11/9: Florida vs. Vanderbilt post-game report; Muschamp takes responsibility for Gators’ failures

The Florida Gators (4-5, 3-4 SEC) hit rock bottom on Saturday by falling 34-17 to the Vanderbilt Commodores (5-4, 2-4 SEC) at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on homecoming. After his team’s fourth-straight loss, Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the defeat.

ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS

» Opening statement on Florida committing four costly turnovers: “Not going to win many games turning it over four times and spotting them the ball on the 10, the 22, the 4 and the 10. We’re not good enough to overcome critical mistakes like that. … Emotionally it takes the wind out of your sails when you turn the ball over. You throw it to them and give it to them inside the 10-yard line three times, you’re just not going to win. We’re not good enough to overcome those things.”

» On why the Gators have struggled to come from behind in games: “Right now we’re not strong enough mentally to handle that. A year ago, maybe earlier in the year, we were. Right now we’re not. It’s a woe-is-me mentality right now, and we got to overcome that. Our leadership needs to step forward. … We’re going to move forward with the guys that are willing to accept challenges and opportunities that sometimes are difficult, sometimes are tough.”

» On his opinion of fans booing and his altercation with a fan last weekend: “That doesn’t bother me. You know what, I made a mistake last week, I made a real mistake with a very passionate, passionate Florida fan [who] was telling me his opinion of me. You know what? That’s fine. That’s fine. They pay their ticket, they can boo all they want. That’s good. Doesn’t help our program. That’s fine.”

» On whether he is worried about his job and/or plans to make changes to his staff heading into 2014: “You evaluate everything at the end of the season, and that’s what I certainly will do. I’ve done that in my first two years and will do it again this year. I’m not worried about that.”

AH-MAZING TOUCHDOWN

The lone bright spot for the Gators on Saturday was a terrific touchdown grab by freshman wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood. Though Murphy’s pass was initially deflected by the defensive back, it ricocheted off his foot and into there air where Fulwood grabbed it with his feet in the end zone. Check it out below, courtesy of Yahoo! Sports.

“I was happy for Ahmad. He’s worked hard. He’s really developed himself, practiced well and [we’re giving] those opportunities to a guy that’s’ going to continue to be a really good player here,” Muschamp said.

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11/5: Pease on Wildcat; Brown, Moore step up

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the ninth game of the season against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Nov. 9.

SECOND THOUGHTS ON THE BURTON-CAT

Suffice to say, the Gators have not had much success at all running direct snap plays with senior wide receiver Trey Burton this season. Nevertheless, Florida has continued to run them with the latest incarnation coming on Saturday in form of an option on 1st-and-10 from the Georgia 41. UF was trailing UGA 23-20 at the time and ended up completely stalling on the drive. The Gators never touched the ball again.

Asked Tuesday about the decision, Pease admitted that he definitely second-guessed the call following the game, even if he was not completely clear in his reasoning for running it in the first place.

“Well, I look at the play and, I mean, we knew we had it in and a lot of the things we’ve done with Trey have kind of been more inside with him carrying it. This gave us an option. What we wanted to do with him hitting it and also getting the ball to [Solomon Patton]. And, as I look back on it, yeah, I second guess myself on that play,” he said.

“One thing we do is we go through and we say, ‘OK, what plays are good?’ And that’s something we haven’t hit. I think with him it takes some adjustment by a defense to play to him, and we hope that’s what they do defensively. If we just designed the run for him, you’re right, those probably haven’t been that great this year. I know they were more effective last year. But that’s why the play was designed more for him to have an option, it’s either him or getting the ball to Solo.”

NOT-AS-OFFENSIVE LINE

Though Florida still surrendered four sacks on Saturday, only two were blamed on the offensive line. As a whole, the unit played much better with a big – literally – part of that being the effort contributed by a first-time starter in junior right tackle Trenton Brown.

“I think he did a good job in the game. There’s still some things you look at on film and [he can improve on]. He had one holding call,” Pease said. “But I think the kid went out and competed and was good on his assignments. There’s a couple things we’ve got to clean up. I think he’s good now that he’s kind of had some of those been-in-a-game situations. I think he’ll get better.”

