Mitchell: Gig 'em Gators
Florida QB Jeff Driskel
Florida QB Jeff Driskel
Posted Sep 8, 2012

All many will want to talk about is the "same ol same ol" Aggies...unable to finish games…getting out-coached in the second half and losing their lead. But that simplistic observation doesn't give this Gators team its due.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Who says game tape is overrated?

With only Houston football tape from last year to study, the Florida Gators looked somewhat unprepared for the offense of new coach Kevin Sumlin and new quarterback Johnny Manziel. The speedy redshirt freshman introduced himself to the SEC with aplomb, leading what by any interpretation was a fantastic first half of Aggie football.

Manziel, the first freshman quarterback to start for TAMU on an opening day since 1944, led the Aggies to scores on all four first half drives, averaging double-digit plays on each.

However, in perhaps the best coaching effort of the young Will Muschamp era, Florida turned the tables after the halftime break. The Gators returned to Kyle Field with an impressive 10 play, 67 yard drive that reached down to the Aggies eight, and culminated in Caleb Sturgis' second field goal to cut the lead to 17-13.

Meanwhile, Florida's defense sent its own message, clamping down on what had been an explosive TAMU offense and holding the Aggies to zero points in the last two quarters.

But it was worse than that. After seemingly having the Gators' defensive playbook in the first half, the Aggies had the following drives after the break: three and out for 8 yards, three and out for negative 1 yard, four and out for six yards, three and out for five yards, three and out for nine yards, until the final drive that started on the TAMU 17 yard line and didn't make the 40.

Most will want to talk about how it's "just the same old Texas A&M"…unable to finish games…getting out-coached in the second half and losing its lead.

But that simplistic observation doesn't give this Gators team its due. In a hostile environment, coming off an average game and a worse season, this team could easily have played a disconnected second half. However, it rallied back focused and determined. These players believed in their coaching staff and the half time adjustments they made. And a star just may have been born in quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Driskel bounced back from a sketchy first 30 minutes to end the game 13 of 16 for 162 yards, with no touchdowns, but perhaps even more importantly, no interceptions. For the most part he made great choices after the break, including his running. Mostly he was a stable influence, particularly given his senior-laden offensive line struggled at times for a second straight Saturday.

Part of the reason the TAMU offense was so impotent in the second half can be attributed to how well Florida's defense adjusted to stop Manziel's running. After rushing for 40 yards on eight first half carries, Manziel was held to just half that on nine second half carries.

You might also think that Florida's defense needs a new strength and conditioning coach, given how many times its players "suffered" from minor cramps – just enough to slow down the Aggies high octane offense. Strategy is strategy, though – you take advantage where you can and Florida did, stretching this rule to its breaking point.

Both teams played a spirited game – it was a great way to welcome in a new SEC brother to the family.

But in the end, this game was a testament to Florida's will; specifically, its players willingness to believe in its coaching staff.

Russ Mitchell is CFN's lead SEC Columnist. Follow Russ for SEC and CFB analysis @russmitchellcfb

READ MORE: Mitchell: Arkansas Craters
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