No. 3 Tide thrash Gators 42-21 in Tuscaloosa

Photo Credit: Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Brushing off four lost fumbles and a tie score early in the second half, the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide (4-0, 1-0 SEC) lived up to their national ranking with a 42-21 thrashing of the visiting Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Saturday afternoon.

The Crimson Tide scored 21 unanswered points to end the contest, converting seven-straight third downs in the second half (two for touchdowns) and overpowering a Gators defense that could not get itself off the field.

UA racked up 645 yards of total offense in the contest, the most given up by a UF team in a single game in school history, and 449 passing yards, second-most allowed by the Gators in one contest.

With the loss, Florida head coach Will Muschamp fell to 4-13 against ranked opponents as the Gators lost their fourth-straight game to the Crimson Tide dating back to 2009.

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Florida secondary faltered early, strengthened late

Though offense has been a struggle for the Florida Gators during head coach Will Muschamp‘s tenure, the team’s defense has been well-respected and even feared by opponents over the last three seasons.

Florida looked to be trending upward offensively and holding steady on its defensive success after its 65-0 season-opening rout of Eastern Michigan, but Muschamp cautioned after the game that his young secondary made a number of mistakes in the game that a better opponent would expose.

That opponent was the Kentucky Wildcats.

Picking on the Gators’ young defensive backs, Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles passed for 369 yards on Saturday – only eight fewer than he did against Tennessee-Martin – and a career-high three touchdowns.

Florida gave up eight big plays in the game and 173 yards on six of them, mostly due to miscues in the secondary.

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9/15: Muschamp reviews UK, previews Bama

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s first road contest of the 2014 season. Florida will travel Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0, 0-0 SEC) on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 3:30 p.m.

OPENING STATEMENT

“It was a great team win as far as picking each other up. Parts of the game, defensively, [we] played really well early in the game, did some nice things offensively, moved the ball, did not score in the red zone, had a couple issues on third down – two drops, two protection issues – that hurt us in the first half.

“Field position killed us in the first half; average staring on the 15-yard line, but we moved the ball, that was the encouraging thing. I felt totally in control of the game until the 60-yard touchdown pass that gave them some energy. But our guys fought back and overcame those situations. Right now on the season, we’re +7 on the year in turnover margin, +13 in explosive plays. That’s a good combination to have.

“Going back offensively, field position really hurt us. We need to score touchdowns in the red zone; we had a couple issues down there, third down, but we stayed balanced in what we did. I thought the offensive staff did a nice job with adjustments in the second half of getting in some 12 personnel and running the ball. We were able to create some holes in there. I thought our offensive line did a really good job of movement upfront and handling all that stuff. …

“Overall, as a team, handled some adversity well. That was the first time we had to deal with it this season, so it was good to condition ourselves moving on the road.”

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Florida Gators 2014 season-opening depth chart

Though things will undoubtedly change for the Florida Gators throughout the 2014 season, likely even before its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Will Muschamp on Tuesday released the team’s first official depth chart in nine months.

OFFENSE

QB: 6 Jeff Driskel, 3 Treon Harris
RB: 21 Kelvin Taylor OR 24 Matt Jones OR 33 Mack Brown
F/B: 41 Hunter Joyer, 25 Gideon Ajagbe
TE/B: 88 Clay Burton, 83 Jake McGee
WR (X): 1 Quinton Dunbar, 11 Demarcus Robinson, 89 Alvin Bailey
WR (Z): 5 Ahmad Fulwood, 4 Andre Debose, 85 Chris Thompson
WR (Y): 9 Latroy Pittman, 10 Valdez Showers, 14 C.J. Worton

LT: 70 D.J. Humphries, 78 David Sharpe
LG: 63 Trip Thurman, 73 Tyler Moore, 71 Antonio Riles
C: 76 Max Garcia, 72 Drew Sarvary
RG: 74 Trenton Brown OR 73 Tyler Moore
RT: 75 Chaz Green, 55 Roderick Johnson

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8/22: Muschamp’s last update before game week

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to conclude his team’s last week of practice before game week. Florida will get the weekend off and return to practice on Monday in preparation for its season-opener against the Idaho Vandals on Saturday, Aug. 30 at 7 p.m.

INJURY UPDATES

For the first time in a while, Muschamp did not have much to say on the injury front.

