No. 4 Florida Gators football (11-1) concluded the regular season with a huge 37-26 victory over the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (10-2) at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Florida won 11 regular season games for the fifth time in school history.
» The Gators are 4-1 vs. teams currently in the BCS top 12.
» Florida is 34-21-2 all-time against Florida State and leads the series 13-11-1 on the road in Tallahassee. This was UF’s first victory vs. FSU in three years.
» The Gators boast the No.1 ranked strength of schedule nationally.
» Florida is 4-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp with a 4-1 mark in 2012 with wins over Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State (and a loss to Georgia).
» The Gators are 12-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards, 11-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 12-3 when scoring first and 14-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida has faced four top-25 total offenses, giving up an average of 20 points per game to those teams. FSU was the first opponent that UF let score more than 20 points this season.
» The Gators have faced five top-20 total defenses and five top-20 scoring defenses. Against the Seminoles, the Gators scored 37 points.
» Florida completed 8-of-15 third-down conversion attempts (53.3) percent despite heading into the game with a 34.3 percent conversion average.
» The Gators possessed the ball for 36:20, 3:31 longer than their season average, which ranked ninth nationally and first in the SEC.
» Florida is +17 in turnover margin after being -12 in 2011. UF forced five turnovers on Saturday and gave up the ball just once.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 115-29 in the fourth quarter in 2012.
» Florida has grabbed 19 interceptions so far in 2012, 11 more than it registered one year ago. UF has grabbed at least one pick in nine games and has also recovered 10 fumbles.
» UF’s defense has allowed just two passing touchdowns over its last six games.
» Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis made three field goals for the second-straight week and fifth time this season. He has set the school record for made field goals in a career with 69, passing Jeff Chandler’s former record of 67. Sturgis also tied Bobby Raymond’s single-season record of 23 made field goals.
» Senior running back Mike Gillislee became the first Florida rusher to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. Saturday was his third 140+ yard game of the year his fourth two-touchdown game of the season. Gillislee alone rushed for more yards than Florida State has allowed to any team this season.
» Seven different Gators forced and/or recovered turnovers on Saturday: junior safety Matt Elam (INT), redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (INT), sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson (INT), sophomore LB Darrin Kitchens (FF), sophomore CB Jabari Gorman (FR), freshman LB Antonio Morrison (FF), junior defensive end Dominique Easley (FR). The five total turnovers were a season-high.
» Sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy became the first player since Keiwan Ratliff (2002) to start on offense and defense in the same game.
» Sophomore RB Matt Jones registered a career-high 81 rushing yards and ran for more yards than the Seminoles had given up to six teams this season.
“We seem to make it interesting and overcome [the penalties]. Very proud with how we played the game, the mental toughness that we played with. When I first came to Florida, it was a little bit of a question mark. Last time we were in this stadium it was a 31-7 game, and it wasn’t tonight. That football team showed you their resolve and their fight and their oneness and their togetherness, and I’m very proud to be a part of them. We have an outstanding staff that’s completely on board with what we’re trying to do and we have all the support to continue to move forward. Just very proud of the victory. The fifth team in UF history to win 11 games in the regular season. Heck of a season. Pulling for ‘Fight On.’ Some of them guys, I’ve always been a big Lane Kiffin fan.”
Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on the run and the players…
CONFIDENT IN THE RUN
The Gators dominated Saturday’s game on the ground with the team’s two primary running backs combining for 221 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries. Florida averaged 6.9 yards per carry, in part, because the team believed it had run well against better competition within its own conference. “We had a lot of confidence coming in here to be able to run the football. We’ve run it well versus everybody. We’ve run it well versus better defenses,” Muschamp said.
UF also got its entire offensive line back healthy for the first time in weeks, which allowed the Gators to run the blocking schemes they wanted and dominate in an area that the team expected to all season long.
