The Florida Gators (4-8) lost their seventh-straight game on Saturday, falling 37-7 to the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.
Athletic director Jeremy Foley held an impromptu session with the media before the game, and head coach Will Muschamp spoke after the season-ending loss.
Minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s game, Florida junior cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy declared his intention to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. He told ESPN‘s Joe Schad as much after the game, but the Gators are unlikely to announce his decision (as well as those of others) for a few days.
Purifoy had an up-and-down season for Florida but did register an interception return for a touchdown earlier in the year and actually picked off Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston on Saturday. He struggled at times in coverage and with his discipline but will nevertheless be a second-round pick at worst in April. OnlyGators.com will have more on Purifoy’s declaration, as well as that of others, when the time comes.
“That is something I’ll discuss in the coming days. I’ve had discussions with a couple guys but I really don’t want to comment at this time about that,” Muschamp said.
Senior wide receiver Trey Burton was knocked from the game early in the first quarter after taking a zone read 50 yards down the field for one of his best plays of the season. Burton immediately went to the locker room and was ruled out with a shoulder injury, ending his career at Florida. As it turns out, the Gators actually planned to use Burton extensively on Saturday.
“We were probably going to have about 30-35 snaps with Trey, some of the misdirection runs now go out of the game plan so you got to make adjustments and you got to change,” Muschamp explained. “I hurt for Trey because he’s a senior and it was his last game in The Swamp. It was very difficult for him. He’s a great young man. But that kind of sums up what’s happened this year. It’s been very frustrating.”
Junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) reinjured himself on Thursday and was limited for the game. Freshman defensive lineman Joey Ivie sliced his heel on a scooter and required 25 stitches during the week, ruling him out for Saturday. Freshman safety Keanu Neal, like Burton, hurt his shoulder during the game.
“A very frustrating, difficult day that ends a very frustrating, difficult season. That’s the best way I can sum it up. … We’re a much better football team right now than we were my first season, regardless of what the record is. Where this program’s headed, the quality of player we have in the locker room, our staff and everything included. I know we will all focus on the results, but I know where this thing is and where it’s headed. It’s been a tough year, very difficult to deal with, but it is what it is.”
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE (EXTENDED VERSION)
OnlyGators.com did not have the opportunity to view Foley’s unexpected media session live before Saturday’s showdown but nevertheless obtained a raw version of his comments. Below are some choice quotes (with context) from that availability.
» On whether he believes the Gators can bounce back in 2014: “Yeah, obviously it’s been a difficult year. We haven’t made an excuse all year, and we’re not going to make them now. We know what this program is all about. I have total confidence in Coach Muschamp and have made that clear. We’ve got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, that’s what you do – you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don’t panic. You don’t put orange and blue glasses on. It’s not acceptable; it’s not who we are and it’s not what we’re about. Confident we can fix it. … I’ve heard that it’s my ego speaking. No, it’s my belief. Like I told my staff the other day, my name’s not on the front door down there. I don’t own this franchise. It’s my job to make sure it’s going in the right direction and I believe with Will it’s going in that direction. If I didn’t, then obviously we’ve made tough decisions before. I don’t waver on that, despite the difficulty of the year. We’ve got to get some things fixed. Obviously, at the end of the day, we’ve got to win some football games.”
» On whether he’s giving Muschamp more of a chance to turn things around than he did Ron Zook: “I don’t think it’s apples-to-apples. I’m not being disrespectful to anybody. Zooker and I are friends, but it’s just not apples-to-apples. It’s my job to evaluate and see where the program is headed. At that point in time, I didn’t think it was headed where we wanted it to be. This time, I think it’s headed where we want it to be. The proof is going to be in the pudding, but I don’t think it’s apples-to-apples.”
» On whether the offense is in greatest need of adjustment and change: “Well I don’t think it’s any secret, and Will will tell you, we’ve got to fix that side of the ball. I’m not being disrespectful to anybody, but you look at some of the games we’ve lost, we haven’t scored many points. … That has to get fixed. And that’s going to be Will’s responsibility as the head football coach. I’ll help him, support him, advise him, whatever have you. I will tell you if you ask him today, it’s his biggest concern. We’ve got to fix that side of the ball.”
» On why he has taken such a public stand in support of Muschamp: “Obviously I don’t have my head in the sand. No disrespect, but I don’t read all of you guys. I don’t read Internet blogs or whatever have you, but no question there’s a lot of noise out there, and I get that. But we wanted to make sure Will knew where we stood. That’s important to Will, it’s important to recruiting, and it’s important to our organization. It’s important for our coaches to understand that things are tough and we’re going to be there for him. The guy was 11-1 a year ago and SEC Coach of the Year. … We felt strongly whatever that was, two weeks ago, two and a half weeks ago, and we feel just as strongly today. We’ve had some difficult circumstances today, and that hasn’t changed.”
By now it should be no surprise that the Gators will be making staff changes this offseason, specifically to the offensive side of the ball. Muschamp basically confirmed as much with his statements after the game.
“I think we need to take a look at ourselves schematically. There have been some things that have happened that are very difficult to overcome. But schematically there’s no question we need to take a look at ourselves,” Muschamp said regarding Florida’s offense.
Asked if he would be willing to change his offensive philosophy – time-of-possession, grind-it-out, dominate the line of scrimmage – Muschamp said the following: ”Perception is not always reality. Perception is not always reality. I’m willing to do what I need to do to score points and win games.”
SB Nation caught Florida redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell spitting on a Florida State offensive player during Saturday’s game. Not a good look.
HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS
» Florida State has now won three of its last four games against Florida, but the Gators still own the all-time series with a 35-22-2 record.
» UF finished below .500 on the season for the first time since 1979 and below .500 in SEC play for the second time since that year (2010).
» The Gators have not won a football game in 52 days dating back to Oct. 5 and will not have an opportunity to pull off a victory until Aug. 30.
» The Seminoles’ 30-point win was their second-largest margin of victory in the series dating back to 1958 but their biggest victory ever in The Swamp. Florida State beat Florida by 35 in Tallahassee, FL in 1988.
» UF did not start the same lineup once in 12 games this season.
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On Tim Tebow and Matt Elam being on the sideline: “It was great to see those guys. Tim came in and of course he commands an audience everywhere he goes. Great Gator and I appreciate him. It was great to see Matt. Matt was actually in the building on Friday. He played Thursday night and was here early Friday morning, spent the day with us and the players. It was great to have him back. Wish we could put him out there in a uniform.”
» On whether redshirt freshman kicker Austin Hardin is in danger of having his scholarship not renewed: “He’s going to work through it. I think Caleb Sturgis struggled his first year. No different than any other position. You got to coach them through hit and you got to help them improve and get better and that’s what we’re going to do.”
@ONLYGATORS TWEET OF THE GAME
Benjamin grabs Purifoy's jersey, throws him to the side (no penalty called) then gets wide open for the TD. Bad miss by refs.
— OnlyGators.com (@onlygators) November 30, 2013