Gators saw exploitable area for punt block

Florida coach Will Muschamp was careful with handling his timeouts as the time on the clock in the second half was expiring and the game looked destined for overtime. He thought about using one earlier in the drive, but when Louisiana seemed set to send the game to overtime, Muschamp had a conversation with special teams coach DJ Durkin. The Florida punt block unit saw an area it could exploit.

Muschamp and Durkin went through their checks to make sure everything was covered with 13 seconds on the clock. They sent Pop Saunders back as the returner, but they both told him not to field the ball. They didn't want to risk a muff.

Second was the thought of a fake punt. It wasn't likely with 13 seconds on the clock and Louisiana on its own half of the field, but the coaches didn't want to get burnt on a big play that could set the Ragin' Cajuns up for a field goal. They made sure the Florida special teams unit covered all eligible receivers on the field.

Last was the decision to come after the punt. Muschamp didn't see much of a risk on the field to go all out, so the call of "black" spread through the special teams unit. The players know what it means — all out block.

"It was a situation that was very well executed by our players in a pressure situation," Will Muschamp said after the game. "It was well designed by our staff."

Special teams ace Loucheiz Purifoy stuck his hand in and tipped the ball up into the air. When his hand hit the ball, Muschamp's eyes flew to the game clock on the scoreboard. With one timeout still in his pocket, he was trying to figure out if the Gators would be able to kick a field goal or needed extra yards to get in range for Caleb Sturgis.

Instead, Muschamp saw something else on the screen, as the ball dropped right into the arms of Jelani Jenkins, who went untouched into the end zone to give Florida a 27-20 lead with two seconds remaining.

"I was thinking to get on it because we're in range, so let's not mess this thing up," Muschamp said. "I was going to bleed the clock down to three (seconds) and kick it. I actually watched the touchdown on the scoreboard."

INJURY REPORT: The big injury came when quarterback Jeff Driskel came out of the game in the second half with an ankle injury. He was taken to the locker room and didn't return. Muschamp said that it was a sprain and that there wasn't anything broken. The question that the coaches didn't know the answer to yet was the severity.

Defensive tackle Leon Orr was ruled out earlier in the week with the flu, but the team also found out this week that Orr has a kidney infection. He will miss next week's game against Jacksonville State and "probably" miss the Florida State game, too.

During the game, injuries were suffered by offensive guard Ian Silberman (shoulder), linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle), and safety Valdez Showers (shoulder). Muschamp wasn't sure of the severity for any of the three.

Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon and offensive guard James Wilson were both listed as probable all week. Nixon didn't feel strong enough on his knee during practice to play, and Wilson tried to go through warm ups, but ended up sitting the game out.

BRISSETT MAKES HIS MARK: When Driskel went out with the ankle injury, Jacoby Brissett got the nod off the Florida bench. It was the reason he decided not to transfer from Florida when he lost out on the starting job. The sophomore quarterback knew he was always just only play away from being the starter.

That happened on Saturday.

"Man down, man up. We've said it all season," Muschamp said. "Credit to (Brissett) for getting in there and making the throws. You're one snap away, and that has been his approach. I've got all the confidence in him. We didn't even blink with the different things he would be able to do and the success we knew he would have."

Florida eased Brissett into the game with a screen pass on his first play of the game that was a 3rd and 11. After Louisiana blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown, the Gators were trailing in the third quarter. The next drive for Florida was a three-and-out that was based on conservative plays.

The Florida coaching staff didn't have a choice but to throw Brissett into the fire after the injury.

"It's hard. I've never played quarterback except for a little option in high school, and they wouldn't let me throw when I was in the game.

"It's difficult to come in during the middle of the series," Muschamp said. "We called a screen (when he came in). I thought he did a fantastic job. When you realize you're the guy, he handled it really well."

OFFENSIVE LINE ISSUES: The Louisiana defense recorded five sacks, as the play of the Florida offensive line continued to struggle. In recent weeks, Muschamp blamed it on a combination of things, whether it was receivers not getting opened or quarterbacks not getting rid of the ball in time. That wasn't what he said on Saturday.

"We've got to clean some things up in protection," Muschamp said. "We ran the ball well. We were very effective running it close to 150 yards. But protection-wise, there were some things we should've had protected and we didn't. There are things we need to clean up."

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