Jones praises defense

He has been one constant this season for an offense that has been anything but consistent. Florida junior running back Matt Jones rushed for 114 yards and a the game’s only touchdown Saturday and also caught four passes for 19 yards in the Gators 10-9 win over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Yet after the game, Matt Jones was more interested in heaping praise on the guys that kept the game close enough for the Florida offense to finally put some points on the board and win.

“It was frustrating knowing that the offense couldn’t do anything, especially on third down we couldn’t convert in the first half, but our defense hung in there and kept us getting on the field,” Jones said in the locker room shortly after the game. “Our defense played extremely good and that gave us a way to keep on playing this game.”

Behind a few turnovers, the Volunteers were put in good field position twice, both times inside the Gators 20 yard line. Tennessee came away with just three points on those two drives.

“I gave my hats off to the defense after the game and they kept us in the game,” Jones said. “(Tennessee was) in the red zone and they kept them from scoring in the red zone multiple times. We knew we had to score because our defense played their hearts out.”

It was safety Keanu Neal that pretty much finished the game off for the Gators. The Vols were driving in the last two minute drill and an overthrow from senior quarterback Justin Worley went right into the hands of Florida sophomore safety Keanu Neal who cradled the ball with under a minute left on the clock. Gators everywhere celebrated at that point.

“The sideline was crazy,” Jones said when the interception happened. “After that pick we knew we had the game. It was just fun to see the defense seal the game and I am happy for the defense.”

Jones is appreciative of the confidence the team and staff have in what he does. They leaned on Jones when Florida made a quarterback change in the fourth quarter, handing off the ball and throwing to him as well. The junior made the best of it by helping move the ball down the field and eventually scoring the touchdown. He also pointed out how important the victory was.

“It just means that the team loves you and depends on you,” he said of their confidence in him. “They called for me and that’s what I want to be for my team. We needed this win so we can keep this East going. The crowd was loud and they supported them, so it was definitely a big win.”

The coaching staff made the change late at quarterback and more than anything it seemed to spark an offense that was static all day long. Freshman Treon Harris was inserted in place of junior starter Jeff Driskel and the gators went right down and scored the only touchdown by any team on the day.

“He definitely gave us a lift,” Jones said of Harris. “They had to respect that he would pull the ball and stuff like that. He was a better runner when we were in the read-zone and stuff like that, but Jeff helped us win this game too.

“Treon is more of a run threat. Driskel is more of a pocket passer that can run, but people have to respect Treon’s legs. That kind of opened me up in the middle and gave me bigger running lanes. He also ran the ball well too.”

Driskel has struggled at times this year. More than bad play it has been inconsistent and unspectacular play that has hindered this team and the offense. After his second interception in the game, the time came to try something new. The offense just seemed to be more responsive when Harris directed it.

“It shifted fast,” Jones said of the psyche of the offense. “We knew that Jeff was having a tough time and needed a break. Treon came in and we had a fresh start. WE felt like it would be better because Jeff was having a tough game and was a little down. Treon came in and did extremely well.

The junior loved what the freshman brought to the table.

“He doesn’t seem like a freshman,” Jones said. “He’s calm and relaxed. He plays like he has a couple of years of experience, but he is great with the ball in his hands.”

Jones seemed to speak for the team about the current quarterback situation. Florida head coach Will Muschamp was not ready to say there would be a change at the position for next week. They will compete this week. As usual, Jones will work through whatever situation is dealt and do it at a high level.

“The guys are confident in Harris… and Driskel too, but Treon came in and gave us a fresh start,” Jones said. “It is not my position to judge. Whoever is in there I will play my heart out for them. I feel comfortable with both of them.”

No matter who is selected it will be important to keep Driskel’s head in the game and what is going on. It isn’t tough have an outing like Saturday, Jones will be there to help his teammate out.

“He was down when he threw the second pick,” Jones said. “He didn’t show too much emotion and was helping Treon when he was in there. We have to keep on being around him, and rally up in practice. We will be behind both quarterbacks. We will have to go watch film and see what happens.


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