Six forced turnovers and a surprisingly poised performance by redshirt junior back-up quarterback Tyler Murphy led the No. 18/19 Florida Gators (2-1, 1-0 SEC) past the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. After topping the visitors 31-17, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.
DANNY WUERFFEL AS MR. TWO BITS
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Florida is extended its winning streak against Tennessee to nine games (2005-13).
» UF also won its ninth-straight SEC opener (eight against UT).
» The Vols fell to 1-24 against top 25 teams since 2008 and have now lost 18-straight games when squaring off against ranked opponents.
» The Gators are 14-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (6-9 when rushing for fewer than 150 yards). Florida is also 16-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 12-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 7-6 when an opponent scores first and 16-1 when leading at the half.
» UF is 16-2 against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» UT did not score an offensive touchdown until there was 10:10 left in the game.
» The Gators have now possessed the ball for 38:20 or longer in each of their three games this season. Florida out-possessed Tennessee 39:37-20:23 on Saturday.
» UF has forced at least one turnover in 14-straight games.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (354).
» Florida’s six turnovers were the most the team has forced in a single game since Aug. 30, 2008 against Hawaii and the most UF has registered against an SEC opponent since doing the same to UT on Sept. 21, 1996.
» Senior wide receiver Solomon Patton registered 100 receiving yards and no receiving touchdowns combined in the first 32 games of his career. Over the last two games, Patton has totaled 192 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He had three receptions for 73 yards, including a career-long 52-yard catch, and a score on Saturday.
» Murphy threw a completion and a touchdown pass for the first time in his college career. He finished 8-of-14 for 134 yards and a score but also picked up 84 yards and a rushing touchdown on 10 carries.
» Redshirt junior running back Mack Brown led Florida in rushing with 86 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
» Five different Gators forced turnovers including sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., who created two forced fumbles – the first and second of his career.
» Sophomore defensive back Brian Poole, redshirt freshman safety Marcus Maye and junior defensive tackle Darious Cummings each caught the first interception of their respective careers.
INJURY AND STATUS UPDATES
Approximately an hour before the start of the game, the Gators announced that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee), redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) and redshirt sophomore running back Valdez Showers (ankle) would all miss the game due to injury. Though Roberson and Moore’s ailments were known previously – and both players are expected to return next week against Kentucky – Showers’s was a surprise as he tweaked his ankle during practice on Wednesday and may not be available for a week or two.
Also a shocker was an announced one-game suspension for freshman wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, who was held out for a violation of team rules. Muschamp confirmed after the game that both Robinson and sophomore WR Latroy Pittman, who was serving a three-game suspension, will be active against the Wildcats.
That does not mean Florida avoided another slew of in-game injuries. In addition to junior quarterback Jeff Driskel breaking his right fibula and being sidelined for the remainder of the season, three other players were removed from the game – at least for a few snaps – due to injury.
Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio played for the first time in 2013 after rehabbing a torn pectoral and looked to have re-torn it; it was revealed later that he was poked in the eye and had trouble seeing even though he eventually returned to the field.
Junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy, back at kick returner in the second half, was nailed on a return and hobbled off the field. Trainers tended to his leg and checked for a potential ACL tear, but he was diagnosed with a deep thigh contusion. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Leon Orr also hurt his shoulder Saturday but returned to the game.
The Gators will be without one other player next week – at least for the first half of the game – as Poole was hit with the team’s first targeting penalty of the year. Under the new NCAA rule, which is levied when a player leads with his helmet, Poole was ejected immediately and must miss a full game. Because the incident happened in the second half, he will also sit out the first half of next Saturday’s contest.
“It was the right call. I don’t have any problem with the call. I got a problem with the rule,” Muschamp said. “Brian Poole was not trying to flagrantly hurt anyone. It’s a bang-bang play. He’s trying to go up. The ball’s high. He’s going in high. It’s a bang-bang play. I thought it was a correct call. It was the right call.”
STARTING THE SECOND HALF STRONG
The first half was as crazy and turnover-filled as 30 minutes of game time could be, just ask Muschamp, who matter-of-factly implied he would prefer to forget it even happened.
“I’d like to not do it again. You play through it. It is what it is. We just got to play a little better in some situations,” he said.
The second half was a different story. Led by Murphy, Florida was patient on offense and rattled off a pair of 11-play drives that resulted in a couple of rushing touchdowns. The Gators went 79 and 84 yards on the respective drives, jumping ahead of the Vols 31-10 early in the fourth quarter.
“[Murphy] came out after [halftime] and brought two drives right down the field, made some really good decisions in the throwing game and the passing game in those situations,” Muschamp said.
He also believed it was a great sign of the team keeping its composure.
“We’ve shown some pretty good resolve around here, just continuing to play for 60 minutes, keep continuing to play the game. Good things are going to happen. Keep playing for each other. Keep playing for your teammates and good things will happen. Our guys have shown a pretty good skillset to do that around here. … I don’t think our first year we were very good at that.”
HEALING THE SECONDARY
With Roberson held out of the game, Purifoy injured and Poole ejected, Florida suddenly found itself with little depth at cornerback, a position that the Gators were unlikely to ever be in this season.
The aforementioned issues were partially to blame for Tennessee’s only offensive touchdown of the game. In addition to the Vols completing a number of passes – including a 32-yard strike and 18-yard score – on the drive, UT also ran well against UF. Muschamp blamed that on poor tackling.
“The guys in the secondary rallied. Obviously on the one drive we were disappointed on the third down conversions,” he said. “Brian Poole goes down. Marcus doesn’t start so he can’t play in the game. Loucheiz goes down during the game.
“We were short on some folks back there but that’s part of the deal. Man down, man up, and our guys understand that. They understand when their number is called they got to prepare themselves the right way, and I think we’ve done that for the most part.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp was not pleased with the first quarter fumble by junior punter Kyle Christy, who mishandled a catchable snap. “We still had some issues as far as taking care of the ball,” he said. “Kyle – that was not a bad enough snap not to get that punt off. We got to get that off.”
» On the win as a whole: “Really proud of our team. That was a true team victory, doing what we had to do to win the game.”
» On the top-notch defensive performance: “I think our guys understand what’s expected here and how we’re going to play. And I think they certainly, they’re a competitive bunch and they also understand when it’s right and when it’s not right. And they understood that we did not perform very well at Miami and we need to play better and we can play better, we can be a difference in every game if we play the way we’re capable of playing.”
» On the top-notch defensive performance, continued: “It kept us in the ball game. It let us catch our breath a little bit. Obviously sudden change is a part of the game. We’ve certainly done it too much, but our guys understand. They know they better respond when they get put in those situations.”
» On Fowler and his dynamic effort in the game: “He’s an explosive player, and we expect him to play well. … He’s just an explosive player. We try to put him in some situations where we can create some one-on-ones for him. We just tell him, ‘You need to earn your scholarship when you get in those one-on-ones.’ He’ll win a lot of those battles. He’s a very physical player, change of direction, explosive guy, got good instincts in pass rush. I think Brad [Lawing]’s done a really good job of teaching him things that have helped him. He continues to improve and play well.”
» Muschamp said redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg will be Murphy’s back-up quarterback going forward with Driskel on the mend.
» Cummings and his interception: “I told them in the locker room after the game, ‘I don’t know who looks worse: Me jogging on campus or Darious returning that interception.’ Darious looked better than I did, and I was a lot happier tp watch him than watch me run. Darious has played well for us. Darious has been a very good addition for us. He’s a guy that can anchor in the run game, plays blocks extremely well, plays extremely hard. He’s a guy that just needs to continue to work his way in shape.”