Swamp, sweet Swamp
The Gators opened up the 2012 campaign with absurdly low expectations following a dreary 2011 season in which Florida and first year coach Will Muschamp stumbled to a whopping six losses (whopping for a program used to elite gameplay year in and year out).
Seven wins later, however, with each coming in more dominating fashion than the last, and these Gators were stompin’ all the way to No. 2 in the BCS Polls. Before the season that may as well have been the moon.
Unfortunately, what goes up must inevitably come down, and Muschamp’s team came down in a big way against Georgia in the annual classic held in Jacksonville.
What can the players and coaching staff do to learn from their mistakes and grow from them, as opposed to limping their way through the rest of the season?
What can they do to recover quickly and take out their collective frustrations on a disappointing Missouri squad?
We all know that only Gators get out of The Swamp alive, but just in case, here are five keys to beating down Mizzou this weekend.
Hold on to the *BLEEPING* football
We’re going to keep this one short and sweet (as if it doesn’t hurt enough just writing about it): You just can’t give the ball to any team six times in one game and expect to win.
Even against a team as downright, annoyingly bad as the current leaders of the SEC East, Georgia.
After turning the ball over four times through its first seven games, we’ve got to get to get back to old-school, possession-oriented football if we are going make a run at four more wins to close out the season, not to mention pounding Mizzou on Saturday.
Establish any sort of running game
Against Georgia, senior running back and resident mega-baller Mike Gillislee took 22 rushes for 77 yards. While that is not at all a disrespectable total, it is a far cry from the 146 yards he piled up against the NFL-caliber LSU defensive front.
Beyond Gillislee, however, has been the issues running the ball with Jeff Driskel. Against Vanderbilt, Driskel broke Tim Tebow’s single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 177 yards on the ground. In the very next week against South Carolina, Driskel accounted for an underwhelming – to say the least – negative five yards rushing.
Against Georgia? At least he showed improvement, rushing for negative-four yards.
Driskel is not a consistent enough passer to keep defenses honest, not yet at least, and if he cannot get going with his legs, Mizzou’s defenders are going to tee off on Sir Gilly. Can’t have that, now can we?
Contain the quarterback
Coach Gary Pinkel’s Tigers were expected to perform far better in his program’s first season in the SEC.
However, various injuries to stud quarterback James Franklin have wildly derailed a once-promising season and have left Mizzou licking its wounds during a 1-4 start to its conference season.
Franklin entered late in the school’s first-ever SEC win last weekend against Kentucky, and has reportedly been feeling 100-percent for the first time in a long time. His latest setback had been a sprained knee.
If he is indeed back at full strength, his arm and his mobility could prove to be quite a handful for the nation’s No. 6-ranked defense.
Or not. Especially if defensive studs Dominique Easley and Matt Elam have anything to say about it — and they will.
Reestablish confidence in Jeff Driskel
This obviously relates to the fact that we’d all like to see Mr. Driskel get something going with his legs, but in terms of Muschamp’s desire to build a program and not just a one-season wonder, this key runs far deeper. Saturday’s type of performance was bound to take place sooner or later — it just sucks (is that the AP-approved term?) that it had to happen against the Bulldogs, off all teams.
An interception in the end zone to close out the first half has ultimately a harbinger of things to come as Driskel fumbled, bumbled and stumbled his way to a two interception, negative-four yard rushing day. With fellow true sophomore and former No. 3-prep recruit in the nation Jacoby Brissett waiting in the wings, now is not at all the time for the team to give up on the man who helped the Gators sprint out to seven straight victories and a No. 2-BCS ranking.
Keep calm and Chomp On
Again, we all knew this type of game was going to happen, if not this season than the next.
Mizzou comes to town this weekend. We have already rudely welcomed one new program into the SEC (a beautiful, 20-17 comeback over Texas A&M; at College Station in Week 2) and this weekend provides us another opportunity to do the same.
All coach Will Muschamp has to do is help his players and coaching staff keep calm, so we can all chomp on.
PS – A bonus key to victory for all you crazy kids out there: Speedster Solomon Patton is officially out for the season. Could this finally be the week we finally see uber-talented Andre Debose shine? We hope so, as everyone and their mother knows he is our most talented weapon. Boom!