10/29: Florida vs. Georgia post-game notes

The Florida Gators (4-4, 2-4 SEC) lost yet again on Saturday, dropping a close one to the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (6-2, 5-1 SEC) at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL. Florida has now lost four-straight game for the first time since 1988, leaving head coach Will Muschamp with a lot of questions and decisions to answer going forward. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“We had our opportunities in the game. You have two turnovers inside your 25-yard-line, you give up 14 points on two critical fourth-down plays, the lack of being able to run the football, too many penalties in critical situations. Obviously John [Brantley] went and [it was] a gutsy performance on his part. Very proud of him and his effort. He was a guy who really laid it on the line. We couldn’t get him under center to do some of the things we wanted to do; we knew that going into the game. We felt like we had some things in the throwing game and that’s why we stayed with what we wanted to do in that situations. We got to find some ways to run the football. We cannot be so one-dimensional. That’s something we’ve got to work on. We got a turnover inside the 10, we wind up with two sacks and are out of field goal range. Those are very frustrating to deal with, but we had our opportunities in the last two ball games. We got to close it out and win those games.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

Though redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley returned for the Gators, he was severely limited due to his ankle injury and was unable to take snaps from under center. Some other players were held out of the game, while even more were hurt during the contest, further hurting Florida’s already lacking depth going forward.

Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis did not play after straining his leg two weeks ago against Auburn, redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green hurt his ankle Wednesday in practice, and junior running back Mike Gillislee (ankle) dressed but did not play after injuring his ankle two weeks ago.

In the game Saturday, redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray hurt his shoulder, returned to notch a sack but wound up visiting the locker room and did not return for the second half. Sophomore cornerback Cody Riggs injured his wrist during the game and was also forced to leave the field.

PENALTIES, TURNOVERS AND MISCUES

The Gators had two weeks to figure out how to concentrate on discipline and fundamentals, yet their performance on Saturday seemed to indicate that absolutely nothing had been fixed over the bye week. Florida committed 14 penalties for over 100 last yards on Saturday, which unbelievably is their second-worst total of the season. UF remains last in the nation in penalties.

“There’s two different parts as far as penalties are concerned. Some of them are undisciplined and those are the ones that are tough to deal with. I’ve got to do a better job with the others, so I’ll work on it,” Muschamp said.

Perhaps worst of all, many of the Gators’ miscues in this area came at inopportune times. A pass interference call on third down extended a Georgia drive that Florida needed to stop. A personal foul call on Buck linebacker Ronald Powell on special teams pushed the Gators back to the goal line, and multiple delay of game and false start penalties either took Florida out of scoring range or pushed them far enough back where they could not put together a solid drive.

And then there are the turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 14 points off of two UF fumbles near their own red zone. Georgia posted both touchdowns through the air via jump ball passes on fourth down, each of which was converted rather easily.

“We were in position – there were a couple well-thrown balls and well-caught balls,” Muschamp said. “Both touchdowns, they’re in position to make the play and we’re playing the ball and trying to get the ball off the guy and the guy makes a heck of a throw and a heck of a catch. There’s a couple situations. They’re on scholarship too. They made nice plays, but we got to find a way to get them out though.”

INABILITY TO RUN THE FOOTBALL

Florida struggled with their running game for the fourth-straight contest but unlike previous attempts, this time it was because of a lack of trying. Due to Brantley being limited with what he could do on his ankle, the Gators were unable to call plays from under center, which in turn reduced the team’s chances of putting together a consistent power running game.

“No question it affects the run game,” Muschamp said of Brantley’s limitations. “When you’re in the [shot]gun so much and you run the ball so much east and west, you need to be able to run the ball downhill. When you’re in the gun, it’s hard to run the ball consistently downhill. He was limited with his ankle, but we felt like he gave us the best opportunity to be successful in the game, so that’s what we went with. I would do it again. John played well. We just got to figure out how we can run the ball a little bit more effectively.”

One of the other reasons that Florida has struggled running the ball is that their personnel does not fit the type of offense the team wants to run. Muschamp explained that improvement in that area will come with time.

“I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage. It’s very difficult to run a power running game with what we want to do right now with who we have,” he admitted. “I like the guys we got, but the bottom line is looking at the situations of where we are. It doesn’t take anybody real educated to figure it out right now.”

SACK ISSUES MOSTLY – BUT NOT ALL – ON OFFENSIVE LINE

With Brantley seemingly being sacked whenever the Gators were trying to put something together, the offensive line was immediately blamed for letting too many rushers through. While that may be true most of the time, Muschamp was quick to point out after the game that there are other things going on at the same time.

