Special to the Journal
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One game into his tenure as Florida’s new offensive coordinator and Brent Pease can relate to Gator fans’ seemingly insatiable appetite for fireworks on offense.
In Florida’s season-opening 27-14 win over Bowling Green on Saturday, the Gators racked up 365 yards of total offense – 36.3 yards more than they averaged a year ago under Charlie Weis – and scored three touchdowns.
But with the majority of those yards coming on the ground – 220 yards rushing, 145 passing – Pease faced several questions at his press conference on Tuesday about the conservative nature of the gameplan in Game 1. The subject has been a popular one on fan websites and talk radio since Saturday.
Florida coach Will Muschamp said Monday he was responsible for most of that, telling Pease he wanted to establish a physical running game against the Falcons before anything else.
“You go into every game trying to accomplish something and we accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish for the most part,” Muschamp said. “Do we want to do better on third-and-short? Yeah, we do — a lot better. Do we need to be more creative in those situations? Certainly, we can and we will. I wanted to make sure we played a certain way in the game.”
Pease obliged as did senior running back Mike Gillislee, who rushed 24 times for a career-high 148 yards, including touchdown runs of 15 and 38 yards.
Pease expects a more flexible gameplan Saturday at Texas A&M in the SEC opener for both teams and cautioned that his pro-style attack with a heavy emphasis on movement is a work in progress.
“This is a growing process. I want it to be more than what it is right now,” Pease said Tuesday. “You are always going to see different things. I want to be more productive. I want to be better on third downs. I want to score more points. We need to create more first downs. I want to be more balanced in run and pass. Is that all going to happen in the first game?”
In Pease’s six seasons at Boise State – including last year as offensive coordinator – the Broncos were consistently one of the nation’s most dangerous offensive teams. Pease wants to say the same about the Gators one day.
To get there the Gators will rely heavily on the running game while sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel develops. Driskel is making his first career start at quarterback on Saturday after going 10-for-16 for 114 yards and a touchdown against Bowling Green.
“There’s some learning curves,” Pease said. “Even for me, in general, just getting a feel for the guys and how we are going to go. I’m not doing anything that I don’t feel comfortable with, because if I was doing something that I didn’t feel comfortable with, I wouldn’t have come here.”
FLAVOR OF A RIVALRY
The Gators and Texas A&M have played just twice, 1962 in Gainesville and 1977 in the Sun Bowl in El Paso. Their first meeting in 35 years is taking on a colorful tone.
The first hint of flavor to the game came over the summer when College Station mayor Nancy Berry responded to some comments made by Muschamp in the spring at the Polk County Gator Club gathering.
Muschamp, who spent three seasons at Texas prior to taking over the Gators, playfully told UF fans about Florida’s upcoming visit to Texas A&M: “You ever been to College Station? It’ll be the only time you go.”
Berry responded with a video parody in response to Muschamp’s quip. She even said she would send Muschamp a gift basket from the Bryan-College Station Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Muschamp said Monday she was true to her word.
“It was wonderful,” Muschamp said. “Some koozies and things. It was nice.”
And then on Tuesday a Texas A&M-themed billboard popped up in Gainesville, courtesy of a Houston-based media company called Aggie Nation according to the Gainesville Sun. By late afternoon Tuesday the billboard had been taken down.
“I really ain’t paying attention to it,” said Gators safety Josh Evans told reporters. “I saw it but my mind ain’t on that. I’m about winning this game.”
If the first SEC game between the schools is any indication, this should be a fun rivalry for years to come.
During his UF debut on Saturday, an ESPN microphone picked up some salty language from Pease that made the rounds on Twitter.
Pease admitted Tuesday that sometimes his emotions get the best of him, causing his mom to wince.
“My mom let me know. That’s just a little bit of how I am. I’m a typical guy that is competitive – I think everything is going to work. It’s nothing personal against kids,” he said. “I’ve probably got a little potty mouth sometimes. I apologize for that. I hear it more from my mom afterwards than anyone else.
“That’s not like the first time it’s happened to me. My mother said to be careful and I need to watch my mouth. I think I had my mouth washed out with soap when I was 9. It’s not going to happen now.”
Sophomore Loucheiz Purifoy is more known for defending passes than catching them. A cornerback, Purifoy also lined up at receiver against Bowling Green.
While many were surprised, linebacker Jelani Jenkins can see why.
“He’s athletic enough to do it,” Jenkins said.
Muschamp and Pease didn’t rule out more time at receiver for Purifoy, listed at 6-foot-1, 186 pounds in the media guide.
“It’s not an indictment on anybody because we did it everywhere I’ve been,” Pease said. “We took the fastest kid and tried to use his strengths. He is a very talented kid.”
“Loucheiz is a guy that’s got good vertical skills and he’s got good ball skills,” Muschamp added. “We’re trying to get more explosive at the position and he’s certainly a guy that can do some things for us and that role will continue to grow as we move forward.”
Injured offensive lineman Matt Patchan (strained pectoral muscle) did not play in the season opener and won’t play at Texas A&M. Patchan, who started the final seven regular-season games at right tackle a year ago, missed the Gator Bowl win over Ohio State with a shoulder injury.
The injury prone redshirt junior continues to rehab and Muschamp hopes to get him back sooner than later.
“He’s doing everything he can do to get back,” Muschamp said. “I know the rehab is going well, everything has been very positive on that end and he’s further ahead than we thought. We thought originally 4 weeks, now we’re kind of edging that back a bit. I know he’s frustrated, I’m frustrated for him, he’s worked extremely hard, had a really good off season.
“Hope it’s not that much longer, we need to get him back, he’s a good football player and he can help our team.”
As the Gators prepare to face the Aggies, one concern is Texas A&M’s pass rush. The Aggies led the nation last season with 51 sacks and the team’s leaders – linebacker Sean Porter (9 ½ sacks) and defensive end Damontre Moore (8 ½ sacks) return.
Texas A&M also has a new defensive coordinator in Mark Snyder, the former Marshall head coach who spent the past two seasons as defensive coordinator at USF. Adding to the challenge for the Gators on offense is that Texas A&M co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach, Marcel Yates, spent the last six years with Pease on Boise State coach Chris Petersen’s staff.
Their units went against each other regularly at practice.
“I’m sure he’ll have a little bit of a feel for things we like to do,” Pease said.
QUOTE OF NOTE
“I just saw him in the hall an hour ago and he’s studying film.” – Pease on quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who learned Monday that Jeff Driskel earned the starting job
Redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown, who has not played since the 2010 season, has been cleared to return to practice. Brown missed last season with a knee injury and was hampered in fall camp by a broken wrist.