Monday, January 22, 2018
Colleges

QB questions remain after No. 23 Florida Gators beat Bowling Green 27-14

GAINESVILLE — It was supposed to be the game that settled the starting quarterback issue once and for all for Florida. Instead, the competition rolls on.

The No. 23 Gators muddled along for three quarters before two big plays — one on offense, one on defense — helped them to a 27-14 victory over Bowling Green in front of 84,704 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel played most of the first quarter and into the second quarter as well as the entire second half. He finished 10-of-16 for 114 yards and one touchdown.

Jacoby Brissett played just three possessions in the second quarter, one of which consisted of one play, finishing 3-of-5 for 31 yards.

And still the question remains: Who is Florida's starting quarterback?

"I haven't made that decision," coach Will Muschamp said. "We felt like Jacoby did a great job. There's nothing he wasn't doing. I felt like the rhythm of the game dictated that we were going to need some movement as far as some boots and nakeds and movement in the pocket. And I felt Jeff gave us that better opportunity."

The best-laid plan Muschamp and first-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease created didn't unfold.

Brissett and Driskel were supposed to play one quarter each. Then a staff halftime evaluation would determine who would play the remainder of the game.

But Driskel was in on 11 plays in the second quarter because he was two plays into a drive when the first quarter ended.

"We tried to be fair to everybody," Muschamp said. "We gave Jeff the first quarter and Jacoby the second quarter.

"And based on the flow of the game, that's what presented itself. We'll evaluate the film (today), and then we'll go from there."

Driskel's crowning moment came early in the fourth with the Gators hanging precariously to a 17-14 lead. Driskel threw a 10-yard out route to senior Frankie Hammond, who dodged a defender then ran 40 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead.

"Jeff threw a pretty good ball. And I just turned outside, and I felt him wrapping (arms) on me. And I tried to just keep my balance," Hammond said. "Once I got upfield, I saw green grass and just ran to it and tried to get in the end zone."

The touchdown drive was set up by a 31-yard interception return by sophomore Marcus Roberson, who caught a tipped pass intended for Shaun Joplin after Bowling Green reached the Florida 23.

"It was a drop slant, and I was able to just stay focused on the ball," Roberson said. "I was lucky enough to catch the interception.

"It felt good. It was a momentum-shifting point in the game. They were about to drive it in, and I was happy to help the team."

The motions and shifts that were supposed to distinguish this new Florida offense under Pease from last season's under Charlie Weis didn't materialize. But Muschamp said that was mostly on his orders.

He wanted the power running game that was nearly nonexistent last season. And with senior Mike Gillislee having a career day, he wanted to stick with him. Gillislee rushed 24 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns.

As for the quarterback situation, Driskel said he was pleased overall with his play but has no idea what will happen this week, when the Gators prepare to travel for their SEC opener against conference newcomer Texas A&M.

"I'm not worried about that right now," Driskel said. "My main focus is just getting the win, and that's what we did. I'm not worried about the rest. Give credit to Bowling Green. They played well, and we were just happy to come out with a win. That was our goal."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

 
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