No. 7 Florida Gators football (8-1, 7-1 SEC) concluded its Southeastern Conference slate with a tough 14-7 victory over the Missouri Tigers (4-5, 1-5 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday. Florida won a share of the SEC East with the victory but now must hope that Georgia loses in order to earn a trip to the 2012 SEC Championship. Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» The Gators are now 12-1 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 4-1 in 2012 when trailing at the half after going 0-5 in such situations one year ago.
» Florida is undefeated (10-0) under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards, 8-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards and 12-3 when holding an opponent to under 21 points
» The Gators were 0-2 in the red zone Saturday and are now 27-of-33 (81.8 percent) on the season with just 17 touchdowns (51.1 percent) from that field position.
» Florida converted just 2-of-13 third down opportunities and is now 48-for-128 (37.5 percent) this year.
» Despite entering the game fourth nationally in time of possession margin, the Gators were out-possessed by 7:54 on Saturday.
» Florida’s defense once again dominated the second half (14-0). The Gators are outscoring opponents 138-38 in the second half and 71-20 in the fourth quarter.
» UF is +11 in turnover margin through nine games after being -12 in 2011 and has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (340) since 2000.
» Florida has grabbed 15 interceptions so far in 2012 and has nearly doubled its 2011 total of eight. Saturday (four picks) was the third time this season that UF has registered three or more interceptions in a single game this year.
» The Gators have scored six total points on six red zone trips over the last two games.
» Senior running back Mike Gillislee got back to his productive ways, averaging 4.2 yards and totalling 68 net yards. He also scored his eighth touchdown on the season on a 45-yard screen pass from sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel. His 113 all-purpose yards led the team and were even more than Driskel threw for in the contest (106).
» Four Gators – junior cornerback Jaylen Watkins, junior safety Matt Elam, senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic and senior S Josh Evans – registered interceptions Saturday. Watkins and Elam each lead UF with three picks on the year.
» Six Florida players registered at least a portion of a tackle for loss (10 total) and four came together for four total sacks. Junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd picked up three tackles for loss, and freshman defensive end Jonathan Bullard notched 1.5 sacks, a career-first.
“You know, after our first game of the year, I kind of made a statement that this is kind of who we are right now. As we move forward, we’re going to continue to improve offensively, and we’re going to become more explosive and more of what we want to be. But we’re doing what we have to do to win football games. I know one thing: There is no one that can question the resolve of that locker room, the adversity, the different guys that go down in the game and the guys that man-down and man-up. It hasn’t always been pretty, but I believe we’re the 12th team in UF history to win seven [SEC] games. That’s a credit to those players. It’s a credit to buying in, to hanging together, to facing adversity, to facing a tough schedule and what-not that you want to say, bouncing back after a tough week. I’m proud of the players to do what we had to do to win the football game. [...] The effort and the attitude and the resolve of the football team is as good as I’ve been around. Guys accept the challenge and accept the opportunity, embrace it and go after it. It’s not always pretty but that’s a credit to our kids.”
A few minutes later, Muschamp continued speaking about the team’s resolve.
“I’m a realist. I believe in being honest and calling it the way it is. When it stinks, it stinks. I think if we go back last year and pull your tape recorders out, I probably said it a couple times. When we’ve been able to win and do what we had to do to win the game, I’m not trying to downgrade it at all. This football team has as much resolve as a football team that I’ve been around. You want to look at the circumstances and situations? You want to talk about last week in six turnovers and you’re driving to tie the ballgame at the end. I’ve been part of a bunch of football teams that would have never been in that situation. It’s a credit to our players.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp and the players had to say…after the break!
Redshirt senior Buck linebacker Lerentee McCray (ankle) and senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee) were both game-time decisions and ultimately did not dress. Muschamp said he did not “feel like they could go” when Saturday rolled around. Conspicuous by his absence was redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose, but Muschamp explained that he injured his knee in practice on Thursday and it was “tender” before the game.
It was also surprising to learn that redshirt senior kicker Caleb Strugis injured his ankle during practice. Sturgis dressed for the game but did not take part in kickoffs. He came on to attempt a 48-yard field goal but kicked it low and had it blocked; Sturgis did not return after that.
During the game, Elam, redshirt senior left guard James Wilson and redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio all went down with injuries and were mentioned by name in the post-game press conference though no specific updates were provided. Gillislee, redshirt sophomore RB Mack Brown and sophomore fullback Hunter Joyer also hobbled off the field at one time or another.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on being co-SEC East champions no matter what: “At the end of the day when I took this job, [I] understood fully the expectation is to go to Atlanta and win a championship. I’ve made my comment on how I feel about your season if that is not accomplished. We’ve made strides, but we’re not where we want to be. We need to be realistic. We’ve won the close games this year. Last year we were beaten by two better teams in LSU and Alabama; other than that, we were in every game. We had opportunities in every game to win the game and we didn’t get it done. You are what your record is. You’re 7-6? You’re an average ball coach, that’s the bottom line.”
» Muschamp on again coming from behind to win: “It seems to happen that way. I just don’t think they ever blink. They understand the circumstances, understand what we have to do. We have a very calm demeanor with our staff, probably except for me. Our guys understand what it takes to win the game. They understand what we’re going to need to do to win the game. It’s something we talk about – game-time situations all the time. We practice them constantly, even during game week.”
» Muschamp on what he tells the defense: “I always tell them, ‘You’re the firemen. Go put the fire out. I don’t care how bad it’s blazing. Go put it out.’ Regardless of the situation or the circumstances, when you walk on the field, your job is to stop them. […] It’s an opportunity for greatness, is the way I look at it. It’s an opportunity for greatness. You go out and make a stop on the goal line. You want to be great? Be put in those situations and do it.”
» Muschamp on how much thought he gave to making a quarterback change: “None.”
» Muschamp on what, if any, momentum the blocked field goal gave the Gators: “It was huge. We go down and score and then they’re going back and trying to flip the scoreboard on us again. We felt like we had a good edge. Credit to D.J. Durkin coming up with putting Loucheiz [Purifoy] on the edge, something we had not done much of. We’ve done a great job of getting great push inside, but being able to single Loucheiz on the outside was a great job by our players and D.J.”
» Muschamp on adversity: “It can either make you or break you, and I think our players are determined it is going to make who we are.”
» Muschamp on opening up the game with a lot of passing: “We felt like we wanted to speed up the tempo a little bit. […] Brent came to me early in the week and said, ‘I really feel like I’d like to change some things up.’ I felt like it was effective. It was effective. Granted, we didn’t score any points in the first half, but we did move the ball. It gave us a great third-down opportunity on their side that we didn’t convert. I feel like it was beneficial for us.”
» Muschamp on rooting for Ole Miss to beat Georgia: “My wife’s an Ole Miss grad, so she’s ‘Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty.’ […] I just want to go to Atlanta.”
» Driskel on the struggling offense: “We didn’t have any panic on the sideline or any second-guessing. […] You got to keep your head, and we’ve been extremely good at that this year.”
» Redshirt senior tight end Omarius Hines on NFL WR Chad Johnson speaking to the team on Friday: “It was good inspiration. He’s a big-time receiver, so it was really good to hear him. [...] It was because he’s been in the league for a long time and he’s accomplished so much. It was a great honor for him to speak to us. He just talked about staying together and being focused.”
» Floyd on Florida’s defense bending but not breaking: “That’s just us coming together. It’s bigger than just one player. It’s bigger than just me. It’s bigger than just Dominique Easley. It’s the team. We got to do what the team needs – offense and defense. Offense put points on the board; defense stopped them from putting points on the board. That’s the name of the game. You can’t score, you can’t win.”
» Floyd on if he likes the game being on the defense’s shoulders: “Yeah. Let us play that. That’s good.”