Brown admitted that he has plenty of room for improvement but was also perturbed that his 6-foot-8, 360-pound frame did not see the field for more snaps through the first seven games of the season.

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11/4: Muschamp evaluates coaches, players following Florida’s third-straight loss to Georgia

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 23-20 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs and upcoming home game game against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, Nov. 9. The homecoming contest will kick off at 12:08 p.m. and air live on FSN.

OPENING STATEMENT

“Very proud of our players’ effort. You dig yourself a hole there in a game like that, continuing to fight and play with intensity and effort and creating some opportunities for yourself. Extremely proud of them battling through the game. …

“Disappointed, we need to finish. We had our opportunities late in the game and didn’t get it done. That falls on my shoulders. We got to get over the hump in those situations. We’ve had opportunities in several games going back to Miami and LSU and some opportunities to cut it and have a chance to win the game. And we just didn’t get it done. That’s on me. We’ll get our players to finish these situations and get over the hump and that’s’ what we’re going to do.”

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL) remains sidelined but may return in a week or two. The Gators had no new injuries, according to Muschamp, though he did discuss how redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy‘s shoulder ailment has bothered him over the last two games.

“The Missouri game it was a big effect. I don’t think there’s no question. He missed all week. He wouldn’t say it, but he was under a lot of pain going into the game. I certainly think it’s improved from there as far as the wear and tear in the game and taking some shots, obviously. But it has affected him. He won’t say it, but it does,” he explained.

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Can freshmen save the Gators’ 2013 season?

The Florida Gators have now officially lost eight players, five of which were starters, to season-ending injuries. For a team that was already forced to replace 13 starters from the previous season and currently stands 4-3 (3-2 SEC) with some tough games ahead, it sounds like an insurmountable predicament.

But head coach Will Muschamp on Wednesday, during his only media availability of Florida’s off week, mentioned a number of freshmen who could join cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and (more recently) punter Johnny Townsend in becoming key players for the Gators over the latter half of the regular season.

The first of which is running back Kelvin Taylor, who received five carries in garbage time during the first game against Toledo but only touched the ball once over the following four contests. When sophomore Matt Jones tore his meniscus against LSU and saw his season come to an end, Florida had no choice but to give Taylor more work behind redshirt junior Mack Brown.

Taylor averaged 5.2 yards per carry in that very game, looking sharper and more decisive than Brown. Against Missouri on Saturday, he took the majority of the carries, rushing 74 yards on 12 touches and scoring the first touchdown of his career. Muschamp admitted Wednesday that the Gators should have leaned on Taylor more in the game, and it would be no surprise if he earned his first career start against Georgia on Nov. 2.

“I thought he played well. I thought he ran the ball extremely well. He continues to improve in all facets of the game. We’ve been very pleased with where he is right now,” Muschamp said.

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10/15: Pease talks Taylor, Gators’ pass protection

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively ahead of the seventh game of the season against the Missouri Tigers on Oct. 19.

A CHANGE AT RUNNING BACK

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor has displayed great ability with the ball in his hands during his limited action this season and impressed Pease on Saturday with his poise and flashes of ability. With sophomore Matt Jones now sidelined, Taylor’s role will continue significantly increase going forward.

“I think Kelvin did really well. I mean, he ran the ball hard. You see he made some good vertical cuts and did a good job in space and ran tough,” Pease said. “He did his job. So, I think it’s good experience for him. I think he showed us something. And, you know, he really actually gave us a little spark in running the ball there for a while.”

Pease believes Taylor is ready to handle a large number of carries but said the player has to “zero in” because he’s going to have a lot more pressure on his shoulders and responsibilities other than toting the rock.

“It just can’t be all hand-offs to him. There’s some things that he didn’t do that he needed to do. The expectation on every down,” he said. “But I’ll tell you, the kid is a physical runner. He put it north and south. We missed a couple guys. Just his speed how he hit the holes, he made them miss, especially down in the red zone. And he got good, positive yardage. When we were in that position, we kind of kept going to him a little bit. When he got the ball, he was gaining five, six, seven [yards].”

