A devastating 42-13 loss at the hands of the unranked Missouri Tigers (5-2, 2-1 SEC) has sent the Florida Gators (3-3, 2-3 SEC) reeling and set head coach Will Muschamp‘s hot seat ablaze.
Muschamp met with the media after Saturday’s homecoming game to discuss the team’s second-straight loss to an unranked Southeastern Conference opponent at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Florida trails in its all-time series with Missouri 1-3 and has lost consecutive games to its new SEC East rivals.
» In addition to losing five-straight games against top 25 opponents and being 4-13 against ranked opponents under Muschamp, the Gators have now lost consecutive games to unranked SEC opponents, falling to 12-4 in such games. Saturday was Muschamp’s sixth loss to an unranked team.
» Florida is opening a season 3-3 through six games for just the second time in the last 28 years. UF’s opening game against Idaho was canceled.
» The Gators lost on homecoming in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1947-48. UF fell 34-17 to Vanderbilt last year.
» Florida, which allowed just five sacks in its first five games, gave up six on Saturday.
» The Gators were +8 in turnover margin two weeks ago and entered Saturday’s game +5; Florida finished -5 in turnover margin and is now even on the season.
» Florida’s defense gave up just 13 of Missouri’s 42 points on the evening. The Tigers scored 24 points off turnovers.
Last 10 years, teams who allow 120 yards or less are 147-2. Both losses by Will Muschamp Florida teams per @ESPN_ReceDavis
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) October 19, 2014
“You’re not going to give yourself a chance to win. You turn the ball over six times, you get two special teams touchdowns. … Six sacks, you don’t protect the quarterback, changes the game and how you gotta play. Going into the second half there, just offensively just abysmal. We didn’t have any rhythm. We gotta figure out what we can do to try and move the football.
“But six turnovers, I mean, that’s hard to overcome. You get a quarterback-running back exchange [fumble], trying to pull it for the pop pass down the middle; running back clamps the ball. We have an issue there; they don’t get any points off that. But a fumble recovery for a touchdown, an interception for a touchdown, to start the game, the kickoff return for the touchdown. Ball’s not kicked where it’s supposed to be kicked; guy’s supposed to kick it deep left, he kicks it right down the middle, they bring the return back down the field [and] it stretches the coverage. Punt return you don’t tackle a guy. … At the end of the day, you’re not going to win many games turning the ball over six times, giving them 14 points on special teams.
“Defensively, I thought our kids played well enough to win the game, bottom line. They didn’t have to do much and they figured that out pretty quickly after it got to be about 28-0. They weren’t going to have to do much in the game.
“Very disappointed in the performance. It falls on my shoulders; nobody is looking around right now. We just got to get back and get our guys dialed back in. I know we all want to drop back and throw it, but there’s a reason why we can’t and you saw it tonight. When we got into the drop back game, we struggled – tremendously – to protect, to hold the edges. We got to be able to put it in a situation right now where we got to protect the quarterback and protect that position.”
It started with the 96-yard touchdown return, continued with multiple Florida turnovers and received an exclamation point with an 82-yard punt return; the Gators played bad and got worse as the game went on.
Muschamp explained how a bevy of mistakes resulted in Florida getting into a 28-0 hole that it had very little chance of climbing out of during the contest.
“The kickoff return, our kickoff coverage has been outstanding all season. We never had any issues. We felt good going in the game. [Marcus] Murphy’s a good player, but we felt like we could’ve covered better. When you don’t kick the ball where we squeezed the field in the right place, it creates issues. Austin [Hardin] kicked the ball right down the middle. That’s always an issue. They brought the return back through the field and did a nice job of executing and we didn’t. That’s where it starts,” Muschamp began.
“We felt like we were moving the ball offensively. We had a vertical route to the tight end, which was wide open on the exchange that should’ve been pulled. The running back clamped the ball, probably. I would fault both guys in that situation as far as the exchange was concerned. But then we come back and get an interception. Kids on defense playing well. Get the interception there, get a little momentum, hopefully try to get going back our way.
“Then the punt return was a dagger for us. That hurt in essence from the standpoint in which it changed the game. … We didn’t protect as well as we have, and a little bit of that has to do with we’ve been protecting ourselves a lot offensively because we’ve had to. That’s just calling it like it is. That’s real. We’ve put ourselves in a situation right now that’s not good for that type of game.”
Muschamp said the Gators will meet Sunday at 3 p.m. The message? Florida’s players must look themselves in the mirror and figure out what they must do in order to improve and save the season.
“That’s what some of our guys need to do is look in the mirror. They need to play better in some situations. That’s what we’re going to do,” he said.