“When you look at a sack, everybody wants to look at the offensive line. Did the quarterback hold the ball too long? I think there were some situations like that. There are some situations where we didn’t get open down the field and had a busted route,” he explained. “There are a lot of situations when you have a sack; it’s not just the offensive line’s fault every time it happens. That’s the easiest thing to say, but that’s not always the offensive line’s fault. If we’re in a one-back protection or two-back protection, did the backs block right? There are a lot of things that happen as far as protection issues, and that’s not always the offensive line.”

That being said, tackles junior Xavier Nixon and redshirt sophomore Matt Patchan each had their share of struggles on the evening. Nixon kept bouncing off the line for false starts and both men struggled blocking the edge rushers. Muschamp said that Florida’s inability to run the ball ensured that the edge rushers did not have to respect that part of the game, making it even tougher on the tackles and blockers.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on the team’s penalties: “I was disappointed with it.”

» Muschamp on not taking advantage of momentum: “It’s disappointing. You felt good about getting the kickoff return, getting some points on the board, getting some momentum for your team. And then we lay it on the ground twice. We only get one turnover defensively, and we just had some critical mistakes at critical times. We got to make those plays. I told them the last two ball games the bottom line was Auburn and Georgia made those plays and we didn’t. We’re going to have our opportunities and when we get in those situations we need to make the plays.”

» Muschamp on offensive coordinator Charlie Weis calling plays from the booth: ”Just to see the game better. We didn’t feel like we were getting the information right and were searching for some answers for this time offensively to figure out what we can do well. That was something we felt like we could benefit from.”

» Muschamp on sophomore Brad Phillips filling in for Sturgis: “Brad was outstanding. Here’s a guy that steps in, missed the first one, came back and hit two more. Kicked off extremely well with a pretty good wind coming from the one side. He kicked one real deep in the end zone when he was with the wind. I was really proud of his efforts; he stepped up when another guy went down.”

» Muschamp on defensive struggles: “We didn’t get lined up a couple times and had some tempo issues there late. That’s something we worked on and prepared for. We got to make some stops in the red zone. You got to force field goals when they’re in those situations. That’s about where it is.”

» Muschamp on now just playing for pride: “That’s the way it is all the time with me. I don’t ever really talk about the SEC race. I talk about what we got to do to get better as a program every day and stay the course of what we’re trying to do. It’s not always just about the SEC race. We don’t always talk about that. We understand our goal at the beginning of the season. We understand our expectation – the University of Florida has to go to Atlanta. Our job as a competitor is to go out every day – whether you’re a coach or a player – is to work hard to get better, work hard to improve yourself. And that’s what we’re going to do. “

» Muschamp on losing four-straight games: “I don’t really think about losing a whole lot, but obviously it’s happened so we got to regroup and reevaluate where we are. We need to move forward. It’s disappointing, and you can believe there is no one more disappointed or impatient than I am. We’ve got to evaluate ourselves first of all starting with me and then we work from there.”

» Muschamp on how he felt during the game: “I felt good the whole game. I felt like we were in a situation to go win the football game. We had the ball late to win the game. That’s what you want to be in these situations. You got to make the plays in those situations to get it done.”

» Muschamp on how far away the team is right now: “This year? We’re not close. No, I don’t. I think we’re close. I think we got to build our numbers back. I think we got to get better on the line of scrimmage.”

» Senior RB Jeff Demps on the fourth-straight loss: “Things just didn’t go our way tonight like we wanted it to. We just got to stick together as a team. We have to unite from this and stay together.”

» Demps on his kick return touchdown: “All of the credit goes to those 10 guys that were blocking. They gave me a big hole to run through and made it easy.”

» Brantley said that he was still considered “probable” up until game time. He went out early to test the ankle during warm-ups but went back to the locker room to get a bit more treatment and stay off of it was much as possible until the game began.

» Brantley on the 4th and 10 design: “It was a little bit deeper midfield. I was stepping up and knew I had to get it out – the time clock in my head said I had to get it out.”

» Brantley on Weis calling plays from the booth: “He can see the field better up there. I had the headset on each time and we were communicating just fine. There wasn’t too much of a difference.”

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Four-star TE Kent Taylor commits to Gators

Two days after losing a second-year tight end due to transfer, the Florida Gators picked up the top player at the position nationally in the 2012 recruiting class.

In front of friends and family at Land O’Lakes High School, four-star TE Kent Taylor (Land O’Lakes, FL) committed to the Gators on Thursday during a ceremony in which he received his jersey for the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

“It was just about where I am going to get used and the best place to play early,” he told InsidetheGators.com on Oct. 4 when his mind was made up. “It was a place where I felt I could have the whole experience of education, football, socially, and spiritually.”

Taylor – a 6’5”, 220 lbs. pass-catcher who is the ideal player for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’s system – chose Florida over offers from Florida State, Georgia and Penn State. He is the second tight end to commit to the Gators for 2012.

“I really like Coach Weis’s offense,” Taylor said back in May. “I’ve talked to a couple of people who have played for him and they have all told me you definitely would like to play for Coach Weis.”

