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September 2, 2012
Week 1: What We Learned
Florida won its season opener Saturday in a 27-14 affair against Bowling Green. However, it was a lackluster performance that left the door open for criticism with Southeastern Conference play starting next weekend. Here is what we learned from the game.
1. The quarterback battle is unsettled. Common sense might have said Jeff Driskel is the starter after Jacoby Brissett never reentered the game past halftime. Then Will Muschamp said after the game that nothing has been finalized and he simply stuck with Driskel because Bowling Green was forcing Florida to play an offense that moved the pocket. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen. What we do know is Muschamp and offensive coordinator Brent Pease will meet Sunday to discuss how they want to handle the quarterback situation going into this week. Neither quarterback was particularly bad or good, but the Gators only threw a total of 21 passes.
2. Discipline is still a struggle. All August, Florida players and coaches said the problems with penalties had been fixed. Pre-snap issues wouldn't be a problem and the Gators wouldn't commit any more dumb personal fouls. Then the team went and committed 14 penalties for 106 yards. Both of Bowling Green's touchdown drives were partially launched by personal foul penalties to Lerentee McCray and Andre Debose. False start calls kept Florida from getting in any real rhythm offensively even though shifts were kept fairly vanilla. Maybe most concerning is the fact Muschamp said he has "exhausted every measure I know" when asked about fixing the problem.
3. Mike Gillislee is Florida's offense. It was tough to evaluate either quarterback in the first half because they primarily had one job: Get the ball to Gillislee. The senior's 24 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns were a bright spot for a Gators' team that often sputtered offensively. Florida will have to keep defenses more honest if Gillislee is to continue this kind of success. SEC defenses will load the box until Driskel or Brissett show an ability to get the ball downfield. It also is concerning that Florida struggled in third-and-short situations despite touting a more physical run game.
4. Cornerbacks are a mixed bag. Bowling Green had success at times going at either of the two cornerbacks thought as Florida's two primary options. Bowling Green quarterback Matt Schilz picked on Loucheiz Purifoy, who struggled in the first half both with coverage and tackling. Then the focus seemed to shift over to Marcus Roberson in the second half, who fared better. Regardless, the cornerbacks certainly weren't overly impressive heading into back-to-back games against pass-heavy teams. If Purifoy doesn't have some of his issues sorted out by the time Florida plays Tennessee, he could have a long day.
5. Interest in the Gators is in a steep decline. If it wasn't enough to see expansive empty seats at the start of Saturday's game, the crowd only emptied out more at halftime. The upper portion of the student section was sparsely filled in the second half, and the overall environment was underwhelming for the start of a fresh season. Muschamp blew off a question about being concerned with attendance, but it is a legitimate issue. Whether or not he admits it, promoting Florida and making the Gators a team people care about is part of his job. It doesn't speak highly of Muschamp as a head coach that interest is this low at the start of a season. It will only get worse if the Gators continue to play like they did Saturday.