Because of a miserable performance in its first loss of the
season, Florida now needs help to reach the SEC championship
The No. 8 Gators also have to take care of Missouri during their
conference finale Saturday afternoon in Gainesville.
Before last weekend, Florida was in line to make its first SEC
title game since its then-No. 1 ranked team, led by Tim Tebow, lost
to No. 2 Alabama in 2009. All the Gators had to do to get back to
Atlanta was defeat Georgia, but they committed six turnovers – two
more than in their first seven games combined – during a 17-9 loss
Jeff Driskel fumbled twice and threw two interceptions after
giving away the ball only twice in his team’s 7-0 start. Tight end
Jordan Reed also fumbled near the goal line late in the game.
“Hopefully I got it out of my system. You’ve got to learn from
mistakes. Got the mistakes out of the way, learn from them and try
not to make the same mistakes again,” said Driskel, who was also
sacked five times.
To win the SEC East crown, Florida (7-1, 6-1) needs to win
Saturday and have either Mississippi or Auburn defeat Georgia over
the next two weeks.
“I told the team in the locker room. You won together, now we’ll
find out how you handle adversity,” coach Will Muschamp said. “We
got a bunch of down guys in there and I totally understand it, but
we’ve got to regroup here. … We need to push through this. No
question. There’s a lot of football to play.”
Although it got off to a strong start, Florida wasn’t exactly at
its best offensively over the last few weeks. Mike Gillislee has
run for 181 yards over the past three games after gaining 548 over
his first five.
Driskel hasn’t topped 200 yards in any of his last four games.
He had 185 in the loss to Georgia after failing to reach triple
digits in his previous three contests. The Gators rank 102nd out of
124 FBS teams in total offense and 118th in passing.
“I think people have done a better job of adjusting to some of
the things we’re doing,” Muschamp said. “You know in our league
they catch up pretty quick with you as far as the things you’re
doing. … We got whipped at the point of attack, quite frankly. We
need to win some of those.”
Florida will try to win those battles against Missouri (4-4,
1-4), which is seeking to build on its first SEC victory and earn
its first on the road. Quarterback James Franklin will try to lead
his team to that milestone win in what’s expected to be his first
start since injuring his knee in a loss to Vanderbilt on Oct.
“He really made great strides all of last week and we expect him
to get better and better and better, get more confidence,” coach
Gary Pinkel said. “I think he got some confidence playing in that
game and then we will determine what we do with him and what we ask
him to do. We are anticipating him being very close to being 100
Franklin replaced Corbin Berkstresser in a home game against
Kentucky this past Saturday but the Tigers mostly ran the ball in a
33-10 victory. Kendial Lawrence had 108 of the team’s 186 yards and
Missouri had been outscored 133-55 over its previous four
conference games, with three against ranked teams. The Tigers fell
31-10 in their first – and so far only – SEC road game against
then-No. 7 South Carolina on Sept. 22.
Missouri is making its first visit to Gainesville and playing
Florida for the first time since a 20-18 win in the 1966 Sugar