Notebook: Driskel helps Florida hold lead

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Just hours after new Florida coach Jim McElwain confirmed Jeff Driskel asked for and received release from his scholarship, the Gators needed their fourth-year junior quarterback to help them win the Birmingham Bowl.

Late in the third quarter, Florida quarterback Treon Harris ran for two yards and took an awkward hit that injured his elbow. The freshman didn’t move for a while until trainers could help him off the field. In came Jeff Driskel, who had already played a series in the game, but wasn’t impressive when given that chance.

The 2014 season didn’t go the way Driskel or anywhere near the Florida program expected for its quarterback. He was a turnover machine, struggling with accuracy on throws anywhere on the field and eventually got benched for Harris in the Georgia game.

But on Saturday, the Gators needed Driskel one last time.

“I’m just happy with how it all worked out,” Florida interim coach D.J. Durkin said. “He was able to go in there, play in the game and help us to go get a win.”

The numbers won’t blow anyone away. He was 8-17 through the air for 48 yards but was hurt by multiple drops. He was 7-14 after Harris had to come out of the game. Durkin said after the game that Harris’ injury “wasn’t too serious” and he was able to come back in, but the Gators stuck with Driskel and gave him a shot to carry the team.

He did that, closing the game out with one final first down on a 3rd and 4 bootleg call that worked for a 9-yard gain. After two kneel downs, his Florida career likely came to an end on a high note.

“It was outstanding,” Durkin said. “It says a lot about him as a person. The amount of adversity he has gone through, to be honest with you, I don’t know if I could last through what he has gone through, especially as his age. It says a lot about him and a lot about our team. Our guys still believe in him.”

MORRISON INJURY: Durkin didn’t have an update on Antonio Morrison, who was carted off the field after a left knee injury. The junior linebacker was screaming in pain when he went down and showed plenty of frustration by punching the cart that took him back to the locker room.

“Whatever it is, I know one thing -- there’s not a tougher guy in this country than Antonio,” Durkin said.

MIXING IT UP AT RUNNING BACK: The Gators used four different running backs on Saturday, and none of them were leading rusher Matt Jones. Durkin said that Jones, who will reportedly leave early and enter the NFL Draft, missed the game because of a shoulder injury.

Kelvin Taylor, who was second on the team with 565 rushing yards, ended the game third on the team with only four carries.

“We knew we were going to play all those guys going into the game,” Durkin said.

Saturday turned into a showcase for Mack Brown and Adam Lane. Even Treon Harris ended the game with more carries than Taylor.

The duo combined for 24 carries and 130 yards, with 109 yards coming from Lane. The redshirt freshman’s first touch went for 48 yards, and the coaches wanted to continue riding the hot hand in the backfield.

“Whoever is doing well in there, we’re going to keep getting you more snaps,” Durkin said. “It’s a credit to Adam.”

RED ZONE DEFENSE: The Gators won despite giving up 536 yards, including 427 of those yards through the air. The key was Florida’s red zone defense. East Carolina made seven red zone trips and scored on only four of them, while two of the scores came on field goals.

Turnovers were big in the red zone. Freshman Gerald Willis made a big hit on ECU running back Kurt Benkert at the 1-yard line to cause a fumble that Florida would recover. The big turnover came as Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted ECU quarterback Shane Carden in the end zone late in the game to seal a 28-20 Florida win.

“On defense, it was turnovers and red zone defense,” Durkin said. “That was the difference. Those are big stats in the game and always telling.”

Fightin Gators Top Stories