GATORS Hit Rock Bottom


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley refuses to panic.

Not after the worst loss in school history. Not after the first losing season since 1979. Not after missing a bowl game for the first time in 23 years. And not after a humbling loss to rival Florida State.

Foley held an impromptu news conference before Florida's season finale -- a 37-7 loss to No. 2 Florida State on Saturday -- and reiterated "total confidence" in coach Will Muschamp.

"Obviously, it's been a difficult year," Foley said. "We haven't made an excuse all year and we're not going to make them now. We know what this program is all about. I have total confidence in coach Muschamp and have made that clear. We've got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, that's what you do: you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don't panic. You don't put orange and blue glasses on.

"It's not acceptable. It's not who we are, and it's not what we're about. Confident we can fix it. I've heard that it's my ego speaking. No, it's my belief."

Foley made it clear staff changes are coming. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis are likely gone, scapegoats after a dismal offensive season. The Gators entered Saturday's game ranked 111th in total offense. They managed 193 yards against FSU -- and that included a 50-yard run on the team's second series.

"We need to take a look at ourselves schematically with what we're doing," Muschamp said after the game. "There have been some things that have happened that are very difficult to overcome, but schematically there's no question we need to take a look at ourselves. ... I'm willing to do what we need to do to score points and win games."

Foley told his staff earlier this week that he doesn't "own this franchise," but added that it's his job to make sure things are headed in the right direction. And he believes Muschamp has the Gators pointed the right way.

Muschamp fell to 22-16 in three seasons in Gainesville. That includes last week's 26-20 debacle against lower-division Georgia Southern.

"I don't have my head in the sand," Foley said. "No question there's a lot of noise out there, and I get that. But we wanted to make sure Will knew where we stood. That's important to Will, it's important to recruiting and it's important to our organization. It's important for our coaches to understand that things are tough and we're going to be there for him.

"The guy was 11-1 a year ago and SEC Coach of the Year. To sit here and be silent ... that's not how we felt."

Probably the only thing that has saved Muschamp this season is last year's 11-2 record that included a trip to the Sugar Bowl.

The Gators (4-8) ended the season by losing seven consecutive games -- their longest losing streak since going 0-10-1 in 1979 -- and were a mismatch against the unbeaten Seminoles (12-0).

"I feel like we hit rock bottom this year," guard Max Garcia said. "I feel like the only way we can go is up."

Florida has been decimated by injuries, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, three offensive tackles and several others for the season. Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy also missed the final three games with a sprained throwing shoulder, leaving third-stringer Skyler Mornhinweg to start.

The injuries are surely a viable excuse, but many insist no amount of personnel problems should lead Florida to be ranked in the triple digits in total offense for three consecutive years.

The question is whether Muschamp will alter his run-first offensive style that leads to so many close games and leaves little margin for error.

"I think Will is a really good self-evaluator," Foley said. "He can look in the mirror and isn't afraid to take responsibility for what's happened. ... We look at ourselves and how we get better. Not just sit here and say, `Yeah, we've got a bunch of injuries, we'll be fine.' That better not be our attitude. It better be our attitude to reevaluate every single facet of what we're doing and get this thing fixed.

"Yeah, it stinks. It stinks for every Gator fan. This season has been no fun because we care."

Florida Gators players voice support

By Jesse Simonton Miami Herald Writer

GAINESVILLE -- Despite growing frustration by Florida fans with the football program, Gators players are standing by coach Will Muschamp.

Team leaders — senior safety Jaylen Watkins, redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy and junior linebacker Michael Taylor — all expressed adulation for Muschamp, who is 22-12 in three seasons at Florida.

“To see somebody who really has our backs means a lot,” Murphy said. “We try to put it all on the field for a coach like that.”

Said Watkins: “He fights for us, no matter what. He takes all the blame, and we’re the ones out there playing. A lot of times, he puts us in the right position, we know he’s got the right scheme for us. We’re just, a lot of times, out of place or something. We definitely love the support he gives us, and we’re gonna support him right back.”

Taylor echoed the comments of his teammates, adding players must “believe” and “trust” in Muschamp’s vision.

Although a sizable segment of the Gator Nation on a number of pro-UF message boards seems to be souring on Muschamp, players say they have mostly ignored the fans’ festering frustrations.

“I really don’t pay much attention to it,” Watkins said. “I try to focus on my teammates, and those are the ones that really matter right now at this point.

“Of course, we love the fan support, but we have to keep each other up.”

UF players insist they won’t quit on the season — something Muschamp highlighted Monday — despite all their main goals being undeniably unattainable.

