When you hold your opponent to single digits, you’d expect your team to win about 99.99% of the time. Yet Florida came oh so close to losing anyway. But like they did so many times in 2012, the Gators flirted with complete and utter disaster for the majority of the game- but found a way to win in the end.
Jeff Driskel threw three interceptions, the last of which may likely have ended his Florida career. I’ve said this many times: I’m sure he’s really a good kid who works hard when nobody is watching, but he’s just not Florida Gator QB material. The thing is, Driskel was so bad today that he really should have been pulled about two full quarters before he was… but at the end of the day, the only thing that mattered was that he did get yanked in time for Treon Harris to come in, do his thing, and lead Florida to their tenth straight over the Vols.
The latest one may have been the most difficult, though.
Florida struggled on offense throughout the first three quarters. Note how I said the Florida offense, not Driskel, because it was really a team effort. Bad passes, several bad drops, DeMarcus Robinson trying to play volleyball and spiking a pass right to a Tennessee DB, missed blocking assignments, you name it and Florida did it. The Gators’ defense would consistently push the Volunteers back, only for the offense to go three and out again and again. Finally, after Robinson swatted the ball right to Cam Sutton, Tennessee managed to get a few first downs and get a field goal, and at that point, I thought the game was over. I really did. That’s right, down 3-0 early in the second quarter, I legitimately thought Florida was finished. The offense was that bad.
It didn’t really get any better as the game progressed, either, because while the Gators finally started to get first downs here and there, Driskel started making mistakes. First came a terrible throw right over the middle on the first play of the third quarter that Jalen Reeves Maybin took back to the 26. A penalty on Florida then pushed the ball down to the 13. Luckily, that mistake was rendered inconsequential as Vernon Hargreaves intercepted Justin Worley right back. But then two drives later, Driskel was picked off again, this time by Todd Kelly, who returned it to the Florida 16. The Vols cashed that mistake in for a field goal. They then added another on their next drive to go up 9-0.
Incredibly, Driskel still wasn’t done. Will Muschamp allowed him to lead two more drives (which gained a grand total of eight yards) before finally pulling him in favor of Treon Harris after Jalen Tabor forced a strip sack of Worley deep in Tennessee territory. Harris directed a five play, 30 yard drive that ended with Matt Jones plowing into the end zone for the game’s only touchdown. The Gators’ defense then forced a stop to get the ball back, and wouldn’t you know, Harris led Florida into field goal range, where Austin Hardin kicked what turned out to be the game winner:
Austin Hardin is MONEY. 50 yarder gives Florida the lead for the first time all day https://t.co/J5S9qt2oSr
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) October 4, 2014
From there, it was just the Gator defense doing what it does best: making stops, and at the end, forcing the game clinching pick. Well, aside from the drama at the end where Jeff Driskel inexplicably came back on to take the final knees and Tennessee cried “FUMBLE” after a lineman swiped the ball away from Max Garcia before he even snapped it (which, contrary to popular belief in Knoxville, is a no-no). But anyway, it turned out to be OK. Florida won.
But the win doesn’t erase the numerous problems this Florida team has, and neither will our coach gloating about how much fun it is to shut Tennessee fans up and watch them go home disappointed. Sure, I enjoyed it, but let’s not forget that his job security is still on life support. That doesn’t go away with one 10-9 victory over a team that may not even be bowl eligible, and that probably isn’t even grounds for delivering a simple verbal knife to a rival fan base. Unless this team cleans up a lot of things- like the pass protection, receivers catching balls that are catchable, and not committing penalties and turnovers- this team is bound to lose again, probably more than once, and quite possibly in a more painful fashion than a loss today would have been (if that’s even possible). Will Treon Harris’s arrival to the starting lineup help fix their issues? Maybe some of them, but Muschamp still has a ton of work to do in terms of disciplining his team to do the things they’re supposed to do, and not do the things they’re not supposed to do.
(One of us- either myself, NWB, or maybe even Ryan Moyer- will go into all this in greater detail tomorrow or Monday, but this is all the time I have to do this right now.)
So we have a win to celebrate on Rocky Flop, which is great. It’s our fifth straight, which is the longest winning streak any opponent has ever built in Knoxville. But it does not, by any means, signal that Florida is “back”, nor the simple insertion of Harris into our starting lineup.
Now, if Florida can get a win over LSU next week in the Swamp? That might.