Driskel hopes he got turnovers 'out of system'
By MARK LONG
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) The best thing Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel did through the first seven games this season was hold onto the football, even if it was too long at times.
Driskel had just two turnovers before Saturday's debacle against Georgia.
He had four against the Bulldogs, mistakes that were critical in the 17-9 loss that likely cost the eighth-ranked Gators the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.
Driskel watched the game twice since and said Monday what everyone already knew.
"I can't turn it over four times myself," said Driskel, who hopes to bounce back Saturday against Missouri. "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."
The worst game of Driskel's career came at the worst time for Florida, which could have wrapped up a spot in the SEC title game.
But it also exposed several offensive weaknesses that had been somewhat masked during the team's undefeated start: protection issues that start with the offensive line and include the inability of running backs and tight ends to pick up blitzes; and more dropped passes and inexact routes by receivers.
All those issues have Florida ranked 100th in the nation in total offense and last in the SEC in passing.
"It's not falling on one person's or one position's shoulders, I can assure you of that," coach Will Muschamp said. "It's a combination of things and it's something that we, as a staff, have been working through the entire season and knowing that we need to continue to work on it and improve with it. I do think we've made some strides, but it certainly wasn't good enough Saturday."
It was good enough in the first seven games.
But six turnovers proved to be too much to overcome against Georgia, proving Muschamp's point that Florida has a slim margin for error.
Driskel, who completed 14 of 26 passes for 185 yards, threw two interceptions and lost two of his three fumbles. Wildcat quarterback Trey Burton botched a handoff, and tight end Jordan Reed fumbled near the goal line in the closing minutes. Reed lost the ball while trying to leap two defenders, ending Florida's chance at tying the game.
Reed, who caught five passes for 74 yards, was in tears on the sideline afterward.
"The guy was trying to make a play," Muschamp said. "Does he need to have better battle security? Sure. ... No one player or one play lost the game. The guy was trying to make a play, a guy who plays with great effort and passion. He made a couple of really nice plays on the drive.
"We would not be in that position if it weren't for him. The guy is trying to make a play. So, easy to sit and criticize when you're sitting in the stands. Get in the arena and play."
Muschamp defended Driskel, too.
"Could he have made (better) decisions? Certainly. He recognizes that," Muschamp said. "We also need to play better around him. We need to protect better. We need to be more precise with our route running. We need to do a better job of running the football. There are a lot of things that revolve around that position that we can do a better job of."
Florida averaged 233 yards rushing in the first six games of the season. But the Gators have managed just 170 yards on the ground the last two weeks combined.
Mike Gillislee ran 19 times for 37 yards against South Carolina, and finished with 77 yards on 22 carries Saturday.
Opponents are stacking the line of scrimmage in hopes of taking away Gillislee and forcing the Gators to try to move the ball with Driskel.
"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. You've got to win some one-on-ones in this league."
And the Gators need to limit turnovers, something they had done so well until Saturday.
"You got to learn from your mistakes and move on," Driskel said. "You watch the film, you get your coaching points and you move on and try not to make the same mistake twice."
Updated October 29, 2012