A poised performance by redshirt junior back-up quarterback Tyler Murphy coupled with a breakthough game for sophomore running back Matt Jones and superb defensive effort led the No. 19/20 Florida Gators (3-1, 2-0 SEC) past the Kentucky Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, KY. After winning the game 24-7, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.
NEXT GAME TIME ANNOUNCED
Florida will face Arkansas next Saturday on Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. in a game that will air live on ESPN2. It will be the first night game the Gators will play in that emanates from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium since Nov. 26, 2011.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Florida extended its winning streak against Kentucky to 27 games dating back to 1987. It is the longest active streak against an annual opponent but the sixth-longest such streak all time.
» The Gators are 47-17 all-time against the Wildcats with a 19-10 edge in Lexington. UF is also 33-1 against UK since 1980.
» Florida beat Kentucky by fewer than 34 points for the first time since 2007 (45-37). UF has outscored UK 262-43 over the last six games (2008-13) and shutout its SEC East rival last year (38-0) for the first time since 1996.
» The Gators are 15-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards. Florida is also 17-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 13-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 14-3 when scoring first and 17-1 when leading at half.
» UF is 17-1 against unranked opponents under Muschamp.
» Florida has forced at least one turnover in 15-straight games and nabbed at least one interception in seven consecutive contests.
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (355).
» Florida has registered a nation-leading 103 interceptions since 2008. UF is also first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (16) and interception return yards (1,788).
» The Gators had their longest offensive scoring drive of the season in terms of time (7:47), yardage (93) and plays (13).
» Florida has not allowed Kentucky to score an offensive touchdown in 10-straight quarters dating back to 2011. The Wildcats’ sole score Saturday came on a fake field goal on their first drive of the game.
» The Gators were 4-for-4 in the red zone, 8-for-13 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down, but their defense held the Wildcats to 0-of-1, 1-of-8 and 2-of-4 in those categories.
» Florida never punted the ball and scored five times in eight drives. The other three included two end-of-halfs and one interception.
» UF outgained UK 402-173 overall and 246-48 on the ground. The Gators also dominated time of possession 38:09-21:51, though it was the least total time they possessed the ball in a game all season.
» Murphy started the game 11-of-11 for 120 yards and a touchdown, adding four carries for 20 yards and a rushing score in the first half. He eventually completed 13-straight passes before finishing his first career start 15-for-18 for 156 yards and added an interception in the second half.
» Jones registered career-highs in carries (28) and rushing yards (176), adding a touchdown to his total while averaging 6.3 yards per touch. It was the first 100-yard game of his career and second by a Florida rusher this season (Mack Brown).
» Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III registered his third career interception in four career games.
» Senior wide receiver Trey Burton scored his first touchdown of the season and matched a career-high with six receptions. His 66 receiving yards were a game-high. Burton has now scored eight of his 20 career touchdowns against Kentucky.
» Freshman WR Demarcus Robinson earned his first career reception and took it 10 yards on a third-down conversion.
“I’m very proud of our football team. It has been a long week for us, psychologically and mentally as much as anything. When you go through Jeff [Driskel]’s situation and Dominique [Easley]’s situation, which happened Tuesday night, very frustrating but you can’t always control your circumstances in life. You can control your vision.
“I told our players, ‘No excuses and no regrets.’ That’s just who we are. We have an expectation level here at the University of Florida on what we’re going to do and where we’re headed with our program. Very pleased with how our guys pulled together and the Gator Nation pulled together and came up here and did what we did. …
“Very proud of our football team. Showed a lot of resolve. They continue to come together in what we’re doing. Very proud of Tyler Murphy and his play.”
Read everything else Muschamp had to say about the game…after the break!
NO EXCUSES, JUST RESULTS
Rolling off the theme presented in his opening statement, Muschamp admitted that he was concerned about the Gators’ mental and emotional state throughout the week (due to the loss of two leaders) but was confident everything would come together and the players would have each other’s backs going forward.
“[There is] no question. I was very concerned going into the game. But again, our guys, I certainly wouldn’t categorize our first year, but last year and this year, this football team, this football program is headed in the right way. We got a bunch of guys that care about each other, that pick each other up regardless of the situation. Again, you can’t always control your circumstances in life, but you can control your vision and where you’re headed. We’re headed in the right direction.
“We’ve had a couple setbacks but no one really cares. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. So we just need to roll our sleeves up and go to work. And that’s what we’re going to do. …
“No regrets and no excuses. I don’t want to hear one excuse in here about why something doesn’t happen. I don’t want to hear one excuse about Dominique Easley or our starting quarterback. We’re not going to have any excuses in here, and we’re not going to have any regrets about the way we play. We’re not going to look back and go, ‘I wish we would’ve done this.’ Just go play.”
MURPHY RISES TO THE OCCASION
A stellar performance from Murphy, who started his first career game and did so on the road against an SEC opponent, certainly caught Muschamp’s attention. He was happy to offer praise in the direction of the signal caller after the game.
“[He] just made really good decisions, as much as anything throwing the ball, but in the run game. He got us in and out of the right runs,” he said.
“Outstanding. Really good. He’s a very cerebral kid. He’s very smart. He gets the game. I think Brent [Pease] did a really good job of putting him in some good situations. We checked through everything at the run game based on the look from – they were a three-down and four-down team. Just really proud of his performance. He continues to improve and gain confidence in his play. Our football team has always had confidence in him. This coaching staff has always had confidence in him. But he really played well.”
Murphy, however, made a major mistake by throwing an interception that was nearly returned for the touchdown at the end of a grinding offensive drive. Luckily, he made a great tackle near the sideline that saved it from going all the way into the end zone.
