As the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) get ready to travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC) there are only a handful of players on the roster that remember the last time Florida and Alabama played.
The most important player — and the one that Florida will need to be on his ‘A+’ game if they are to walk about of Tuscaloosa with a win remembers the last time Florida played Alabama. Even if the memories aren’t too fond.
“They weren’t good,” Driskel said of a 2-6 performance that ended in injury. “Definitely underprepared. Didn’t know how to prepare at that time to play anybody, especially Alabama as good as they were. Just going in not knowing what you’re doing is not a good situation. I’m not going to let that happen again.”
He’s come a long way since he trotted out to the field wearing the number 16 on his back. Driskel has seen the ups of an 11 win season and the downs of a season-ending injury. He’s matured into a good quarterback, one who has taken control of his team and is leading both on and off the field.
Driskel knows what it’s like to jog out on to the field against Alabama and face off against Nick Saban and the Tide. Just a freshman, with a fifth-year senior quarterback ahead of him, Driskel wasn’t ready to play. He hadn’t prepared himself for the moment and he wasn’t ready to lead a team. He refuses to let that be the case this week.
“If I remember correctly, I think I fumbled the snap and I tried to pick it up and got rolled up on,” Driskel recalled from the game in 2011. “That’s how freshmen get hurt when they’re not ready right there, dropping the snap, don’t remember what the play was. But that just comes with not knowing what you’re doing. I’m going to be prepared this time around.”
Driskel was prepared last week. It was the heat of the moment, the game was on the line and something went wrong. A signal from Roper to the sideline and then from the sideline to Jeff went awry. Precious seconds ticked off the clock as the Gators lined up in the wrong formation for a crucial third-and-seven.
Calmly, Driskel got the team lined up together and threw a touchdown pass to Demarcus Robinson to save the game and force another overtime.
“The touchdown in the first overtime when we were struggling getting lined up he took complete control of that,” Roper said. “And a guy that doesn’t have an understanding in that situation couldn’t have gotten done what he was able to get done.
“That was really, shoot, saved us all.”
It doesn’t always happen in life or in sports but Driskel will get a second chance this week. Three years ago he walked into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and stood on the sidelines expecting to be a spectator. He was forced into action that day to less than favorable results.
This time around he’s a veteran. A fourth-year junior who’s ready to put on a better show in front of those same Alabama fans who jeered him the last time he was in town. That veteran experience and leadership he provides is not lost on his team and it will be a critical factor when toe meets leather this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. local time.