Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s first road contest of the 2014 season. Florida will travel Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC) on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 3:30 p.m.
“It was a great team win as far as picking each other up. Parts of the game, defensively, [we] played really well early in the game, did some nice things offensively, moved the ball, did not score in the red zone, had a couple issues on third down – two drops, two protection issues – that hurt us in the first half.
“Field position killed us in the first half; average staring on the 15-yard line, but we moved the ball, that was the encouraging thing. I felt totally in control of the game until the 60-yard touchdown pass that gave them some energy. But our guys fought back and overcame those situations. Right now on the season, we’re +7 on the year in turnover margin, +13 in explosive plays. That’s a good combination to have.
“Going back offensively, field position really hurt us. We need to score touchdowns in the red zone; we had a couple issues down there, third down, but we stayed balanced in what we did. I thought the offensive staff did a nice job with adjustments in the second half of getting in some 12 personnel and running the ball. We were able to create some holes in there. I thought our offensive line did a really good job of movement upfront and handling all that stuff. …
“Overall, as a team, handled some adversity well. That was the first time we had to deal with it this season, so it was good to condition ourselves moving on the road.”
According to Muschamp, Florida’s injury list did not expand after the Kentucky game.
“Injury-wise, D.J. Humphries right now would be the only player that wouldn’t be available to us this weekend. We’re pretty healthy coming out of the last weekend,” he said.
Muschamp announced on Saturday that freshman wide receiver C.J. Worton broke his hand during practice and would be out 2-3 weeks. The Gators also have two players already ruled out for the season.
Offensive players of the game: Sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, junior running back Matt Jones
Offensive lineman of the game: Redshirt senior center Max Garcia
Defensive player of the game: Redshirt sophomore defensive back Brian Poole
Ball hawks: Poole, sophomore safety Keanu Neal, junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
Hard hat: Redshirt freshman DB Marcell Harris
Special teams player of the game: Senior punter Kyle Christy
Muschamp obviously has plenty of respect for the Crimson Tide and head coach Nick Saban, his mentor for many years as a young coach. As such, he had no problem heaping on some praise for Alabama on Monday.
“On to Alabama, got a lot of respect for Nick [Saban]. I probably wouldn’t be standing here if it weren’t for the opportunities he gave me early in my career, and he’s an outstanding football coach. He’s got a really good football team. … They’re all guys [on offense] who can run well, catch the ball well. They’re good in protection and do a nice job. …
“Defensively, strong on the front seven and good on the back end. Landon Collins is an outstanding player and plays some dime for them – when they go to their six-[defensive backs] package – and plays safety, covers well.
“Special teams, Christion Jones is as good of a returner as there is in the country. They’re 100 percent on field goal kicking and their net punt is 45+ [yards]. They’ve got a good football team. We’re looking forward to going to Tuscaloosa for the opportunity.”
Though Muschamp said it is not strange when he squares off against Saban, he did detail how Saban helped him develop as a coach.
“A lot of things, just from total program management. We’d talk in terms of evaluation of players, and I learned a lot at the Miami Dolphins as well in that situation from our scouting department. But just philosophically, having an idea of what you want to be on offense and defense and special teams as a program. All of the things that I think are critical moving forward and where we’re at,” he said.
So what makes Muschamp especially confident about Florida’s chances?
“The key ingredient is have an experienced quarterback. That to me is critical. We have an experienced quarterback that’s won big on the road in some tough places. We’ll be fine,” he said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on Robinson making such a major impact for the Gators: “He’s a tough matchup just because he’s got really good vertical speed. He can run through contact. He’s stronger. He’s a 6-2, 200-pound kid, a young man that catches the ball well. There’s no question it’s a huge thing you’ve got to account for as a defensive coordinator. How many one-on-ones are you going to create for him? And they created a bunch. That’s why we had some matchups and some situations we liked. They did a nice job with their pressure package, and I felt like as the game wore on, we did a better job identifying it and getting the ball in the right spots.”
» Muschamp on Christy’s impact against Kentucky: “[He] punted the ball extremely well. I think his net was at 45. Really flipped the field and early in the game that’s kinda where we were, we had a hard time gaining some field position in the game.”
» Muschamp on the status of sophomore RB Kelvin Taylor‘s back after he was speared with the crown of a defender’s helmet: “He’s doing good. Yep. They got a good shot on him though, didn’t they?” Muschamp on how he handled the non-call: “I don’t have any comment. No, I don’t have any comment. I can’t comment.”
» Muschamp on why UF’s other running backs – redshirt senior Mack Brown and freshman Brandon Powell – did not play: “Well, I think the game dictated that a little bit. Those guys, Matt was running extremely well and we went more to an inside running game based on a lot of things they were doing to us. Certainly, Matt and Kelvin, certainly Mack is a talented enough back to do it. Both of those guys had the hot hand and it worked pretty well.”
» Muschamp on Florida staying with the no-huddle but not being as up-tempo on Saturday: “They left in their base personnel and the front seven stayed in big personnel. We felt like they would match nickel with us and they didn’t. So there were some adjustments we had to make as far as what we were doing. And we went to more 12 personnel and most of our speed packages going into the game where we had 11 personnel, three-wide personnel. So we’ll prepare for that moving forward. That was just something a little different for us. We felt more comfortable where we were in identifying what they were doing as opposed to trying to play fast. So that didn’t have anything to do with the score of the game.”
» Redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel on not being as up-tempo: “Kentucky was giving us a lot of looks we hadn’t seen on film. We had to do a lot of stuff we weren’t practicing. That’s a credit to their defense and their defensive staff. We don’t want to move too fast to where we can’t get everything set and get the right play called. We want to use the no-huddle and getting the play off fast to our advantage, not to a disadvantage.”
» Muschamp on whether Alabama is a proverbial statement game: “They’re all ‘statement games.’ They’re all important. They all count for one. So we understand the importance of the game. It’s an SEC game; it’s the next game. We’re in a series of one-game seasons as far as I’m concerned right now, and that’s how we’re looking at it.”
» Driskel on whether the Crimson Tide showdown is a statement game: “I don’t know if we view it as that. Obviously it’s a big game because it’s the next one. It’s an SEC opponent that has a great track record. They have a lot of great players and a really good coaching staff. So it’s just an opportunity to go out and play a good team and compete at a high level. So we’re really looking forward to the challenge, and we know it’s a tough task.”
» Sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III on whether Saturday is a statement game: “I believe so, yeah. I could say this is a ‘statement game.’ But then again, any game in the SEC is a ‘statement game.’ Any game in the SEC is a big game, could go down to the wire. Obviously, everyone wants to beat Bama, so I guess you could say it’s a ‘statement game.’”