The locker room, according to Murphy, will not cave in.

“Guys are just pointing fingers at themselves,” he said. “Nobody is really pointing fingers at other people.

“Everybody is looking at themselves in the mirror and trying to fix what they’re doing wrong. There’s no finger-pointing other than people are pointing it back at themselves.”

Florida, losers of three in a row for the second time in three seasons, hosts Vanderbilt (noon, ESPN3) on homecoming Saturday, and although Murphy acknowledged potential cynicism by fans, he believes the Gator Nation has not given up on the team. “Not 100 percent sure,” said Murphy, on the fans’ possible reaction and attendance Saturday.

“But just talking to fans that I know personally, they’re still supporting us and they’re still very encouraging. I’m sure we’ll have a good show and people will still come support us. We can’t really focus on that. We have to focus on beating Vandy, whether there’s nobody in the crowd or all 90,000.”

Read more here:

Gators Leave Jacksonville Frustrated at Missed Opportunities

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Fourth-and-10 at the Georgia 40-yard line and 1:18 to go in first half. The Florida Gators trailed the Bulldogs by 17 points and already had squandered one red-zone scoring opportunity.

For UF coach Will Muschamp, it was a chance to make something positive happen in a first half chock full of negatives.

“If they had any timeouts, I probably would have kicked, but they didn’t,” Muschamp said. “I just thought we needed to call the game aggressively and let our players play aggressively.”

So the Gators went for it.

Tyler Murphy’s short completion to Quinton Dunbar across the middle might have gained five or six yards -- which would not have been enough anyway. Dunbar, though, tried to get fancy against the UGA defense and ended up losing three yards, allowing the Bulldogs to take over at their 43 with 1:07 to go.

Three Aaron Murray completions set up Marshall Morgan’s 32-yard field goal at the halftime horn.

Georgia won the game 23-20.

Did those three points prove to be the decisive ones of the game? Yes.

Did that specific sequence cost the Gators the game? Of course not.

There were 58 plays from scrimmage in the second half, plus some special-teams plays, any of which could have altered the outcome or turned the game in Florida’s favor; or into a Georgia blowout. A 47-yard field-goal attempt that came up short on the second half’s opening possession comes to mind relative to the former.

The Gators, as it turned out, made some plays, especially on defense, to score 17 unanswered points and draw within three points in the fourth quarter. And they had the ball with a chance to seize the lead.

Then came another big fourth down.

This time when Georgia had the ball.

The Bulldogs went for a fourth-and-1 from their own 39 and the UF defense smothered tailback Todd Gurley for no gain. Right about then, flags started fly. A bunch of them.

Officials ruled that UF linebacker Neiron Ball removed his helmet after the play while still on the field, a 15-yard penalty. In the play's aftermath, four more personal fouls were called, two on each team.

Ball didn't think he did anything wrong.

“My teammate hit me and it slid up my face,” Ball said afterward. “So I just took it off.”

The Gators still got the ball after the play, but instead of starting at the Georgia 39, they started at their own 46. And while UF managed to pick up one first down, thanks to a Georgia 12-man penalty, Florida’s next set of downs from the Bulldogs' 41 went minus-2 yards on a “wildcat” play on first down, incompletion on second, and 14-yard sack on third-and-12.

UF punted on fourth-and-26 with 8:17 to go -- and never got the ball back. Georgia ran the game’s final 15 plays and ran out the clock.

“Frustrating,” junior linebacker Mike Taylor said. “So frustrating words can’t even describe.”

A bunch of Gators could have said that about a bunch of plays Saturday at EverBank Field, but it pretty much summed up the whole day.

CBS Elects to Use Six-Day Window for Broadcast Time of Florida at South Carolina

The kickoff time for Florida at South Carolina will be made no later than Sunday afternoon as CBS elected to use a six-day selection for games on Nov. 16. The game against Florida’s Eastern-Division rival will air at 3:30 on CBS, 7 p.m. on ESPN2 or 7:45 p.m. on ESPN.

SEC Football on Saturday, Nov. 16

Troy at Ole Miss – Noon on ESPNU

Kentucky at Vanderbilt – 12:21 p.m. on SEC TV

Alabama at Mississippi State – 7 p.m. on ESPN2 or 7:45 p.m. on ESPN

Georgia at Auburn – 3:30 p.m. on CBS, 7 p.m. on ESPN2 or 7:45 p.m. on ESPN

FLORIDA at South Carolina – 3:30 p.m. on CBS, 7 p.m. on ESPN2 or 7:45 p.m. on ESPN