Though many fans were frustrated that Taylor, outside of the Toledo game, had not seen much action, Pease said Taylor was accepting of his previously limited role.

“The thing about him, leading up to this point and not having so many turns, is that he never complained about it. He never said it’s not fair or this isn’t equal or anything like that. He just continued to work, tried to find some consistency in what he was doing and said when my opportunity comes, I’m gonna do it. Now it’s there. I’m happy for him, and I think he’ll just continue to get better and better.”

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9/18: Muschamp updates Gators injuries, redshirts

No. 18/19 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference, as did Tennessee Volunteers head coach Butch Jones. Both touched on a number of topics concerning his respective team heading into Saturday’s game.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp explained that junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (knee) and redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore (ankle) were both “a little gimpy” during practice on Tuesday but “should be OK” on Saturday and active for the game as the Gators take on the Volunteers. He also noted that junior quarterback Jeff Driskel (knee) and redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio have looked “really good” in practice and said Florida is healthy heading into the game.

FRESHMEN / REDSHIRT BREAKDOWN

Asked to go in-depth on which freshmen Florida may be redshirting this season, Muschamp began discussing which players have already contributed for the Gators and others that could before the season is out. Below is a breakdown of the freshmen that have played, may see action or are already headed toward the redshirt designation.

Active (9): Running back Kelvin Taylor; wide receivers Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson; cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, linebackers Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian; safety Keanu Neal

Muschamp said Taylor is “a guy that we will continue to try to get involved with the offense,” while he considers Hargreaves “a starter for us at this time based on how he’s playing and performing and producing.”

Next up (1): Defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick

Redshirt likely (12): DTs Caleb Brantley and Antonio Riles; punter Johnny Townsend; wide receivers Alvin Bailey and Marqui Hawkins; defensive lineman Joey Ivie; QB Max Staver; RB Adam Lane; offensive linemen Cameron Dillard, Octavius Jackson, Roderick Johnson and Trevon Young

Medical redshirt likely (4): Defensive backs Marcell Harris (knee) and Nick Washington (shoulder); LB Matt Rolin (ACL); DL Jordan Sherit (ACL)

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9/3: Pease dismisses “vanilla” tag for Florida; discusses Jones, Showers, freshmen receivers

Florida Gators offensive coordinator Brent Pease met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the second game of the season against the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 7.

“WE DIDN’T HAVE A ‘VANILLA’ GAME PLAN”

Asked Tuesday if the Gators purposely held back on offense in order to not put some of their new plays and vertical passing game on tape – or if Florida was simply the same old offense that could not do much other than run the ball – Pease appeared to be a bit offended by the implication that the Gators’ offense was vanilla and not creative. He responded with the following (extremely long) rant.

“First off, I don’t know what ‘vanilla’ – because I’ve heard the word ‘vanilla’ – I don’t know what ‘vanilla’ is. I’ve never made a game plan with vanilla and that’s never what I would go into a game plan with. I would feel too uncomfortable thinking we got to save all this, we got to save all that.

“I look at it, compared to what we did last year… We controlled the ball for 40 minutes, finished the game with the last 6:38 on the clock. We rushed for 262 [yards]; we passed for 77 percent. We had one turnover we need to improve on. We had nine explosives. We were 6-of-12 on third downs, which last year at this same thing, we were asking each other what we got to do on third downs. We were 3-for-3 on 3rd-and-1s, which last year that was a concern in our first [press] conference.

“OK, yeah, do we need to improve on sacks? Yeah, we had two sacks. Our protection, our scheme got us. Happy for Mack Brown, happy for Trey Burton how they kind of stepped up with their opportunity.

