Gators hope to fulfill potential on offense

Gainesville, Fla. -- Quarterback Jeff Driskel spent the Gators open week recovering from a minor knee injury and some bruised confidence following a mistake-filled loss at Miami.

Driskel said his left knee is “feeling a lot better” as Florida prepares for Saturday’s visit from Tennessee. Meanwhile, the rebuilding Vols arrive just in time to give Driskel and the Gators’ offense a lift on the heels of a five-turnover flop against the Hurricanes.

Driskel’s stock may never have been higher than it was after last season’s 37-20 win at Tennessee. He drew Tim Tebow comparisons after compiling 300 yards of offense, including a season-high 219 passing yards and two touchdowns throws.

“It was the first time I’d really taken over a game,” Driskel said.

These days, fans, media and even his head coach are questioning some of the decisions Driskel made during a 21-16 loss Sept. 7 at Miami. He had two interceptions in the redzone and a fourth-quarter fumble deep in Gators’ territory to set up a game-clinching touchdown.

“There were four or five plays in the game he would have liked to have back,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said Monday. “But he also made some really nice throws.”

Driskel passed for a career-high 291 yards as the Gators out-gained Miami by more than 200 yards.

Critical mistakes, though, cost Florida the game and overshadowed the fact the Gators’ offense produced back-to-back 400-yard games for the first time since wins last September against Tennessee and Kentucky.

“When we eliminate turnovers, our offense has been doing really well this year,” Driskel said. “Like we’ve said all along, when we handle us, we’ll be fine. That’s what we’re going to try and do.”

Driskel said he spent last week evaluating how to limit turnovers in key situations.

Driskel, a junior, is 11-3 as a starter at Florida, but he has 10 turnovers (six interceptions, four fumbles) during the losses. He has four interceptions and three lost fumbles during 11 wins.

“Just getting back to the basics,” Driskel said of his focus last week. “For me, cleaning up the reads, taking what’s there and not trying to force anything. That’s what I’m going to have to do, and I really took that to heart.

“Just get back to the basics, take what’s there and move on to the next play.”

Driskel’s most glaring mistake at Miami was a throw into the middle of the field on third-and-goal from the 11 that floated into the hands of Miami safety Rayshawn Jenkins.

Muschamp criticized the throw following the game and reiterated his feelings about the play Monday.

“He knew he should have thrown the ball out of the end zone and played for the points there,” Muschamp said.

Driskel should have opportunities to execute better Saturday.

During a 59-14 loss to Oregon, the Vols (2-1) let the Ducks rack up 687 yards. While Oregon’s point-a-minute attack is what every team strives to become, Driskel said the Gators, with just 40 points in two games, have the personnel to post big numbers.

Tailback Matt Jones’ return to full speed should help. He missed presason camp and the season opener with a stomach virus. Jones said Monday he was not 100 percent at Miami, but he is now back at full strength.

“We have the players where we can hit some big plays,” Driskel said. “We just have to make them when they’re there.”