If there’s a single word that needs to be given to the Florida Gators after their 20-17 win against Texas A&M Saturday, it’s “credit.” For a team that got little of it in the off-season, and even less after an ugly opening weekend win against Bowling Green, the Gators deserve a whole lot of it after going to College Station and getting a victory Saturday afternoon. It was a win that both this program, and head coach Will Muschamp desperately needed.
As we know by now, entering this game, all the storylines seemed to be centered around Texas A&M. It was the Aggies who were playing their first SEC game. It was the Aggies who had the glamorous new coach. And it was the Aggies who had the hot-shot new quarterback that was all the buzz of fall camp. For Florida, all they “had” was the ugly win last weekend, one that left most fans with more questions than answers. Those questions only continued after the Gators fell behind 17-10 at halftime on Saturday to Texas A&M.
But that’s where that word, “credit,” comes back into play. That’s because for whatever went wrong in the first half, everything went right after intermission. They held the Aggies scoreless in the second half, and quarterback Jeff Driskel had a breakout performance, in sealing the victory.
Really, it starts on defense, where things were ugly early. You know how we talk about SEC size and speed all the time? Yeah, the Gators had plenty of that entering the game, and it was the defensive side of the ball where they supposedly had the advantage over Texas A&M on Saturday.
The problem was, with no game film on the Aggies (Texas A&M’s opener got cancelled because of Hurricane Irene last week), Florida had no answers for their offense in the first half, specifically Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel. Manziel picked up big plays with his feet and his arm, highlighted by an 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. It gave A&M a 10-3 lead, and after a short Christine Michael touchdown run a few minutes later, the Aggies seemed to have control of the game.
Yeah, not so much. And it’s because of the adjustments Muschamp and his staff made in the second half.
After Manziel gashed them in the first 30 minutes, it was blatantly clear Florida’s coaches decided that if the A&M quarterback was going to beat them, it’d have to be with his arm. Clearly, the decision paid off. With the running lanes that were there in the first half gone in the second, so too was the Aggies offense. They scored zero points and were held to 49 total yards after intermission.
Of course football is a two-way sport, and in the same way that Florida’s defense stepped up late, so too did Florida’s offense. Quarterback Jeff Driskel in particular.
In the first 30 minutes, Driskel gave fans little reason to believe that he could or would put up enough offense to help this team get the road win. In the first two quarters, Driskel looked rushed, overwhelmed and never comfortable in the pocket, including one painfully ugly series where he was sacked three times on the same possession. In the second half though he seemed much more poised in the pocket, and found a perfect balance between when to pass and when to tuck the ball and run. His 21-yard run late in the fourth sealed the Florida win.
As for Texas A&M, well, the easy story line after this one was that it was another second half meltdown for a team that became notorious for them last year. After all, there’s a reason that the term “Gag ‘Em” (you know, a play on “Gig ‘Em”) became a household phrase to college football fans across the country in 2011.
But truthfully, for those of us who watched this game, there is one silver-lining for Aggies fans: Unlike so many times in 2011, Texas A&M did not give this game away. Nope, instead Florida came out and won it.
That’s a credit to Muschamp.
After 15 games as a head coach at Florida, finally has a signature win.
For all his opinion, insight and analysis on sports, follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.