It started out as a joke, something Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp uttered on Nov. 19 during his weekly Monday press conference.
After Florida beat Jacksonville State 23-0, a marginal score for a game against a FCS opponent, Muschamp quipped that a win is a win whether or not fans believe it is done in an impressive, or sexy, manner.
“My wife told me I was sexy after the game. She said, ‘We don’t win sexy, but you’re sexy.’ That’s a positive. There’s something good in that, I guess. She was kidding,” he said.
After the Gators trounced the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday in Tallahassee, FL, scoring 24-straight points in the fourth quarter to get back a lost lead, Muschamp had every reason in the world to boast. He did so by calling back his statement from just under one week earlier.
“I think it was a really sexy win. I was going to come in with my shirt off, but my wife…I don’t know if that would have worked. The players did not want me to do that,” he said with a wide smile.
Muschamp’s feelings of sexiness aside, what Florida has accomplished this season is undoubtedly attractive.
After taking down FSU on Saturday, UF is now 4-1 against teams currenty ranked in the BCS top 12 with its sole loss coming to the No. 3 team in the nation in Georgia. The Gators won two of those games on the road and beat the other two by a combined score of 58-17 in Gainesville, FL.
“Guys, our resume speaks for itself,” Muschamp said to the media in attendance at his post-game press conference. “I mean, come on, you know, you guys have covered the southeast. You’ve covered the SEC. You’ve seen where we’ve played, who we’ve played and the quality of football teams we’ve beaten. We’ll play anyone, anywhere…whatever that slogan is.”
Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Florida got to this point by playing Muschamp’s way. The Gators have improved their toughness and focused on winning with hard-hitting defense, a power running game and a never-say-die attitude. That is a huge turnaround from the last two years in which Florida would not only bend but also break more often than not in close games.
“Our guys understand it’s about 60 minutes and it’s about how you continue to play and perform. We’ve really challenged our football team on winning the fourth quarter and getting in those games and those situations and performing well when the game is on the line,” Muschamp said. “We didn’t do that well a year ago, and we’ve done it pretty good this year. We’ve won some games late, regardless of the opponent, we’ve made some games interesting, that’s for sure.”
Gators fans, and Florida detractors around the nation, will point out that the team only beat Bowling Green 27-14, Missouri 14-7, Louisiana-Lafayette 27-20 and Jacksonville State 23-0. In a day that the eye test means as much as the resume, the Gators certainly did not look pretty at times, but they got the job done.
Except that one week.
Florida’s turnover- and mistake-filled loss to Georgia in Jacksonville, FL on Oct. 27 serves as a pothole on an otherwise newly paved road.
Despite the fact that the Gators fell by just eight points to the No. 3 team in the nation and both teams looked relatively inept for most of the game, that loss gave UGA a tiebreaker, spot in next Saturday’s SEC Championship and therefore an opportunity to earn its way into the national title game.
“We shot ourselves in the foot too many times in Jacksonville or we’d be sitting here undefeated. That’s the bottom line,” Muschamp admitted. “At the end of the day, you want to be in the conversation, and we’re in the conversation. You want to have the opportunity to play in the big game. Regardless, I’m very proud of our team and the resolve and the improvements that we’ve been able to make.”
He continued, “Obviously we want to play in the BCS National Championship, absolutely. We’ve had a fantastic year. We have no one to blame but ourselves for not getting it done in Jacksonville and that rests on my shoulders.”
Those shoulders were heavy a year ago at the conclusion of a rough 7-6 season. Muschamp knew he had an uphill climb on his hands as he had to figure out a way to not only change the team physically but also mentally, ensuring it became a tough and composed group from the inside out.
To that end, he was especially thankful of the dedication that the University of Florida, his coaches and his players have exhibited over the last two seasons.
“Being able to build your identity and sometimes taking some tough measures in order to do that is what you need to do to run an organization the right way and that’s the way we’ve been able to do it,” he said. “It’s full buy-in from administration all the way down on what we need to do to be successful.”
Florida’s 11-1 record (7-1 in SEC play) is the definition of success. And success is sexy, even if it does not result in a national title.