After being benched following the Missouri game, it seemed Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel had played his last significant minutes as the team’s signal caller. While the quarterback would play in Wildcat packages, the only plays involving drop back passing were in garbage time against Vanderbilt.
However, an injury late in the third quarter to Treon Harris would provide an opportunity for Driskel to not only play, but to show the ability many expected of him coming in as a freshman.
Driskel would have a standout game, going 9-11 with 164 yards and three touchdowns. His 297.1 passer rating was a season high, and Driskel went without throwing an interception since the season opener against Eastern Michigan.
After the game, Driskel credited the matchups as the reason the team was able to have the success through the air.
“They were playing a lot of man coverage, no deep safety, so we were giving our guys a chance down the field and they were making the plays,” Driskel said. “We executed well today and it was a good win overall.”
For the first time since Florida’s overtime win over Kentucky, Driskel looked comfortable in the pocket. Instead of forcing passes to covered receivers or taking too long to progress through reads, the quarterback moved freely behind the line, picking apart the defense and finding the open receiver. Driskel’s mannerisms seemed different too, as if the removed weight of expectations once placed on him allowed him to reach his potential.
The quarterback’s return and stellar play that followed was a welcome sight for offensive lineman Chaz Green.
“When he’s out there, we’re fully supporting him,” Green said. “Whoever is out there, we’re just going to block for whoever is back there. Great having him out there, and I’m sure the fans loved it too.”
Head coach Will Muschamp said though the team had to go in a different direction due to offensive inconsistencies earlier in the year, he was always confident the quarterback could perform like he did Saturday. While Treon is still the starter, Muschamp feels Driskel is capable as a quarterback.
Going forward, Driskel said he didn’t know what type of role he would have next week against Florida State, though he will prepare the same as he has throughout the season. Looking past the season, Driskel faces the same type of uncertainty. The redshirt junior is in graduate school and has professional baseball options, as the Boston Red Sox own his draft rights after being selected by the team last year.
“That’s something that you’ve got to sit down and talk about after the season,” Driskel said. “I haven’t thought about it. You know, people ask and they don’t believe you that you haven’t thought about it, but you’ve got to totally clear your mind and focus on one week at a time.”
At the start of the day, Jeff Driskel’s role was not meant to be the one he would end the day with. However, coming off one of his best games of the season, the quarterback is not concerned with what will come of it, focusing on Florida State instead. Next week the Gators have a chance to be the second team in 28 games to defeat the Seminoles.
The last team to do it?
The 2012 Florida Gators, led by Jeff Driskel.
“We know them, they know us,” Driskel said. “Two talented football teams with a lot of good coaches and a lot of good players. It’s going to be a really good game, we’ve got a lot of work in front of us this week.