Instant analysis: Florida 20, Texas A&M 17
September, 8, 2012
By David Helman | ESPN.com
Texas A&M didn't get a win, but it certainly didn't disappoint in its first outing as an SEC member. The Aggies gave No. 24 Florida all it could handle but ultimately succumbed in a 20-17 loss. Here's how it played out Saturday from Kyle Field.
It was over when: Clinging to a 20-17 lead with 1:30 remaining, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel raced for 21 yards on a bootleg to ensure the Gators would not have to give the ball back to the Aggies. Florida took over at its own 14 with 3:12 remaining and managed to grind down the clock on a seven-play drive consisting of all run plays.
Game ball goes to: Driskel. He was far from spectacular, but the quarterback was mistake-free in his first start for the Gators. Driskel was absolutely drilled to the tune of eight -- repeat, eight -- sacks. But he hung in to complete 13 of 16 passes for 162 yards, and while the Florida offense was far from fun to watch, Driskel took care of the ball and made clutch plays when he had to. In addition to the game-sealing run, Driskel connected with tight end Omarius Hines on a beautiful 39-yard throw to set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Game ball, Part 2: That go-ahead touchdown came thanks to some inspired running from Florida running back Mike Gillislee. Racing around the right corner in the A&M red zone, Gillislee shook off a tackler and danced along the sideline into the end zone to put the Gators ahead. He was the only consistent part of the Florida offense for the second straight week, totaling 83 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries.
Rising star: He didn't come out on top, but Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel had a heck of a debut in a raucous, SEC-worthy environment. Manziel completed 23 of 30 passes for 173 yards, and he led the Aggies in rushing with 60 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. What's more impressive, the freshman didn't have a turnover against a speedy, hard-hitting SEC defense.
What it means: A lot of people will point to the 17-7 lead Texas A&M held in the first half of this game and laugh. But this Aggies team looked far more impressive than the one that surrendered 17- and 18-point leads in 2011. Texas A&M went punch for punch with a good -- not great -- SEC squad and barely lost out in the end. Florida might not be on the same level as Alabama or LSU, but the Gators didn't appear to hold any advantages over the Aggies, and Texas A&M gave as good as it got.
For Will Muschamp and the Gators, it has to be encouraging to see Driskel play so effectively, if not spectacularly, against an SEC foe. Florida has a lot of work to do, but its young quarterback showed flashes in his first start. Unfortunately for Florida, the true takeaway from Saturday might be the injury report. The Gators saw four players go down, including star linebacker Jelani Jenkins.