“[Florida State has] a very good defense. My point being is this: We’ve faced some really good teams this year and we’ve blocked them all when we’ve been healthy. Since the Georgia game, Xavier Nixon and Jimmy Wilson haven’t been healthy. It’s been an issue with our offensive line. We’ve had some issues as far as getting a hat on a hat in the run game and blocking people. When we got those guys back healthy, I had great confidence in our guys of getting movement, being able to create some hard ball. Also when you turn on the tape and watch Florida State, they don’t face many two-back power running teams in their league. There’s a lot of that one-back stuff. You better learn how to fit the power and the counter when you play Florida.”
Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel also propped up the run game and how much it dominated the game.
“We physically beat them down, wore them down. We kept going back to our run game because we knew eventually they were going to pop,” he said. “[The Seminoles] haven’t seen anybody with the line that we have, the way they run block. They haven’t seen as much depth as we have at running back. We’re going to run hard and our running backs, when they get a crease, they’re going to make somebody miss. They did that. We knew that we were going to be able to run the ball. That was never an issue.”
Three players left the game with injuries though it appears as if only one was relatively serious. Gillislee (ribs) and Purifoy (undisclosed) were both down on the grass for a while. Purifoy came back into the game and Gillislee would have been able to but was not needed.
Jenkins, on the other hand, got knocked from the game with an injured foot and did not return. He spent the second half in street clothes on the sideline propped up by crutches with his foot in a boot.
» On Morrison: “Antonio is a violent, physical football player. He’s a guy that knocks the ball off a lot of people. It just so happens he’s playing behind Jelani Jenkins [who got injured] right now.”
» On Roberson: “He played really well. The interception was a fantastic play on the sideline. The punt return was huge. It was a great design by D.J. [Durkin] and executed very well by our players. He covered some really talented guys down the field.”
» On Purifoy: “He’s a really good player. He’s got ball skills. He’s a tough, physical player, plays his heart out all the time. He’s emotionally and physically spent after every game because he plays a bunch. He’s going to continue to play a bunch if we don’t get more productive.”
» On Jones: “Matt’s been a guy that we’ve had a lot of confidence in all along, but Mike Gillislee has played really well. Again, giving a man an opportunity. Gilly got banged with his ribs there and came out, and Matt Jones played fantastic. We expected him to play that way.”
» Muschamp said Driskel entered the game at 85-90 percent and played very well overall. Though he may have made a few mistakes, Driskel’s health was not much of an issue and he planned for the entire two weeks to be playing on Saturday.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On calling the fake field goal in the first quarter, a play that failed and cost Florida points: “When you have a guy like Caleb Sturgis, it’s hard to call a fake field goal. I looked like an idiot again. Again, you got to go win the game. I told the players, if you just play aggressive, we’re going to call it aggressive. They know me. That’s what we’re going to do. … You could argue, you take the points with two good defenses playing. That was one side of me saying that. The other side was saying we got to go win the game. And that’s what we do every time out, try to go win the game. […] He’s outstanding. When you fake a field goal, you really question yourself when Caleb Sturgis is jogging off the field looking at you when you know you’re probably just left three points sitting out there. He’s outstanding. I’ve never been around a kicker like him where you just put him on the field and you know he’ll make it if we’ll just protect. ”
» On if Florida is “back” or has arrived on the scene again: “Until you win a championship, I have a hard time sitting there saying we’ve arrive or we’re back at all. That’s just my opinion and that’s what we’re striving for every day at the University of Florida: championships.”
» Indirectly, on the Gators being a +7 underdog heading into the game: “I can’t believe we’re fourth in the country and we’re underdogs. What are you guys thinking?”
» On playing down to competition all year long: “I wish our guys would get out of this mantra of playing to our competition. It’s very frustrating for me. We talk about it. We address it. My guys will tell you, it’s on my mind, I address it. We need to continue to push through that. This was an important win for the University of Florida and obviously being a rival game. We didn’t prepare any differently this week. I know that just completely disappoints everyone that we didn’t put this on the mantle 365 days ago and stare at it every night. I know I get beat up on that, but we did win.”