Florida already has four-star TE Colin Thompson (Warminster, PA) on board and is likely planning to take a third player at the position, too.

While Taylor is ranked as the No. 1 tight end and 55th best player in the country by Rivals, Thompson is also highly touted at No. 6 and 215th, respectively, by the recruiting service. Their spots are swapped by ESPNU, which has listed Thompson at No. 1 and 85th and Taylor at No. 4 and 147th overall.

Read more, watch a video and check out the commitment list…after the break!
Continue Reading » Four-star TE Kent Taylor commits to Gators

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Brissett steps into Gators’ No. 2 quarterback role

After serving as the backup to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley through the first five games of the season, Florida Gators freshman Jeff Driskel has been passed by classmate Jacoby Brissett for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis announced Tuesday.

“Based off of their performance in the games and practice, Jacoby is slightly ahead,” Weis explained.

When Brantley went down with a lower leg injury against Alabama on Oct. 1, Driskel replaced him and played the entire second half. However, he also wound up injuring his ankle and was unable to start in Brantley’s place the following week at LSU.

Brissett, who had not taken a snap all season long at that point and was considered the No. 4 quarterback, wound up starting against LSU. Weis was impressed with his poise playing in such a tough environment.

“LSU, the environment did not overwhelm him. That’s a bit surprising if you think about it,” he said. “You haven’t played one snap for the whole year and you go to that place right there. I’m not saying we did a great job on offense, but it wasn’t too much for him. That certainly was the case the following week, too.

“Now we certainly have to play a lot better at that position – starting with him if he were in there. […] I’ve always said that, with a quarterback, your presence and how you run the team is one of the critical factors.”

Against Auburn one week later, Brissett started the first half but was pulled for Driskel, who replaced him after halftime and completed 50 percent of his passes for 75 yards.

Even though Brissett has a one-to-three touchdown-to-interception ratio combined in his two appearances this season, Weis is giving him the nod this week. He said Tuesday that does not speak to his opinion of Driskel going forward.

“I’m not down on Jeff now. I think it’s a combination of Jacoby getting better and Jeff getting banged up. It was a combination of the two that closed the gap,” he said. “Both these young men have a very, very bright future. I’m really looking forward to what’s going to come with these two guys.

“The downside of John getting hurt is you lose your starting quarterback when things were going pretty well, especially in the passing game. The flipside on those two guys is they got some experience that you don’t have to go through next year. They’ve already experienced it here in the last few weeks.”

Who will wind up starting for the Gators in 2012 is not even a thought at this point. The backup job behind Brantley, should he return this week, could very well be a back-and-forth struggle the rest of this season.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

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Gators QB John Brantley remains on schedule

Florida Gators fans breathed a sigh of relief on Monday when head coach Will Muschamp officially announced that redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley was probable for Saturday’s game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL.

Though Muschamp said the plan was for Brantley, who suffered a lower leg injury against Alabama, to slowly progress through practice this week in hopes of playing, early returns have him doing well both on the field in practice and off the field with his rehab.

“[He’s doing] a lot more than I thought he was going to be able to do, which was encouraging,” offensive coordinator Charlie Weis said on Tuesday. “We’re cautiously optimistic it’s going to be him [starting], but he could come in tomorrow and it could be all swollen up and he’s not walking.

“You’re cautiously optimistic but you can’t just go in planning on it’s just him. You can’t think that way. We’re geared towards multiple options here. Fortunately in the bye week, you have enough time to make those plans. It would be pretty rough to try to plan something like this in a one-week time frame.

“[He has] to be able to run the offense. Obviously a big part of running the offense is being able to throw the ball on time, efficiently and effectively. That’s one of the reasons why the arrow is pointing up, because he’s had a pretty productive week so far.”

It is not just Weis who is “cautiously optimistic” about Brantley’s return this week.

Redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr. and redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey are pleased with what they have seen over the last few days.

“He looks pretty smooth. He came back to practice and is limited and everybody is getting reps,” Hammond said.

“He looked good to me and that’s all I know,” Rainey added.

Hammond also explained that having Brantley back in the fold will help Florida’s offense progress after being stalled for the last 10 quarters of football.

“Seeing him out there definitely plays a major role because he’s the guy that has the experience and can spread the ball around” he said. “Seeing him out there definitely gives some comfort to the receivers.”

Being back on the field also means a lot to Brantley, who has just a handful of games remaining in his college career to prove his critics wrong and show that he can compete both in the Southeastern Conference and possibly on Sundays in the near future.

Weis said Tuesday that Brantley’s NFL potential is something that can be discussed at length months from now. At this point in the season, there is just one thing he and the team have to concentrate on going forward.

“We have to not worry about his football future but how his return would affect our football team. Realistically, the most important thing really with him coming back isn’t what’s going to happen with him down the road,” he said.

