Florida Football: What We Learned from Week 1 Game vs. Bowling Green
Sometimes a football team needs to gut out an ugly win. You just don't expect that ugly win to come against an outmatched opponent who is getting paid to play you.
The Gators struggled to eek out a win against Bowling Green on Saturday and failed to answer most of the questions surrounding the team coming into the game.
Nonetheless, the Gators start their season 1-0 and will and begin SEC play next week in College Station, Texas.
Let's take a look at 10 things we learned about the Gators after their first game.
Penalties! Penalties! Penalties!
For all the talk this offseason about becoming a more disciplined football team, the Gators put forth a mistake-ridden performance against Bowling Green.
The Gators were penalized 14 times for 104 yards and were constantly giving the Falcons second chances while shooting themselves in the foot.
For something that we were told was being stressed in practice, the Gators looked like the same team we saw in 2011. Florida struggled to distance themselves from Bowling Green while committing 14 penalties. What would happen if they did that against LSU, Georgia or next week at Texas A&M?
The Gators need to tighten up and play a clean game if they want to have a chance in 2012.
Mike Gillislee Is as Good as Advertised
"Finally," is the word that comes to mind after watching the redshirt senior on Saturday.
After waiting patiently for four years, Gillislee finally got a chance to be the man in the backfield and he did not disappoint.
Gillislee carried the ball a career-high 24 times for 148 yards, another career high. Gillislee was also responsible for two of Florida's touchdowns and was the best player on offense.
Gillislee looked every bit of the between-the-tackles running back that Muschamp wants. If he can stay healthy, Gillislee could have a chance to reach his lofty preseason goal of 1,500 rushing yards.
Another issue that cropped up against Bowling Green that we saw much of last season was missed tackles.
While the defense played well at times, there were many plays where the defense looked tired and played sloppy against the Falcons' no-huddle offense.
The defensive backs had an especially rough day and it often took two or three players to take down the ball carrier. At times it looked like the defensive was trying to strip the ball to create turnovers rather than wrapping up and letting turnovers come naturally. But we'll get to turnovers later.
Missed tackles will haunt this defense when they begin SEC play next week and it is something that needs to be addressed in practice this week.
Depth at Running Back
For as good as Gillislee looked, he has a good stable of backs behind him.
Matt Jones carried the ball three times for 17 yards but looked like another between-the-tackles running back that the Gators can count on as the season progresses.
Mack Brown carried the ball four times for 13 yards but looked solid and reliable in the backfield.
Trey Burton and Omarius Hines will give the Gators a very real receiving threat coming out of the backfield. Once the Gators open up the offense, defensive coordinators should have something extra for which to gameplan.
Hunter Joyer was able to pick up one yard on his only carry, but is a big bruiser that can get the Gators tough yards when they need them most.
Officially, the Gators created two turnovers on the day but you could really say they didn't create any.
The first came on a tipped pass that fell into Marcus Roberson's hands. Roberson was able to come down with the tipped ball and carry it 31 yards at a crucial point in the game.
The second turnover came on a muffed punt in the fourth quarter.
The Gators really didn't force either turnover and will need to be better in this area going forward. Like penalties, turnovers are a part of the game that the coaches have stressed in practice and it's starting to look like the players are over-thinking on the field.
The players need to play the game they know how to play and trust that when they put themselves in the right position on the field that the turnovers will come.
Dante Fowler Jr. Will Be Fun to Watch
Despite having academic issues which caused him to report later than almost every other freshman, Dante Fowler came to campus ready to work.
Fowler has added a considerable amount of bulk to his frame but kept the same speed that makes him a scary pass rusher. He earned a start in his first collegiate game and came up with a huge tackle-for-loss on a fourth down draw play.
Freshman are supposed to be in over their heads and struggling to keep up with massive playbooks and a faster game, but not Fowler. He has the tools to become one of the best defensive linemen on this team this season and in seasons to come.
Gator Nation should be excited about this player.
Offensive Line Got Pushed Around
The offensive line played better than they did in 2011 but still had trouble getting a push on short yardage plays. Will Muschamp took some of the blame, saying he was stubborn, wanted to run on short-yardage plays to establish an identity and that the play calling became predictable.
Still, it was Bowling Green. Florida should be able to run the ball at will and the offensive line should never be pushed back. There is no excuse for being pushed back two or three yards before the running back has even taken the handoff.
The line will need to be more physical next week and the rest of the season if the Gators are going to develop into the power-running team that Muschamp desires to become.
Jordan Reed Looked Solid
Jordan Reed has all of the tools to become a serious threat in the passing game. Built like Aaron Hernandez, Reed could give the Gators a similar threat at tight end.
Reed finally stopped trying to turn every reception into a SportsCenter top-10 highlight, kept his feet on the ground and was able to accumulate some yards after the catch.
If Reed can consistently create mismatches with linebackers and defensive backs he should provide a safety net for the starting quarterback.
Speaking of the starting quarterback...
Both Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel earned a start against Bowling Green, but it was Brissett who took the first snap. Driskel took over the first quarter after that and continued a drive into the second quarter before giving way to Brissett.
At halftime, both quarterbacks attempted five passes but it was Driskel who would play in the second half.
Driskel showed nice athleticism on a 21-yard run late in the game, but also missed a lot of open receivers and didn't do enough to show he is the man for the job. But can the coaches really start Brissett, who only took 11 snaps at Kyle Field?
Which is why Driskel will most likely get the start next week and play the whole game. Sticking with Driskel in the second half showed that the coaches are desperately trying to find a quarterback to go with and are willing to stick to one.
Driskel seems to be the man right now, but I would imagine he has a short leash. The coaching staff wouldn't hesitate to insert Brissett if things get ugly next week.
For those of you who say Brissett didn't get a fair shake, he did. Driskel took his last snap of 2011 against Auburn. After that it was John Brantley and Brissett the rest of the way. Brissett had all of those game reps and spring, summer and fall camps to earn the job.
I don't anticipate Florida going with the same quarterback rotation in Week 2 but Brissett could come into the game if the offense stalls.
Here are your top performers from the opening game.
Mike Gillislee: 24 carries, 148 yards, two TD
Frankie Hammond Jr.: three receptions, 63 yards, one TD. Hammond had the play of the day when he caught a ten-yard comeback route, broke a tackle and then took off for a 50-yard touchdown.
Sharrif Floyd: Moving back inside did Floyd a lot of good. He looked like an animal against the Falcons and should continue to impress throughout the season. He is a natural tackle and will continue to show up.
Dante Fowler Jr.: Fowler was impressive in his first game. After earning a start, Fowler was in the backfield constantly and came up with a big stop on a fourth down draw play.