“We threw the ball down field seven times. Coverage takes some things away. Do you ask a quarterback not into coverage deep? Yeah, you do. We hit Trey Burton on two, we had two check downs, we got a protection issue on one. We’re stretching the field. We can stretch the field if we want to stretch the field. Did we have to stretch the field at a certain part in time? No. Did we have it in the game plan to do it? Yes. I’m not sure what everybody wants. …

“Are we going to throw the ball 75 times a game and throw vertical? No. When a team plays corners coverage like Toledo, you don’t throw the ball vertical. You throw the ball in intermediate to check-down throws. Did we try to throw the ball vertical in the red zone? Yes, we did. Well, they played coverage. So what’s Jeff [Driskel] do? He checks it down to Gideon [Ajagbe], guy bounces off Gideon, Gideon runs for 15 yards, gets a first down, we’re in good position and we continue to score.

“We didn’t have a ‘vanilla’ game plan. You saw reverses. I can’t handle what the refs don’t see but yet they call and it keeps us out of the end zone. …

“Should we have come out in the third quarter and probably had more production in the first two series instead of three-and-outs? Yes. … I think we hit a lull that we got to be able to step it up and not be able to do that, score at the end of the game. So if you’re measuring us against points, yeah, we left points out there. But we had things in control and we ran the last – I don’t even know how many plays – but I know there was 6:38 on the clock and we walked off the field with the offensive on the field. We were on the one-yard line or three-yard line, whatever we were on, trying to score.”

He later added:

“Do I want to see 300 passing yards? Absolutely. Is that going to be a reality? I don’t know. I don’t measure success totally on that. We completed 77 percent yet we have two drops, two tips and a pass that he probably should’ve hit on the end zone but he overthrew it and it got away from him. That’s what I see. The kid’s making good decisions. He’s managing the game. … He’s productive with his hands running it. He’s putting us in the right plays in the run game. That’s what I look at. Are we having a chance to win the game? Yeah, explosiveness, but I’m not measuring it on yards. That’s called you trying to get your guru card. Maybe when I was 30 years old, but I’m not 30 years old anymore.”

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9/1: Muschamp updates injuries, previews Miami

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss some leftovers from the team’s 24-6 victory over Toledo while looking ahead to Saturday’s game on the road against the Miami Hurricanes. The contest will kick off at 12 p.m. from Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL, and air live on ESPN.

WEEKLY AWARDS

Offensive Player of the Week: Redshirt junior running back Mack Brown
“Mack ran extremely hard in the game and certainly a guy that really played well.”

Scrap Iron: Redshirt senior center Jonotthan Harrison, redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia, redshirt sophomore right tackle Tyler Moore
“I thought all three of those guys played really well, really built some continuity with those guys up front. Tyler and Max have been two really good additions for us.”

Big Plays (Offense): Brown, senior wide receiver Trey Burton, redshirt sophomore RB Valdez Showers
“Really proud of Valdez, a guy that makes a transition in the middle of camp, competing for a job on the other side of the ball, very unselfish in coming over and helping our offense and will continue to do so. He’s a guy that adds some dimension to us.”

Defensive Player(s) of the Week: Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Bryan Cox, Jr., senior DL Dominique Easley, sophomore Buck linebacker Dante Fowler, Jr., senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, redshirt senior nose tackle Leon Orr, redshirt junior Sam LB Ronald Powell
“All of those guys played well to contain [the quarterback] in the pocket, be able to rush four effectively throughout the game, affect the quarterback and stopping the run.”

Ball Hawks: Freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (for the interception) and Easley, Powell, Orr and redshirt junior Mike LB Michael Taylor (for the pressure)

Hard Hat: Redshirt junior LB Neiron Ball
“A guy that’s really helped [take] a huge step forward defensively for us was for him to be able to play off the ball, which since I’ve been here he has not done. Shows really good instincts in the run game and an active, active playmaker. He’s been a huge addition for us.”

Special Team Player of the Week: Sophomore RB Mark Herndon
“He continues to be productive in everything we ask him to do, but certainly a special teams leader for us.”

Big Play (Special Teams): Junior CB Marcus Roberson
“A guy that flipped the field a couple times with a couple big punt returns.”

Scout Team Players of the Week: Redshirt junior WR Ryan Parrish, redshirt freshman LB Jeremi Powell, freshman WR Chris Thompson

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