“45 made a great play. I forced the ball in there. I shouldn’t have thrown it there,” Murphy said. “I’ll get in the film room and just evaluate the paly and see how it went. He just made a good play. I made a bad decision. Hat off to him. I’ll just learn for that, can’t make those mistakes coming up this week versus Arkansas.”
Muschamp was not quick to put the blame on his shoulders, however.
“We had a rub route set up. We missed the rub. So I’m not going to put that on Tyler. We were supposed to rub it. It was in a man situation,” he explained. “We got what we wanted and we were supposed to rub the defender there, legally. We didn’t get the rub. He was counting on the fact that he wasn’t going to be there. And then he threw the ball outside and made a fantastic tackle there on the sideline.”
INJURY AND STATUS UPDATES
The Gators, for once, escaped a game relatively unscathed. Junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee), who Muschamp said earlier in the week was likely to play, was actually a game-time decision for the contest but did not feel like he would be ready to go all-out in the game. He was dressed in street clothes on the sidelines after warming up in full uniform.
Redshirt junior nose tackle Leon Orr (shoulder) returned but did not see much action, playing in just 15-18 snaps. Muschamp said he had a difficult time practicing on Wednesday and did a little bit on Thursday. Florida threw him in there to help get him ready to go next week against Arkansas.
CLEANING UP SPECIAL TEAMS
For a Florida team that has relied heavily on superb special teams performances for nearly a decade, the Gators have been consistently coming up short on that side of the ball this season. On Saturday, UF was duped on a fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown for UK.
“We got to clean up our field goal block team a little bit as far as some responsibilities there. We needed to have somebody on the edge to make sure that doesn’t happen to us as we move forward,” Muschamp said. “We got a guy to contain. They did a nice job of scheming us up. They had a guy run a center cut there that took our contain player out of the play and we didn’t overlap to the ball the right way. We’ll get it corrected.”
Florida also missed another field goal on Saturday, making redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin 4-for-7 on the season. Granted, his miss came from 53 yards out, but it was not the only mistake he made on the play. Hardin forced the coaches to call a timeout – and Muschamp to blow his lid – when he was slow marking off his steps and was not aware of the play clock.
“Austin’s got to be more aware, when he’s marking it off, that he play clock is ticking down in that situation,” Muschamp said. “We shouldn’t have been in the situation to begin with. We convert the third down, we got a receiver that’s not on the line of scrimmage. Now we’re in a 3rd-and-longer situation and I had total confidence that he was going to hit it. It was a 53-yarder. He has the leg to hit it. He hit it in warm-up. And certainly was expecting him to hit it. He was a little bit off, a little bit short, but we’ll put him in that situation again.”
Muschamp said he does have confidence in Hardin to hit long field goals but also pointed out that the 33-yard make he connected on in the second half helped the Gators a great deal by putting them up by 17 points.
“It was huge. We got to convert in that situation, make it a three-score game. There’s no question that was a big, big field goal,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in Austin. He’s really kicked well. I think we’re all kind of used to what we’ve had before and that’s not what’s here anymore.
“But Austin’s done a fantastic job. In every situation we’ve asked him to perform, I think he’s done well. We’ll just continue to work through it with him. We’ve got to give him some confidence. That’s why I put him out there for the 53 yarder. I told him, ‘If I ain’t got confidence in you, we’re not kicking in this situation. I’ve got confidence you’re going to make this.’ And I thought he hit it well. I really thought he did.”
Though Florida did not punt in the game, Muschamp confirmed that junior Kyle Christy was the starter and “punted well” during practice. He still plans to have an open competition at both positions because he believes competition is his best motivator.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Kentucky moving the ball early in the game: “They had a week off. They gave us some new stuff. We adjusted to it in the game. … Dink and dunk. … Hit a couple screens. And then we stopped them. Didn’t execute on field goal block very good.”
» On if he expected this type of play from Murphy: “We expect him to play well. The guy has worked hard. His confidence for us shot up in camp when Jeff was out to start camp and he went out there and performed at a high level. A guy that we had a lot of comfort level that maybe we didn’t have before. But he had never been put in that situation. He never had that opportunity to get that number of snaps. Hats off to him. He’s done a fantastic job.”
» On the interior of the defensive line replacing Easley’s production: “Collectively, as a unit, those guys are capable of playing very well. And that’s what we expect. So we’re not going to have a drop-off. Our expectation is for those guys to go play well and that’s what they better do.”
» On the play of Hargreaves: “He’s a really good football player. He’s around the ball. But he does it in practice. He shows up around the ball all the time. He’s a ball hawk. He gets the ball off people. He has a knack for going and getting it. He’s got tremendous leaping ability. He probably has a 37-38 inch vertical. He’s got really good ball skills down the field. He judges the ball extremely well. He gets good body position on receivers. He’s a very good football player.”
» On Burton stepping up at wide receiver: “After spring, we kind of tired to narrow down for each kid for what is your job description in what we do offensively, defensively and special teams. And Trey saw that he needed to probably cut some weight. I think he did; he could probably tell you how much. He realized he needed to become a leaner athlete at the position in what we were asking him to do, which obviously has helped him. He’s refined his route running. He’s getting coached very well, in my opinion, and a guy that’s been very receptive to what we’re trying to do. We’re still using him in some other roles but primarily now he’s a slot receiver type of guy that can do some other things for us.”
» On the play of sophomores Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr. and defensive end Jonathan Bullard, who combined for 3.5 sacks: “Well, they need to [play well]. Those guys are good players and we got a high expectation level for those guys. They do it for themselves. They’re good players and they need to play that way.”