Freshman offensive tackle David Sharpe, who is fourth on the depth chart and an important player for Florida this fall, is expected to return on Monday after missing some time with an ankle injury. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Maye, in competition for a starting job in the secondary, will be back in action on Tuesday or Wednesday coming off a significant hamstring strain.

Additionally, redshirt freshman linebacker Matt Rolin, who has been fully cleared to practice all fall after undergoing a second surgery for a torn ACL in as many years, is “coming along slowly” as planned by the coaching staff.

Muschamp remarked that the Gators only having two “soft tissue issues” is “outstanding” and “the best I’ve been around.” He added: “It tells you we’re training the right way.”

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8/14: Keanu Neal impressing, Durkin evaluating

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Thursday for the first time this fall and had an opportunity to provide some insights on his players. Earlier this week, head coach Will Muschamp listed one safety as standing out from the rest of the pack in practice.

IT’S HIS TIME

Much like Loucheiz Purifoy did early in his career, sophomore safety Keanu Neal earned his stripes on special teams. A hard hitter and quick learner, he earned time as a backup in the secondary but was understandably unable to crack a starting lineup filled with veterans.

With only one set starter in the defensive backfield returning this year, Neal had every opportunity to go out and win a job in spring practice and fall camp. And that is exactly what he did.

“Keanu Neal, right now, is our best safety,” Muschamp said on Monday.

That compliment from his head coach was huge for Neal, though he is determined not to rest on his laurels.

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8/8: Muschamp on Hargreaves injury, Driskel and backup quarterbacks, player evaluations

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday to discuss the first four days of practice and provide some first impressions on what he has seen from the team this fall.

INJURY UPDATES

Muschamp related that he was not concerned about the knee injury suffered by sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III during practice Thursday night, noting that it occurred during a knee-to-knee incident prior to the scuffle that ensued between the defensive backs and wide receivers. It was, however, aggravated during the ensuing fight. Hargreaves was quickly diagnosed with a bone bruise, Muschamp said, and will miss practice Friday while receiving treatment. He remains day-to-day.

“I was told immediately it was a bone bruise. The knee was stable and there [were] absolutely zero issues,” he said. “Obviously, in any situation when you deal with a joint, whether it’s an ankle, a shoulder, a knee, an elbow, you’re going to always get an MRI. But our trainer told me last night it was a bone bruise and he’ll be day-to-day.”

He also addressed the fight with the team after practice and noted that he has no problem kicking players out of practice if something similar occurs in the future because that is exactly what would happen in a game.

“You had a young player, a freshman, who got a little excited. In those situations, you’ve got a bunch of guys trying to separate the situation. That’s not something we tolerate,” Muschamp explained. “We have a lot of competition at a lot of positions, so there’s a side of it that’s a good thing. You want your guys to be aggressive. You want your guys to play with toughness, but you also want your guys to play smart and disciplined. There’s a side of it that you understand is part of the game. I’ve been in 20 or so training camps and I don’t think there’s been one that’s had at least a little skirmish. [The media] calls it a melee. I call it a skirmish. Kind of the way it goes.”

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2014 SEC Media Days – Will Muschamp pleased Florida’s roster, progress made in spring

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp, redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel, junior defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. and sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III represented the team on Monday by participating in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Media Days at the Winfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Below are highlights primarily from Muschamp’s sessions with the media.

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

If anyone is to believe in the possibility of Florida turning things around in 2014, rebounding from its worst season since 1979, it is going to start on the offensive side of the ball. Muschamp knew this and brought in offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to employ a spread offense and make the Gators a more dynamic playmaking team.

Not only will Roper’s offense put redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel back in the shotgun, where he is more comfortable and capable, it should give Florida more space to make plays. Muschamp is already extremely impressed with how much UF has been able to get accomplished in such a short period of time.

“I went back and looked at our numbers from 2012 when we were in the shotgun as opposed to being under center. When Jeff was in the shotgun, our yards were better, our explosive plays were better in both the run and pass game. He was recruited to Florida to be a gun quarterback,” he explained.

“In making that change, I felt like Kurt Roper was a great hire for us from a standpoint of a guy that philosophically is on the same page with me as what we want to be, that’s a balanced offense. …

“In our 15 days of springs, we got a lot more done than I thought we would. He’s an outstanding fundamental football coach, very positive. It was good to see our offensive kids having fun again on the field. Really excited about that. Probably what excites me the most is this is probably the most talent we’ve had on offense in my four years at Florida.”

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