“It’s the psychological lift that he’ll bring to our entire team. This was no big secret that the kid was playing good. Everyone feels a lot more confident going into a game now knowing that there’s a good chance that he’s going to be out there slinging it.”

That confidence is something that was lacking one season ago, when Brantley was blamed for many of the Gators’ offensive woes. Weis finds that to be quite ironic.

“Here’s what I do know,” he quipped. “All those people who wanted him out of here now can’t wait to get him back. Isn’t that funny how that story changes?”

Photo Credit: Unknown

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10/25: Weis on transfers, bye week, rivalry

As the Florida Gators prepare for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party against the No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 29 at a neutral site in Jacksonville, FL, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the bye week and his team’s upcoming contest.

TRANSFERS WERE A SURPRISE

When he learned this week that sophomores tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark have officially decided to transfer, Weis said that he was quite surprised not only with their decision but the timing of it as well.

“We didn’t lose them. They decided to go,” he said of the duo. “You wish them well and you move on. I think that you can’t ever look at that with young men that are making decisions, that’s the decision they make. You wish them well. You don’t wish bad on anyone. You move on.

“Both of them surprised me, to tell you the truth. They practiced last week every day. You think if you’re going to quit, you quit last week. Why would you go through bye week practice? I know one thing, if I’m bagging it, I’m not going through practice in the bye week. That caught me off guard, let me just say.”

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE BYE WEEK

Weis said the bye week came at a good time for the Gators because the loss at Auburn was relatively unexpected and psychologically deflating. Unlike the previous two weeks, Florida had an opportunity to win the game and simply could not come through.

“Alabama and LSU, they whooped us pretty good. I’m a very straightforward person. Those games really turned out fairly lopsided at the end of the game. That wasn’t the case at Auburn,” he said. “Psychologically it was a good time for a bye. It’s always a good time for a bye physically because you have the walking wounded and then a week later everybody but one guy is listed as a go. Physically a bye is always good, but psychologically I thought it couldn’t come at a better time.”

The Gators should be rolling into Jacksonville with a new motivation this week, something Weis said the coaching staff tried to instill in the team over the last few days.

“In the big picture, you can’t play like you’re a team that is floundering around .500. You got to play like you’re a team that’s looking to run the table. That’s how you got to play,” he said. “Running the table starts with one at a time. The bye week gives you a chance to regroup and to set that mentality along those wavelengths. That’s the way they’re thinking, ‘Let’s just go beat Georgia.’”

OPENING UP THE OFFENSE…IF POSSIBLE

Assuming redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley returns this week, Weis said that he will be able to open the offense back up, which will in turn give the running game a better opportunity to be more consistent. “They’re complimentary. If all of a sudden you’re making some more throws, if they have to start worrying about that more, obviously what you get in return is a lot less guys up front in the running game,” he explained.

Even though Brantley was out of action against Auburn, Weis noted he was pleased with the run-pass distribution even if it seemed like the team did not toss the ball much.

“Actually we threw the ball 30 times the last game. It was about 50-50. The breakdown in the game against Auburn was about 50-50 run-pass. I like to play games about 50-50. At the end of the day, that’s where I’d prefer to be,” he said.

“Usually when you run the ball a whole bunch of times more than you throw it in the game, it means you won by a lot. I think that the last game was about that margin. I would just like to run more plays and make more plays. Making more plays is really what it’s all about because we just haven’t been making enough plays.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the Florida-Georgia rivalry and 2007 incident: “I just remember watching that game a few years ago when the 9,000 guys were partying in the end zone. That caught me off guard. I wasn’t here, but I’m sure there’s a lot of people that might remember that. I think I might have seen it once or twice.”

» On winning the Super Bowl at what is now known as EverBank Field: “I can’t go into recruiting stories, but I was on the road I was at a high school that’s looking at that stadium – looking across the river at that stadium. I’m sitting there looking at it and, as I was waiting my hour and 15 minutes for practice to start, I was actually doing a little reminiscing to that time where I thought about that stadium. That was a good day. I would like to have another good day though. That day is history, and I don’t like to live in the past.”

» On his friend and New Orleans head coach Sean Payton’s sideline injury: “What a whimp. [Laughing] Sean’s a friend of mine. I watched his [hit]. In my case, it was on a special teams play and I never would be anywhere near the sideline until after the gunners were past me. The gunners were past me about 10 yards before I stepped up. One of my guys was getting handled pretty handily, and I got hit by guys that were 20 yards behind the play. Usually you have enough common sense to keep your eyes on where the action is so you can avoid most issues. What he did was what we all do…once we call a play, the play is in place. When we see what the outcome of the play is going to be, you’re immediately getting ready to dial up your next play. He was just getting ready to make his next call. He wasn’t expecting to all of a sudden get rolled up on the sideline. It’s dangerous for everyone because there’s not a lot of room on those sidelines. Anyone who is getting ready to make a call is zeroed in on what’s happening next. A play hasn’t even finished yet and you’re getting the next play ready.”

