Florida vs. Texas A&M: 3 Reasons the Gators Won
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Today, in the first SEC game in Texas A&M history, the Florida Gators gritted out a hard-fought 20-17 victory.
If you saw the first half of Saturday's game, you may have seen what appeared to be a dominating performance by the Aggies. The Gators defense looked confused, and their offense was woefully inept. Florida's offensive line and the decision-making of their quarterback, Jeff Driskel, resulted in multiple sacks.
Johnny Manziel, quarterback for A&M, looked unflappable. His poise and decisiveness under duress led the Aggies to a 17-10 halftime lead.
So, what changed in the second half?
1. Gators Defense
Jon Bostic helped lead the charge of the Gators defense in the second half.
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In a game that featured no turnovers [by either team], the difference was hard-fought defense. The Aggies' defense was consistent throughout the game—10 points given up in the first half and 10 points given up in the second.
In contrast, the Gators' defensive performance could be categorized as night and day. In the first half, it looked as if it shouldn't have even been allowed to play on the same field as the Aggies.
The second half was much better. It played to their potential, giving up only two of the Aggies' 21 total first downs in the second half, amounting to a second-half doughnut for A&M on the scoreboard.
With all of the injuries that the Gators amassed on the defensive side of the ball, to witness their second-half resurgence was truly a demonstration of the kind of depth that A&M can expect to face in the SEC.
The Aggies, who had an impressive 269 yards of total offense in the first half, only managed 65 yards of offense in the entire second half. The Gators defense didn't even allow Texas A&M to cross the 50-yard line in the final 30 minutes.
2. Special Teams Coverage
Florida punter Kyle Christy helped keep Texas A&M exiled to its own side of the field in the second half Saturday.
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In a game where the pacing was dictated mostly by the toughness of each team's defense, the second half proved that field position is vital to a team's success. Florida punter Kyle Christy was ready to perform in the second half, punting four times for an average of 47 yards.
Christy's kicks and the speed of Florida's coverage team rendered the Aggies' special teams unit moot. The best starting field position that Texas A&M managed in the second half was the 22-yard line. This gave the Gators defense a lot more room to breathe, allowing it to play more aggressively.
3. Mike Gillislee
Gators running back Mike Gillislee proved to be a vital weapon against new SEC foe Texas A&M.
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The Florida Gators can thank running back Mike Gillislee for providing nearly a third of their offensive yardage with 83 yards. He seemed to be hampered a little bit by nagging leg injuries, but he provided enough offensive punch to lift the Gators to their second victory of the season.
Gillislee got his 83 yards on 14 total carries, including one monster run for a 24-yard gain in the third quarter that led to a field goal, cutting the Aggies' lead to four.
Thus far, he has proven to be Florida's most consistent offensive weapon with 231 yards and four touchdowns on the season.
If, in combination with Gillislee's production, QB Jeff Driskel can continue to improve his decision-making and Florida can manage to get consistent play out of their receivers, the Gators offense may very well take shape before it hosts LSU on October 6th.