

"On screens, you want to bait the rush," Driskel said. "We have the option to go to the other side with Jordan coming up. We avoided the rush and got it to Gilly late. It was a great job by our line, and he made a great play to get it to the end zone.

"The screen game is a lot of timing. We work on it all week long. On Thursdays, we have a long screen session with our linemen. It has paid off. We've had some huge plays. Screens are going to have to be good for us, especially with the speed rushers that the SEC has."

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