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Colleges

Gators worked hard to become stronger in second half

Florida Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 01:35 PM
GAINESVILLE -

Florida linebacker Jon Bostic remembers standing on the field in the second half of games last season thinking to himself how tired he was.

Receiver Frankie Hammond recalled working out until he could barely stand this past summer, strength coaches screaming "72-22'' in his ears over and over and over, numbers reflecting the margin by which UF was outscored in the fourth quarter in last season's SEC games.

This fall – so far, so good.

The No. 14 Gators are ranked one spot ahead of a year ago headed into the Kentucky game and have outscored their first three opponents 27-0 in the final 15 minutes of games.

"That was one thing we had a big emphasis on this offseason,'' Bostic said. "We said we want to play better in the second half. We've got to be able to last longer than we did last year. We kind of got tired and couldn't get teams off the field.''

That wasn't a problem in Saturday's 37-20 win at Tennessee. The Vols had five yards of total offense and no first downs in the fourth quarter.

"I can't really put it into words what really happened,'' UT tailback Rajion Neal said. "But you could feel that something wasn't right. The guys weren't clicking like we normally do.

"I feel that the guys got caught up in their emotions when Florida took the lead and started making the big plays. You could say that the guys felt a little more pressure, including myself. We were trying to do a little more than what was asked instead of playing in the system of what was being called.''

It otherwords, it snowballed on Tennessee like it did a year ago for the Gators in so many games.

"We're a more experienced team than we were a year ago,'' UF coach Will Muschamp said. "We're a little more mature at times.''

And, he said, "those Gipper speeches don't work'' at halftime. There's more explaining to players what changes need to be made than anything else.

Factors that could make Florida a different team in the second half this year:

Weis seemed determined to run NFL plays that were high percentages – predictable calls on predictable downs – and used smaller running backs Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey to try to go outside rather than put the ball in the air. Pease, who came to UF from Boise State, called an end-around on the first play from scrimmage near his own end zone to open the UT game.

"Just a different style, a different approach to the game,'' Hammond said. "He pretty much breaks it down to everybody. He's pretty much sat in at just about each position meeting at some point.''

Last year's quarterback, John Brantley, averaged minus-4.8 yards per rush and made the crowd moan when he took off running. Driskel, much like former UF quarterback Tim Tebow, brings roars of excitement and the return of the spread attack element to the offense.

Driskel, who had 300 yards total offense against UT to earn SEC offensive player of the week honors, said the reps during the intensity and speed of an actual game are making him more comfortable.

"It's really slowed down a lot just with getting more reps in a game, knowing what (defensive) fronts they are going to be in and seeing the rotation of safeties,'' said Driskel, a sophomore.

Hammond had a 75-yard touchdown catch that increased the Gators' lead to 34-20 midway through the fourth quarter at Tennessee. He calls this team "a lot more confident that we can get the job done.''

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