Florida Sees Unfamiliar Finish

Halapio was part of a physical line in 4th quarter

It is a statistic that has been beaten to death over the offseason. Will Muschamp made it a point on his summer booster speaking tour to tell the Gator fans that Florida was outscored 72-22 in the fourth quarter of SEC contests a year ago. He wasn't proud of that number but was vowing o make a change. So far he is living up to his word.

Muschamp brought in a new strength and conditioning coach after Mickey Marotti left to go to Ohio State. Jeff Dillman was assigned to make these Gators bigger and stronger, and to play that way. Whether we have seen that from this squad yet is debatable, but his biggest chore was to make these guys strong finishers.

On Saturday in 90 degree heat and in a very hostile environment, the Florida Gators dug deep in the fourth quarter and down by four points, the defense did their part allowing no more points, just two first downs, and just 37 yards.

When the offense was given their work to do, they scored seven points to take a lead, added five first downs, and 104 yards in the final period.

As time expired it was Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel taking a knee to secure the victory that would be the scene everyone would watch to close the game. The final 15 minutes played out as perfectly as Dillman could have ever hoped for.

For starting right guard Jon Halapio, it was a long time coming and something he and his teammates worked hard for in the offseason.

"It feels good, we trained all summer and it definitely paid off today," Halapio said from a jovial locker room following the 2-17 win. "We definitely finished in the fourth quarter."

After giving up 8 sacks in the contest that cost them 48 net yards in rushing, Florida finished with 142 yards on the ground and 57 of those came in the fourth quarter when the Gators needed to score and eventually just run the clock. Halapio said he and his line mates were ready for it.

"We wanted to pound the ball, run out the clock and definitely won against the other line of scrimmage, but Texas A&M is a good football team," he said. "That is one of the things that coach Dillman stressed in the offseason is the 72 to 22 points scored in the fourth quarter, it proves that we have been working hard."

Outside of the change in the physical style they are trying to implement, there has also been a change in mindset. A me first attitude permeated the squad a year ago and Halapio saw his team take huge strides away from that mind set in the game at College Station, Texas.

"I think the biggest change this year from last year is that we didn't point fingers at each other," Halapio said. "We played with incredible confidence, we trusted each other, and kept grinding through."

And the 6-3, 320 pound guard is proud of his quarterback. Sophomore Jeff Driskel had a lot of weight on his shoulders for this game and still found time to reassure his teammates when things got a little iffy during the game.

"There was a lot of urgency to Jeff Driskel's game, especially in the fourth quarter," Halapio said. "He was very positive on the sideline. When things didn't go our way he always lifted up the offensive line and everybody else around him."

And the guy he likes blocking for in the running game ran hard even when hurt. Mike Gillislee finished with 83 yards on 14 carries. Gillislee also scored both Gator touchdowns and did it with style.

"He never quit," Halapio said of Gillislee. "He had a couple of injuries on the sideline and never quit. Everyone was happy and excited for each other. We definitely just wanted to close out the game."

Moving forward, Halapio says the Gators can use the win at Texas A&M and build on it through the season.

"We want to win every game," he said. "It is definitely a big confidence booster. We are going to have a good feeling going into the Tennessee week."

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