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10/18: Muschamp’s Tuesday press conference

Head coach Will Muschamp meets with the media each week to wrap-up the previous Saturday’s game and look ahead to the Florida Gators next opponent. Below are some of the most important notes and quotes from the availability.

AN APOLOGY FOR HIS LANGUAGE

Muschamp was caught by ESPN cameras on Saturday not only berating officials for what he perceived as a blown call on what was ruled a muffed punt by redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey but also using some foul language while doing so. He felt it was necessary to apologize for his language and did just that on Tuesday.

“I do want to apologize for my language on the sidelines the other night. That’s not something that’s going to be tolerated here at the University of Florida first of all by me and our program. That’s certainly not represented of what this program or this university is about,” he said, specifying that he was not apologizing for his intensity on the sideline.

“It’s the language. You got a 6-year-old and a 10-year-old at home and you got to go home and explain to them what you said. It’s not good and it’s not how we’re going to run our program. That’s it. As far as the sideline stuff is concerned, we’re going to be who we are. I’m just apologizing for the language, nothing else.”

OPENING STATEMENTS

“It’s tough to always have an open week after a loss – certainly after three. We really are a banged up football team. We really need to work on fundamentals and what we need to do up front on both sides of the ball. We’re searching for some answers offensively. Tuesday and Wednesday are fundamental days of really just working on us good-on-good, and then Thursday we will start our preps on Georgia as far as on the field. We start[ed] as a staff on Sunday. That’s kind of where we are and then Friday we’ll have a team lift and run them and then Sunday come back for a team dinner, some walkthroughs and some meetings as we move forward to Georgia.”

He also spoke about Florida’s next opponent on Oct. 29, Georgia.

“They have a talented football team with three seniors on the offensive line. Aaron Murray is a guy that can hurt you running and throwing; he’s completing over 60 percent of his passes. Isiah Crowell is a guy that has come in as a freshman and done a really nice job in their run game. Orson Charles is a very talented tight end, a guy that can stretch the field vertically, block at the point. Malcolm Mitchell is a freshman receiver that has been really good for them playing the X position. Defensively they have really improved from a year ago. They’re playing well on the defensive side of the ball.”

WEEKLY INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

In addition to his statement about the health of redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley, Muschamp gave one general status update for a number of other players on the team who are banged up and were limited last week.

He said that the following Gators should practice at some point this week, most likely Wednesday or Thursday depending how their injuries are healing: sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (shoulder/neck), senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle), redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (strained knee), junior RB Mike Gillislee (ankle), redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (ankle) and redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger (foot). “We’re hoping to get all of those guys this week for practice and certainly for the Georgia game,” he added.

POSITION-BY-POSITION EVALUATIONS

Muschamp took time Tuesday before answering any questions to provide a short evaluation of the team position-by-position.

Quarterback: Outside of Brantley, Muschamp said he was pleased with how freshmen Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett are progressing. “They both have natural leadership ability because of their presence. They’re both competitive,” he said. “They’re very well-liked on the team and very well respected on the team for a freshman, which is hard. It’s hard at that age to have the command and the respect and the presence, and I think both guys have that. They have the ‘it’ factor in my opinion. They have a lot of the intangibles you look for at that position. They certainly are guys that I am very pleased with, and I think the future is bright as far as those two young men are concerned.”

Offensive line: Muschamp said that redshirt junior right guard Jon Halapio has been the most consistent performer and that redshirt junior right tackle Matt Patchan has played great over the last two games. “Up front we need more consistent play in being able to run the football. We got to play better around the quarterback position regardless of who is playing,” he said. Muschamp added that others aside from those in the standard rotation are still competing for playing time but they have to show they deserve it in practice.

Wide receiver: “We need more playmaking ability outside and more consistent play,” Muschamp said. He noted that redshirt junior Frankie Hammond, Jr. was the most consistent pass catcher and Debose has “done some nice things” as far as making big plays vertically.

Running back: Aside from Rainey, Demps and Gillislee, Muschamp said he was pleased with freshman fullback Hunter Joyer’s freshman campaign. He also praised sophomore Trey Burton for succeeding in the package of plays that he has been given. “We’ve been able to move the football in the last two games using that package,” he said, “so we’ll continue to build on that.”

Defensive line: Muschamp praised redshirt senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard, sophomore DT Dominique Easley, sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd, redshirt junior DT Omar Hunter and senior DE William Green for all making improvements throughout the season. “Defensively I think we’ve taken some steps up front and played a little better,” he said. We’re not where we need to be, but I do feel good about the improvements we’ve made in the last three weeks as we head into the last five ballgames.”

