- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's sounds like a broken record, but if Florida is going to make a run to Atlanta for the SEC championship game, it has to figure out a way to get into the end zone more.
If this offense can't score, it'll be sitting at home in early December.
No. 19-ranked Florida (1-1) has actually moved the ball down the field better through two game this season (averaging 414 yards per game) than it did for most of the 2012 season. The Gators had 399 yards outside of the red zone in their Week 2 loss to Miami and averaged more than six yards a play. But inside the red zone, Florida mustered just 14 yards, one touchdown and turned the ball over three times.
Saturday's matchup with Tennessee (2-1) is flying under the radar nationally, but it's a crucial game for the Gators. They can't afford to make the same mistakes -- like going 2-for-6 in the red zone -- that cost them a win against the Hurricanes. They can't afford to complicate things close to the end zone, as Tennessee leads the SEC in red zone defense and takeaways.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel has to protect the ball better and has to have more confidence near the end zone. He's throwing the ball down field more, but he has to play bigger the closer he gets to the end zone. He might be averaging more than 200 yards per game passing (after throwing for just 137 per game last season), but both of his interceptions have come in the red zone.
Guys such as Solomon Patton, Quinton Dunbar and Trey Burton have stepped up as reliable receiving targets, combining to catch 19 passes for 280 yards and a touchdown against Miami, so Driskel has options. And the running game will be better with the return of a fully healthy Matt Jones.
Florida won't be perfect, but it has to make strides offensively against a Tennessee team that gave up nearly 700 yards and 59 points to Oregon last week. The Gators aren't Oregon, but they have the pieces to generate points. A good showing by the offense -- and more points -- could go a long way in the confidence department for a team looking to be much more consistent with the ball in its hands.
7hGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough