Florida-EKU post-game report: Durkin to coach bowl, Muschamp’s final lesson, Bullard’s decision

By Adam Silverstein
November 23, 2014

The Florida Gators (6-4) took care of business, routing the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-3) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida’s 52-3 victory on Saturday got the Gators bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012 and also marked the second-largest win margin in any game under head coach Will Muschamp, who was able to leave The Swamp with his head held high.

BOWL GAME COACH CHOSEN

Moments after Florida’s win was finalized, the school announced that defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin would serve as interim head coach for the Gators’ bowl game this year. Durkin, the second-longest tenured member of the staff (five years) behind running backs coach Brian White (six years), will take the reigns of the program once Muschamp’s dismissal is finalized next Saturday, Nov. 29.

FINAL LESSON: A TOUGH WEEK, ROAD AHEAD

There should be no doubt that the entire Florida football team took Muschamp’s dismissal hard. Gators players spoke of him fondly on Monday after his press conference and were obviously playing with an extra gear on Saturday. Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard even went so far as to write his coach’s last name on his eyeblack.

“I’ve just been through a lot and he’s been there for me,” Bullard said. “When I lost my grandmother, he was a big supporter; he let me go home as long as I needed. Just little things he did helping me through that whole situation, he’s just been a real good person to me. I respect him a lot, and actually, I love him. I just wanted to show some respect for him, everything he’s done for me, and show him that I appreciate it.”

Muschamp admitted Saturday that it took a while for Florida to get back in the swing of things this week. Monday’s practice was thwarted due to the weather; Tuesday the team looked “just OK” and did not show “great effort” on the field; and Wednesday was just “a little bit better.”

So Muschamp spent the Gators’ regularly-scheduled Thursday meeting speaking about much more than just the upcoming game but rather how Florida’s players need to deal with his dismissal and their futures going forward.


“I went through a situation when I played in college. I lost my coordinator and position coach after my junior year. I had walked on, I had earned a scholarship, I had earned a starting job. I was mad at the head coach; I was mad at everybody. I had earned my spot, I had earned my position, and I felt like, ‘Here I go again. I have to earn my spot all over again.’ The new position coach came in, it was a guy named Steve Dennis, I couldn’t stand him the first two weeks. And then you know what now? I still talk to the guy about once a month, and he’s a very close, loyal friend of mine,” Muschamp began.

“Sometimes change is good, and [the players] need to be very open to the change. I discussed my transition coming here, and it was hard because it was a divided locker room that had guys that didn’t want to buy into anything but what they wanted and how it affected them.

“I told them, they’re going to hire a really good coach. Jeremy [Foley]’s going to hire a good coach, so why don’t you give the guy a chance and buy in to what the guy’s trying to do instead of going through a total rocky road the first year where it’s miserable for everybody involved. Hopefully they’ll do that. They heard it from me. I told them that’s what they needed to do – they need to make good decisions moving forward. If they’re in a situation as a junior, they don’t need to just say, ‘I don’t want to play for a new staff.’ That’s ridiculous. You’re making a business decision, not a personal decision, when you do that. Buy in to what the guy’s trying to tell you. Give the guy an opportunity and buy into what he’s trying to do. That’s what they need to do.

“Thursday, for whatever reason, I had a couple of the questions asked. And then we went out there and I thought we had a very sharp Thursday. We knew we out-manned them. If we just stayed focused, we played with effort and we executed and we took care of the football, we’d win the game. These guys are all resilient. … When they hire the new guy, they’ll all come in here and talk about how wonderful he is and how great it is. That happens everywhere. What else are they going to say? We really don’t like the guy.’ No, they’re going to say how much they love the guy. That’s just part of it. That’s how these things go.”

Just like one of his players (see ‘Notes & Quotes’), Muschamp tried to be strong when asked how emotional Saturday’s game was for him. He denied it, though post-game pictures of he and his family tell a different story. “It’ll hit me when the season’s over. I’ve already switched gears to next week. That’s just what we do,” he said.

What speaks volumes about Muschamp is that he spent a large portion of his week not just getting his players prepared for their next game but also the next chapter in their lives. He is equally – if not more – concerned about their future as he is his own.

“We don’t have any control of what happened, but as players, we really appreciated what Coach Muschamp has done for us. We love playing for him and we love him as a person. It’s tough but at the end of the day, we’re happy that he came out of The Swamp with a big win,” said redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel.

INJURY UPDATES

Freshman QB Treon Harris left Saturday’s game with a knee contusion, but the injury is not serious, according to Muschamp. Harris expected to be healthy and ready to start against Florida State next week. “It started swelling up on him. It was a good hit he took. It started to tighten up a bit, which is why he pulled him,” Muschamp said.

ANOTHER STARTER TURNING PRO?

Unlike classmate and junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who declared his intent to leave school early and enter the 2015 NFL Draft on Twitter last week, Bullard is taking a more measured approach to the process.

“It’s kind of up in the air. I haven’t really put too much to it. I’m not in a hurry to leave. I’m going to talk to Muschamp at the end of the season and go from there. Whatever he thinks that I should do, then I’mma do,” he said.

Bullard does plan to submit paperwork to the league in order to get a projection as to where he might be drafted if he does come out. Muschamp has instructed his players that, if they are not a sure-fire first-round pick, they should stay in school and continue to develop.

A couple of Gators did not listen to Muschamp’s suggestion last season – namely cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson – and neither was even selected in the draft. Bullard plans to heed Muschamp’s words and not overreact to the coach being dismissed, though he will certainly evaluate the situation and could definitely leave if he is considered a second-day pick. Considering he has come on strong over the latter half of the season, Bullard being given round 2-3 designation is certainly a possibility.

“I got to do what’s best for me, at the end of the day. I wish he was here to finish it out with me, but I’m going to take into consideration whatever he says. That’s who’s going to be who helps me decide what I’m going to do. I know he’s not going to edge me to go just because he’s leaving,” Bullard said.

SENIOR / POTENTIAL DEPARTURE EVALUATIONS

» Muschamp on redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar: “Quinton had a couple touchdowns there, so that was good for him getting him back in the fold. … [He’s] a guy that continued to improve. Came in here, wasn’t real sure his redshirt freshman year of how far he would help us, went through some tough times, some tough times at home but continued to battle, continued to fight. I think he’s one of the more improved guys. And then he sets into some adversity, he didn’t produce very much, he got benched midseason and then took advantage of his opportunity there at Vanderbilt when Ahmad [Fulwood] went down and did a nice job. He’s a guy that continued to work.”

» Muschamp on Driskel, who played well in extended action: “Jeff’s certainly capable. We’ve struggled a little bit with Treon throwing the ball. We just have. He threw a really nice corner route to Demarcus [Robinson], Treon did, beautiful throw and Demarucs made a fantastic play on the ball. Good deep ball there to Quinton. But Jeff is certainly capable of playing extremely well. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. Unfortunately we went through a stretch there where we just didn’t take care of the ball at the position and we didn’t move the ball consistently enough and we’ve had some success going in another direction. But I have all the confidence that Jeff, given the opportunity, will perform well.”

» Muschamp on redshirt senior WR Michael McNeely’s touchdown: “That was big. Mike’s been a guy that’s done a fantastic job for us on special teams. Everybody points to the fake against Georgia, but he’s been a really good cover guy for us on punt on kickoff, kickoff return he does a great job.

» Muschamp on senior defensive tackle Darious Cummings: “Darious has really played well this year. He plays square on blocks, he plays with his hands extremely well, he leverages blocks very well. He has really had a good year. He has really helped himself for the next level based on a lot of the information I’m getting on the way he’s played, how he’s handled himself.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on all of the trick plays EKU tried to run Saturday: “This is what they do. They’re a multiple formation punt team. They motion and shift every down. It’s a new bag of tricks every single game, so we just told our guys to be ready for whatever comes up. … I’m pleased with how we responded to those deals.”

» Muschamp, laughing, on having two 100+ yard receivers in the same game for the first time in his career: “Yeah, I waited four years for that to happen.”

» Redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor on Muschamp and Senior Day in The Swamp: “It was both of our last days. I didn’t get emotional. I didn’t shed a tear, I promise I didn’t. Now it puts kind of a perspective on things. You’re not going to play in The Swamp no more. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Dang, what happened to all the time?’ You just have to move forward; as life goes on, you have to progress as a person. I didn’t cry. I promise you, I didn’t cry. I promise you. I had to keep Mack Brown from crying, so I promise you I didn’t cry, I swear.”

» Redshirt sophomore defensive end Alex McCalister on Florida’s performance: “You always want to send the seniors off right, especially Andre Debose being here forever, of course I want him to have a win.”

20 Comments

  1. Gatoralum88 says:

    I’m glad they became bowl eligible. I’m guessing they’ll be back in the Gator Bowl. If 6 wins was good enough in 2011 I’m sure it will be again now.

    Although I hate to admit it, I am NOT confident they’ll pull off an upset next Saturday to send Muschamp out on a high note. They’re where they are for a reason & so are Jimbo & his Criminoles. They’ll get up for this game just like the Gators will but I suspect UF will lose the same way they’ve lost so many times these last few years. It won’t surprise my if they take a lead before one of afew possibilities happens…a costly penalty or turnover…a blown coverage on 3rd & long….a dropped pass by a wide open receiver….or a special teams lapse. Then, shameless “Teflon” Jamies will lead half-ass-U to a comeback win. If Cook &/or Lane score that will just be par for WM’s course.

    As I’ve written here before, I don’t entirely buy all this “love” talk for Muschamp otherwise GSU, the Mizzou massacre, & SCarolina collapse would not have happened. He’s been a snake-bitten coach who hasn’t made much luck for himself so I’m looking forward to “the Muschamp error” coming to an end & a brighter new era in Gator football to begin. Go Gators!

    • Aligator says:

      Sadly, It would seem that either these kids or confused or only gave a max effort when they felt their coaches job was on the line or he was gone? I mean really? Maybe they should have played like this every week then we wouldn’t be in this mess.

  2. Michael Jones says:

    A lot of good kids on our team. Nice to see Muschamp smiling and relaxing and having some fun. Must feel like the weight of the world is off of his shoulders. He continues to handle himself with class on the way out, which I appreciate as a Gator alum.

    I also appreciate his comments about Driskel.

    Hopefully Muschamp and his boys can have some fun in Tally this Saturday. We have the studs, there is no question. If they get coached up, and decide to come out to play for a full four quarters and give the effort they gave against UGA, anything is possible.

  3. Michael Jones says:

    P.S. Foley should have also fired the Eastern Kentucky head coach while he was down here. A stud running back who rarely got the ball along with bizarrely ineffective and inopportunely called trick plays demolished any glimmer of hope that EK may have had to make the game interesting. Brutal.

    • 305Gator says:

      You are way off.
      First this game would never be interesting on its own. It was a little interesting since it was Muschamp’s last time at the Swamp. And hopefully Driskel’s too.
      Secondly, those trick plays were the only hope EKU had of being competitive. Their coach knew it, so did our coach and so did all the announcers and viewers, somehow you missed it.
      Foley firing the EKU coach? You trying to be a comedian? Try harder.

      • Dave Massey says:

        His comedy is pretty lame. Kind of reminds me of the unknown comic on the Gong Show for those old enough to remember that show.

      • Michael Jones says:

        lol. . . do you ever read the stuff you write before you hit the send button? A trick play isn’t a trick play if everyone in the stadium knows you’re going to run it, bozo. Even more so if you’ve done it all season so that the team you’re playing is already looking for it. You’re apparently one of those mean-spirited little dudes that’s itching for a fight even if it means having to come to the defense of the Eastern Kentucky coach.

        We lost to an FCS team last year and almost lost to one the year before, so it’s easy to try to come off like an expert on how interesting the game should have been once the game is over. And Georgia South didn’t need trick plays to kick our butts.

        As for Driskel, if you and some of these other clowns who claim to be Gator fans can wish that a redshirt junior has played his last game as a Gator, then you’re just the kind of a—–e that I’m happy to disagree with.

        • You can’t complain about name-calling and then call someone bozo.

          • 305Gator says:

            He not only called me a bozo, he also called me “mean spirited”, ‘little dude and ” the kind of a—–e that I’m happy to disagree with”and all because I said he was a lame comedian and disagreed with him. That’s OK, I’m a big boy and can take the abuse.
            But again the trick plays were the only chance EKU had, so to call out their coach for running them is pretty stupid.
            I don’t wish Driskel ill, I would root for him if he played with the baseball team. I can’t get excited about one good half of football against EKU though. That would be myopic at best.
            Bring on the new guy, and let Grier and Harris compete.

  4. patti says:

    We need to beat FSU. Let Muschamp leaveTally and the team with his head held high.

  5. Taxi Thomas says:

    I bet UFwin this Saturday , when back is against the wall there gonna come out like gators chomping stomping , just Watch !

  6. HoneyBeezGood says:

    @ Taxi Thomas

    I’m smelling an upset too! This team is more athletic and mature than the 2012 team.

    • Dave Massey says:

      I agree. We are a thunderstorm and two plays from being 9-2 against a tough schedule. half ass u is half a dozen fluke plays and some questionable officiating away from being 7-4 against a very weak schedule. They have been beating inferior teams from an inferior conference late in games because they just didn’t have the talent to win in the fourth quarter after the adrenaline went away. They won’t be getting that from us. They haven’t even played anyone who was in the top twenty going into this weekend. They are not near as good as last year and are vulverable. The talent isn’t that different between the two teams. And before you comment Mr. Trollatollah Michael J, just STFU!

    • Taxi Thomas says:

      Theres not a man on Fsu team put fear in Harris heart , watch out for new improved gators at the end of this season winning this Saturday & next year championship eligible !

  7. 1974Gator says:

    The Semiholes are definitely beatable. We have the best defense they will face (maybe better than the bowl team they play). If we can score 24+, our secondary coverage forces Winston to run and if we keep him in front of us we can win. Would love to bump them out of the top 4!

  8. 305Gator says:

    I too think we are capable of beating FSU but we probably won’t. Not if we cannot improve the passing game. Most of the deep throws the other night were behind the receiver where he had to slow down and wait for the ball. a situation a a good secondary can defend well. Not until we can hit the Wrs in stride will we be able to win consistently. Don’t know if it was because he was injured but Treon did not throw well at all, and you cannot trust Driskel to play well 2 weeks in a row. So we can win but we probably won’t.

    • Dave Massey says:

      Harris had an injured hand and knee. That is what happens when you run a small quarterback 30 times a game in the SEC. I say we should let it all hang out and air the ball out whether Harris or Driskel plays QB. If we are going to go down I’d rather go down that way than running the ball 60 times a game and maybe win or lose a 3 point game 20-17.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Let me get this straight. Did you just write that you’d rather us “let it all hang out and air the ball” than win the game by 3 points? lol. You’re right, my comedy can’t compare to yours. That’s hilarious.

        Are you drinking tonight, Massey? Of all the stupid things you’re written in your considerable body of work, that has to rank right up there.

        I’ll take a 3-0 victory over FSU any day. As will most Gator fans. Go to watch an Arena Football game. That’s more your speed. Plus I think they have fireworks. . you can stare in slack-jawed amazement.

        Go Gators!!!

        • Dave Massey says:

          Do you really have to act like an arrogant know-it-all? As usual you are twisting my words around Astro.

          This is what I wrote again for the closed minded one, “I say we should let it all hang out and air the ball out whether Harris or Driskel plays QB. If we are going to go down I’d rather go down that way than running the ball 60 times a game and maybe win or lose a 3 point game 20-17.”

          I obviously have to explain it more to you. If we run the ball a lot and play not to lose like we have done for um, let’s say the last four years, and like we did against South Carolina then we are playing to MAYBE win or lose a close game. That philosophy cost us the game against South Carolina, so that maybe worked out to be a loss. I say throw the DAMN ball and build a lead so that we aren’t dependent on not making one or two mistakes to win the game. That’s a whole lot different than what you tried to twist it into. I don’t care if we win by 3 points or 3-0 but quit playing like that’s the only way to win. That’s why Muschamp is 28-20 and lost his job.

          Your comments really are getting childish and you are embarassing yourself. You should take a lesson from Muschamp and start acting with a little class.

          P.S.-Speaking of considerable bodies of work and stupid comments….that’s really a stone you shouldn’t be throwing. You should quit watching cartoons in slack jawed amazement and act like an adult.

      • 305Gator says:

        That’s what I’m saying, the only way to win these type of games is with a good passing attack. The problem is that I haven’t seen us do that on a consistent basis. The conservative, run heavy and play scared bit is not going to work. Hope Treon is healthy enough to be able to throw the rock better this time around.

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