Linebackers: He similarly praised redshirt junior Lerentee McCray and said the team would not be where it is from a defensive standpoint without junior Jon Bostic and redshirt sophomore Jelani Jenkins. “We need to develop some guys past those two to get more production from that position,” he said.

Secondary: The praise, of course, started with the position’s best player. “Matt Elam is having a solid year as we hit the half-way point. He’s paying very productive for us. We moved him to the nickel in the Auburn game because I saw a lot of the perimeter runs where they were very effective. We felt like we needed to put him in at a point of attack in the game, and he certainly was very effective,” Muschamp said. He added that freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson has been a pleasant surprise but that the unit has a long way to go. “We need to be more productive on the back end,” he said. “Let’s be realistic. We’ve played three teams in a row that have run the ball over 40 times, so we haven’t exactly been tested on the back end. We need to play better when those opportunities come up.”

Special teams: Muschamp said that Sturgis has been “outstanding” and has been kicking the ball well not only on field goals and extra points but for kickoffs, too. As far as freshman punter Kyle Christy, who earned his first start Saturday, Muschamp noted that “he’s a guy that can flip the field for us” and said he was “really pleased with how he punted last week.” He reiterated that the team has had no problems at punt returner until Saturday night but that he is going to look at other players to do the job in addition to Rainey, Debose, Hammond and sophomore WR Robert Clark.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» On the team’s biggest flaw at this point: “Things that have really hurt our team obviously is turnover margin. We’re -7 – last in the SEC. We haven’t had a turnover defensively in the last three ball games. It’s something we emphasize and talk about. Obviously we’ve got to find different measures in order to create some positive momentum for our offense whether it’s in special teams or offense. Gaining possession of the ball is critical for us.”

» On improving the offense: “We’re looking for answers right now offensively. We’re working diligently as a staff to find what we can do to move the ball and score points. We certainly understand in the last three games we have not done that effectively enough. Regardless of the circumstances and the situation, we’ve got to find way to move the ball and score. That’s what we’re searching for at this point.”

» On the plan for the bye week: “This week for us is more focused on Florida and what we have got to do to get better. As we move forward in the open week here, we just need to make tremendous strides and improvements with our team, identify the weakness which we obviously have some and move forward with our guys. Our guys competed hard against Auburn. I thought they played hard and laid it on the line. We just came up short.”

» On if he thought about playing Georgia each year when taking the Florida job: “I’ve faced Georgia a lot before as a defensive coordinator. I enjoyed my time there, but I’ve worked at LSU, I’ve worked at Auburn in this league. I’ve worked for different coaches that are coaching at different universities. My loyalties reside with people, not places necessarily. Certainly my loyalty is here with the University of Florida.”

» On Driskel and Brissett possibly competing for three more years: “I wouldn’t necessarily want that to happen. Both guys are really good players and both guys deserve the opportunities that they have gotten. That’s something, as we work through the week, that we’ve got to manage. And there are no better hands to manage that then Charlie Weis’s, in my opinion. […] That’s something that we’re going to cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now we just need to get these guys the 50-50 reps for this week and continue to improve our football team moving on to Georgia.”

» On if playing Brissett changed his long-term plans at that position: “It doesn’t really alter anything.”

» On Christy stepping up into the starting punter role: “Kyle – from a leg-strength standpoint – has been the guy. It’s been an operations standpoint. He got his operation time down in being able to kick. Obviously he flipped the field and was a big difference in the game and for our team, that’s not something we necessarily have done well throughout the season up to this point.”

» On his own intensity on the sideline: “I don’t think it hurts anything. I can tell you that. I’m going to be who I am. That’s what I’ve said from the beginning.”

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10/15: Florida at Auburn post-game notes

The Florida Gators (4-3, 2-3 SEC) fell again on the road on Saturday, dropping a 17-6 decision to the No. 24 Auburn Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC). OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from both head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

MUSCHAMP’s GAME RECAP

Early in his post-game media availability, Muschamp provides his own quick recap of the game as he sees it from offense, defense and special teams.

“It was a tough, hard-fought game. Obviously three turnovers lead to 10 points. It’s tough to win the game. We’ve gone three games where we haven’t gotten a turnover defensively or on special teams. We’ve got to create some positive momentum for our football team and our offense, and we’re not doing enough of that. That’s something we’ve got to be able to do. [Turnovers] leading to 10 points was just really, really disappointing.”

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

In addition to redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (lower leg) and redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee) being ruled out early in the week, it turns out that neither senior running back Jeff Demps (ankle) nor sophomore Buck linebacker Ronald Powell (neck) were cleared to play. Muschamp said Monday that both players were expected to be fine for the game but admitted Saturday that Powell did not practice all week and Demps was a game-time decision.

Perhaps even worse for Florida, injuries piled up for the Gators on Saturday. Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs, who hit two field goals, injured his leg and was unavailable for the remainder of the game. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose appeared to hurt his ankle and changed out of his uniform. Redshirt senior left guard Dan Wenger was wearing a boot on the sideline, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon appeared hobbled, and both junior RB Mike Gillislee and sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley were injured during the game but eventually returned.

ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS

Will Brantley play against Georgia?
“I’m hoping so. We’ll see what happens. I don’t know. His rehab is going very well.”

Was there any indication in practice that there were punt return problems?
“We haven’t had any issues at all.”

Why didn’t Gillislee get the ball more as previously suggested?
“We weren’t really doing much in the run game. That kind of dictated that. We felt like we needed to open it up more and work the perimeter. We did have some read series runs where he was a part of that and didn’t get the ball in those situations.”

Why did freshman Kyle Christy take over at punter?
“We just had not been flipping the field in the punting. We felt like we needed to look at a possible change in that situation, and Kyle had been punting extremely well. His operation time had been the issue. He had his operation time down pretty much throughout the week, and we felt like he deserved that opportunity.”

MUFFED PUNTS AND NUMEROUS MISCUES

Two important factors have dug Florida into big holes over the last two weeks – penalties and turnovers. Though the Gators committed their fair share of penalties on Saturday, their turnovers were much more detrimental to the outcome of the game. UF muffed four punts in the game and gave up two of them. Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey fumbled one in a play that should have been an interference call against an Auburn player; it eventually cost Florida a short-field touchdown.

Replacing Rainey after his third muffed punt, sophomore WR Robert Clark followed suit and let one slip between his arms. Clark’s fumble resulted in a field goal. After the game, Muschamp explained why the change was made and why Clark was chosen.

“Bobby’s done an outstanding job. Chris was gassed a little bit and was tired and had a hard time fielding a couple,” he said. “Bobby’s been doing it all year for us and being very effective. We’ve had Frankie [Hammond] back and several guys back. Andre’s been back but he was hurt. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Bobby.”

DRISKEL AND BRISSETT SPLIT TIME

Freshman Jacoby Brissett was named the Gators’ starter this week after a full week of practice, but as offensive coordinator Charlie Weis mentioned on Tuesday, it appeared as if classmate Jeff Driskel would get his fair share of snaps, too. That is exactly what happened during the game, which wound up being a tale of two halfs as Brissett started the first portion of the game and Driskel led the team after halftime.

Muschamp explained that having just six points going into the locker room was unacceptable and that Florida “needed to do something different from what we were doing” in the second half. “We knew Jeff was going to play in the game,” he said. “We came in at halftime and talked. Jacoby’s play was nothing that we were disappointed with. We just weren’t moving the ball effectively enough, and we felt like we needed a change. Jeff had a couple nice drives. We need to do more. We need to play better around both guys.”

He also acknowledged that “playing as a true freshman quarterback in this league is difficult” and thinks both signal callers are “going to be fine” in the long run. Muschamp also refused to place the blame on their shoulders. “You can’t score six points and win games. It’s going to be tough. You got to score more points than that,” he said. “It’s not all their fault either. We got to play better up front. We got to play better at the wideout position. We got to develop some things in the run game. We got to do a lot.”

Nevertheless, Muschamp did point out that the passers have a long way to go. “Both guys didn’t do anything that really killed us in the game but again didn’t do enough to help our football team,” he said. “We had a missed throw there on the flea flicker – it was wide open and we need to hit that and we need to take advantage of those situations when we have opportunities to make those. The more reps and the more turns those young men get, they’re going to be really good football players. I’m excited about both of them. We just need to continue to move forward. It’s been tough with Jeff being hurt a little bit. Going into the fifth week of the season, Jacoby didn’t have a whole lot of reps because he’s a third stringer. That’s the reality of it and that’s part of the game.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on losing three-straight games: “I told [the players] that losing is hard. Losing is tough. It’s not fun. But we’re going to stay the course here, OK? The guys fought and competed hard in the game, and I felt that way a week ago. We didn’t get the results we wanted but we took a positive step forward. I saw some good things. I saw some things that we obviously need to correct. Very proud of our effort, how we competed in the game in a tough place to play. I thought that we didn’t win the game and that’s what everybody wants to see, but I see a lot more than that. I saw things that we’ve got to do as a program to take steps forward, and I thought that we did some of those things tonight. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.

» Muschamp on if he is happy his defense played much better: “Well, it wasn’t good enough.”

» Muschamp on if he hoped a wide receiver would emerge this season: “It’s more than anything not necessarily somebody emerging, just somebody playing consistently. That’s the biggest issue right now – consistent play at the position. We’re not getting enough consistent play at the position.”

» Hammond on the team’s numerous issues: “It’s football. Nothing’s going to come easy. They did a good job scheming things up and playing at the line of scrimmage. We have to go back, look at the mistakes we made, see what the problems were and make a correction.”

» Hammond on how much of a difference Brantley would make: “You have a veteran quarterback with more experience. He makes things happen.”

