It came when Florida had its back against the wall in the first overtime. Kelvin Taylor was hit in the backfield for a loss of four yards on third down, pushing the Gators into a 4th and 7 from the nine-yard line. The offense scrambled at the line of scrimmage and looked out of sorts.
The Gators went over the same situation in practice, and Jeff Driskel drew from that experience. He got the team lined up and the snap was made just in time, allowing him to get the ball to Demarcus Robinson in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown pass that saved the game.
"He's got really good command at what we're doing. Just like that touchdown in the first overtime when we were struggling getting lined up, he took complete control of that. A guy that doesn't have an understanding in that situation couldn't have gotten done what he was able to get done.
“(He) saved us all," Roper said. "That was a big-time play and I think it was a big-time understanding on his part. It speaks to his understanding at what we're doing."
Driskel took more hits than the coaching staff would like, but Roper was impressed with his ability to stand in the pocket and deliver the throw while knowing he was about to take a hit. He did it against Eastern Michigan, and with Kentucky’s veteran defensive ends bringing the pressure off the edge, Driskel wasn’t afraid of contact.
He’ll have to carry that into Saturday’s matchup with Alabama if the Florida offense is going to have success against one of the best defenses in the country.
“There were things showing up in his face,” Roper said. “I thought Jeff stood in there and made a lot of throws versus guys in his face. I thought he played really, really fast and got the ball out of his hand. I was really pleased with that aspect of it.”
Roper acknowledged that they could’ve moved the pocket around more to utilize Driskel’s legs but also give him a chance to avoid some hits. That could be a factor against Alabama.
The Gators could also use Driskel on more designed runs. They did against Kentucky, but through the first two games of the season, Driskel has seven rushing attempts. Roper said that the Wildcats took away some of the running chances with the way they were playing defense.
“I think it all depends of the structure of the defense,” Roper said. “It’s something that obviously he’s go the ability to do. The more you see him run, the better he gets. Later in the game (against Kentucky), he was behind his pads more, protecting the football more, not just running straight to the sideline but trying to get up-field and get some yards. I think he’s a guy that obviously possesses that ability to use him. We still want to be smart.”
Roper’s quarterbacks at Duke generally ended the year between 500-600 yards rushing, but he noted that it could come in different ways. A majority of it came on zone read plays, but he credited the width of Kentucky’s defense from holding Driskel back from keeping the ball. They used a quarterback power in overtime and could use those plays more to keep the ball in Driskel’s hands.
ROBINSON’S BIG NIGHT: Roper’s game plan going into the game wasn’t to get 15 catches for Demarcus Robinson, but Kentucky’s defensive scheme allowed it to happen. The Wildcats brought pressure in the pass rush, leaving Robinson in one-on-one situations without facing much press coverage.
Robinson beat his man at the line and was often open, allowing Driskel to make a quick throw and get the ball out of his hands.
“There are things on our game plan that you say, ‘Hey, let’s try to get this guy the ball this way.’ But 15 times and everybody else in the two range? That wasn’t a thought.”
WESTBROOK MORE INVOLVED: Tevin Westbrook wasn’t a part of the offense during the game against Eastern Michigan, but after losing Jake McGee for the season in that game, Westbrook made two catches for 25 yards and one touchdown against Kentucky.
"Tevin obviously is a physical guy, tries to make plays that way in the run game, and then was big for us in some play-action pass right there," Roper said.
HAPPY WITH OFFENSIVE LINE: The Gators pushed Chaz Green to left tackle and Rod Johnson into the starting lineup at right tackle. D.J. Humphries (ankle) remains out this weekend at Alabama, and the Gators will use the same group on the offensive line.
The Gators ran for 237 yards behind that line on Saturday, and Roper was happy with the way they played.
“I thought it was really impressive,” Roper said. “With what Kentucky was doing to us and for us to go in and rush for (237) yards was really a credit to them. I mean, they were a physical group the other night and they’ve been sore the last couple days because it was one of those games, but they did a really good job.”