“We’re fine. Our guys, we have a prideful bunch. We had a tough loss last week and came out [Saturday night] and just didn’t do a good enough job.”
IT’S GETTING HOT IN GAINESVILLE
Thought he seasons are changing and a cool breeze could be felt at times Saturday night, Muschamp’s position with the team and its fan base is roasting. Nevertheless, he dismissed concerns about his job security after the game.
“I’m really worried about this football team right now and getting back at 3 o’clock in the team meeting, sitting down with them and making sure they understand the things we need to do to improve and get better. That’s really what I’m worried about. I’m not going to get concerned into things that I don’t have any control of other than this team. I think that’s the most important thing right now.”
TWO QUARTERBACKS, NO SOLUTIONS
Combining for three interceptions and three fumbles (one on an exchange with junior running back Matt Jones), Florida’s signal callers coughed the ball and achieved little production on Saturday.
Particularly bad was redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, who had an interception and fumble each returned for a touchdown as part of his four turnovers on the evening. Muschamp explained that, while Driskel played poorly, two of his turnovers were not completely his fault.
“It’s tough but Jeff’s a tough kid. He’s been through some tough times before. But certainly got his arm hit on the one interception where we had a double move down the right sideline to [Demarcus Robinson]. He gets clipped on the elbow. Again, we’ll go back and figure out how we can restore our confidence – not just Jeff but our entire offense right now because it’s not very good,” he said.
Despite the mutual sharing of fault with Jones and the Gators’ offensive line, Driskel was bad on Saturday, completing just 7-of-19 passes for 50 yards. Freshman Treon Harris, who played two series early in the game and much of the fourth quarter, was significantly better even with the Tigers’ defense playing containment.
“I thought he did some nice things. We’re a little limited in the throwing game as far as change of protections and typical freshman quarterback things. When they show an overload, you like to be able to change the protection to the other side. There’s some things that he hasn’t been exposed to as much as far as the drop back passing game,” Muschamp said.
“That’s why we came back in the second half and started the second half with Jeff. We felt like we were going to have to start throwing the football down the field more to create some plays for us. They we playing tight, especially with their safeties, tried to get them off of us a little bit. Jeff’s a little farther along in those things. But I thought when he went in the game and did the things we asked him to do, he did a nice job. He’s a good football player.”
Driskel left the game before halftime after being sacked and appearing to fall badly on his shoulder Muschamp explained after the contest that Driskel actually did not hurt an extremity.
“He just got the breath knocked out of him. He had a pretty good shot from the last ballgame on his back and it flared up a little bit on him but that was it,” Muschamp said.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On why freshman running back Brandon Powell did not get touches early in the game: “We weren’t getting much of anything going there. … I don’t think that would’ve been the answer, quite frankly, we had a lot more issues other than who was playing at the running back position.”
» On whether there were any issues with the team’s preparation during practice this week: “I thought we had good preparation throughout the week. You turn it over six times, you’re not going to win. It wasn’t from a lack of effort. It wasn’t from a lack of trying. It was a lack of ball security, protection at times. Those are things we got to clean up.”
» On whether he thought the Gators were hanging their heads: “No, I don’t think so. I always look at the entire team, and I think our defense played their butts off. Offensively, to go down and score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter says a lot about our kids and they’re working and they’re trying. We just need to narrow down to some things that we do well. Now, it’s not much, so we’ll figure it out.”
» On whether the defense was frustrated that they played so well and it meant nothing: “[Missouri] didn’t really stress them very much. They get to a point where, the score, they don’t have to stress themselves very much with what they’re trying to do offensively, so that’s two fold. It’s a team game and we could’ve created some turnovers on defense. We had some opportunities. Marcus [Maye] made a nice play on the interception. Strip the ball off somebody, make a play. That’s our mentality. We don’t get into the pointing fingers stuff. We’re not going to do that.”
» On what his message is to Florida fans: “Our fans have been great, and I really appreciate the support. Last night, at Gator Growl, it was outstanding. Our fans to start the game were outstanding. We need to play better. Just keep hanging with us, we’re going to go over in Jacksonville and get this thing fixed. That’s what we plan on doing.”
» Sophomore safety Keanu Neal on the loss: “It’s frustrating. We’re disappointed. This is the time to come together and get tighter, get stronger within ourselves. We really got to focus on us and focus on the team. … Once you have your mind set on something and you’re determined to do it, it’s hard to get off track.”
» Redshirt senior center Max Garcia, who was injured in the game, on where to go from here: “I feel like this locker room is totally different. You can see the hurt and the pain in these guys’ eyes. … I feel the pain, everyone else feels the pain. We’re taking this on us. Everyone is looking themselves sin the mirror to see how they can improve, how we can better prepare to play this game.