» Hammond on having two weeks off: “The bye week I think will be beneficial for us. We can get guys who are banged up with nicks and knacks back. We got two weeks to prepare for Georgia, so we got kind of a jump start. We can break it down even more, analyze and see what they’re really all about.”

» Redshirt sophomore guard Jon Halapio on the offensive line’s play: “I could have done a better job. I don’t know where the mistakes were because we haven’t watched film.”

» Redshrit senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard on the play of senior defensive end William Green: “He went hard. Willie Green shows up to play every day and he went hard in the game tonight.”

» Howard on tough opponents: “The last few weeks have been pretty tough in the trenches. I think our defense stood up today. We played hard and we have to continue to do that.”

» Howard on the defense handling Auburn’s offense: “We had complete confidence coming into this game that we were going to play. Our coaches preached adjusting to the temp – the hurry-up offense. We adjusted well to it and came to play.”

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Florida drops third straight, falls 17-6 at Auburn

Following consecutive blowout losses to two of the nation’s top-three teams, the Florida Gators were expecting to bounce back on the road Saturday evening against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers. Instead of taking a step in the right direction, Florida (4-3, 2-3 SEC) dropped their third-straight Southeastern Conference game, this time 17-6 to Auburn (5-2, 3-1 SEC) after giving up three turnovers including two on special teams.

The Gators started the 2011 season 4-0 and dropped to 4-3 for the second consecutive year after Saturday night’s defeat. UF had not lost three-straight games since 1988 but have now done so in back-to-back seasons.

The miscues started early and occurred often for the road team.

Florida and Alabama traded possessions early in the game with Gators freshman quarterback Jacoby Brissett throwing an interception on the second play of the contest and each team punting twice.

On the Tigers’ third punt of the game, UF redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey muffed the catch; the ball was recovered by AU linebacker Daren Bates.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp exploded in anger on the sideline, questioning the referees as to why interference was not called on Auburn.

Three plays later, Gators sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley jumped offsides, but Tigers QB Barrett Trotter continued the play and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeAngelo Benton for the first score of the game.

Down a touchdown, Florida employed F-back Trey Burton behind center and ran the ball on four of five plays to get down to Auburn’s 23-yard-line. UF ended the drive with a 47-yard field goal by redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis to reduce their deficit to 7-3.

The Gators struck again on their next possession. Brissett completed three passes to redshirt junior WR Frankie Hammond, Jr. as part of a 12-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 25-yard field goal.

Auburn took over with 2:33 left and drove down to Florida’s 28 but failed to connect on a 45-yard field goal, taking just a one-point lead into the locker rooms.

The Tigers outgained the Gators 80-30 offensively in the first quarter, but UF took over in the second, compiling 76 yards of offense compared to just 22 for AU.

Auburn and Florida began the second half by substituting their quarterbacks. The Tigers sent in second-year player Clint Moseley for Trotter, while the Gators replaced Brissett with fellow freshman Jeff Driskel.

Both teams punted on the first possession of the second half, but Florida freshman punter Kyle Christy dropped his attempt, picked it up and shanked the ball just 18 yards. Auburn K Cody Parkey missed a 42-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, his second failed attempt of the game.

The Gators got the ball back and began driving down the field with Driskel. UF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis called a flea flicker on second-and-one at AU’s 48; though the first part was executed well, Driskel overthrew redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed, who was streaking down the middle of the field.

After another punt each from Florida and Auburn, the Tigers put together the longest scoring drive of the game, a seven-play, 66-yard effort that resulted in a 14-yard rushing touchdown by RB Onterio McCalebb.

The Gators tried to respond with a long drive of their own but stalled on fourth down in the red zone. Sturgis was ruled out with an injury after the half and kicking a field goal was not an option for Florida at the time.

UF punted once again but pushed AU back inside their own five. Auburn ran the ball three times but was stuffed by Florida’s defense and punted from their end zone.

Freshman WR Robert Clark replaced Rainey as punt returner after the latter muffed his first four punts of the evening. Clark did not do any better, letting the Tigers’ punt fall between his arms as he tried to field it.

Auburn recovered with less than three minutes to play and eventually kicked a 42-yard field goal to take an 11-point lead with 35 seconds remaining.

Miscues by the Gators wound up costing them the game. Florida’s three turnovers – two fumbles on special teams and an interception on the second play of the game – resulted in 10 points for the Tigers. Auburn outgained their opponent 278-194 on the evening and made sure to score when it counted.

Tigers RB Michael Dyer led all playmakers with 23 carries for 73 yards. Hammond had 40 yards on four receptions for the Gators, a season-high for a Florida wide receiver.

UF will now have a bye week to try and cure what ails them before heading into the World’s Largest Cocktail Party against Georgia in Jacksonville, FL on Oct. 29. The game will air live on CBS at 3:30 p.m.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

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