Florida-EKU post-game report: Durkin to coach bowl, Muschamp’s final lesson, Bullard’s decision

The Florida Gators (6-4) took care of business, routing the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-3) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.

Florida’s 52-3 victory on Saturday got the Gators bowl-eligible for the first time since 2012 and also marked the second-largest win margin in any game under head coach Will Muschamp, who was able to leave The Swamp with his head held high.

BOWL GAME COACH CHOSEN

Moments after Florida’s win was finalized, the school announced that defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin would serve as interim head coach for the Gators’ bowl game this year. Durkin, the second-longest tenured member of the staff (five years) behind running backs coach Brian White (six years), will take the reigns of the program once Muschamp’s dismissal is finalized next Saturday, Nov. 29.

FINAL LESSON: A TOUGH WEEK, ROAD AHEAD

There should be no doubt that the entire Florida football team took Muschamp’s dismissal hard. Gators players spoke of him fondly on Monday after his press conference and were obviously playing with an extra gear on Saturday. Junior defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard even went so far as to write his coach’s last name on his eyeblack.

“I’ve just been through a lot and he’s been there for me,” Bullard said. “When I lost my grandmother, he was a big supporter; he let me go home as long as I needed. Just little things he did helping me through that whole situation, he’s just been a real good person to me. I respect him a lot, and actually, I love him. I just wanted to show some respect for him, everything he’s done for me, and show him that I appreciate it.”

Muschamp admitted Saturday that it took a while for Florida to get back in the swing of things this week. Monday’s practice was thwarted due to the weather; Tuesday the team looked “just OK” and did not show “great effort” on the field; and Wednesday was just “a little bit better.”

So Muschamp spent the Gators’ regularly-scheduled Thursday meeting speaking about much more than just the upcoming game but rather how Florida’s players need to deal with his dismissal and their futures going forward.

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Friday Final: Florida Gators prepare for emotional Senior Day in The Swamp

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (5-4) as they prepare to play their second-to-last game under head coach Will Muschamp against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-2) on Senior Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday. The game will kick off at noon and air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Story: Will Muschamp earns praise, talks dismissal with class
Story: Dante Fowler Jr. declares for NFL Draft on Twitter
Story/Notebook: Gators lose two linebackers for season; two defensive backs return for Saturday’s game
Story: Florida coordinators talk Muschamp firing, EKU, future
The Silver Lining: Answering reader questions about the Gators’ future

SENIOR DAY IN THE SWAMP

Lost among the firing of a head coach and subsequent start of a search for a new one are two simple facts: the Gators are one victory away from bowl game eligibility, and Muschamp will not be the only one who spending his last Saturday on Florida Field.

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Florida DL Jonathan Bullard’s sacrifices, team-first mindset paying off for himself, Gators

For most teams, the sudden departure of a redshirt senior defensive lineman would prove to be a major blow, but the Florida Gators have been operating most of the season without Leon Orr in the starting lineup – and likely have been better because of it.

In fact, the 2014 Gators are head coach Will Muschamp’s best pass rushing team, due in large part to the pressure Florida is getting up the middle with junior Jonathan Bullard and senior Darious Cummings.

The Gators already have 12 more quarterback hurries through eight games in 2014* than they have in any full season under Muschamp. Florida is also averaging more sacks per game than ever before and is on pace to finish with 32.5, the most under Muschamp (assuming a bowl game, like UF played in 2012).

Cummings, the starting nose tackle, has made a major impact with two sacks and four hurries. However, it is Bullard, with just half a sack but seven total hurries, that has blossomed in the middle for the Gators.

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Will Muschamp sends DT Leon Orr home on bus, says player is “not a Florida Gator anymore”

Minutes before the Florida Gators squared off against the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday evening, Florida head coach Will Muschamp announced via a school release that redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr had been sent home from Nashville, Tennessee, on a bus. Later, he explained that Orr is now off the team after giving up on his coaches and teammates on game day.

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Florida Gators run wild in dominant 38-20 victory over No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville

With their backs against the wall, the Florida Gators (4-3, 3-3 SEC) came through for their fans, their embattled head coach and each other, ending a three-game losing streak to their long-time rivals, the No. 11 Georgia Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 SEC), by racking up 418 rushing yards on the way to a dominant 38-20 victory on Saturday afternoon at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.

Running backs junior Matt Jones and sophomore Kelvin Taylor each registered career-highs on the afternoon. Jones carried the ball 25 times for 192 yards and two touchdowns, and Taylor toted the rock 25 times for 197 yards and two scores of his own.

The duo combined for 50 carries, 389 yards and four touchdown on the afternoon, each setting career-highs for yards in a game while becoming the first pair of Gators to each rush for 120 yards or more in a single contest. Florida as a team gained 418 yards on the ground, the fifth-highest total in program history.

The victory was head coach Will Muschamp‘s first in the UF-UGA rivalry game. He entered the contest 0-7, 0-4 as a Bulldogs player and 0-3 as UF’s coach.

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9/13: Florida-Kentucky post-game report

It took longer than anyone wanted, but the Florida Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) eventually took down the Kentucky Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 SEC) in three overtimes on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators edged the Wildcats 36-30 on the backs of two offensive playmakers and a three-turnover night from their defense.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the hard-fought victory, which also included a number of standout statistics and historic marks.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida improved to 48-17 all-time against Kentucky, extending its winning streak in the series to 28-straight games dating back to 1986. It is the longest active winning streak in the nation between teams that play annually.
» The Gators forced three turnovers on Saturday and are now +7 on the season.
» Florida is now 4-2 all-time in overtime games, 3-1 in The Swamp. The Gators have won four-straight overtime games with Saturday’s triple-overtime contest being the first-ever in school history.
» Kentucky held a second half lead against Florida for the first time since 2003.
» It is just the fourth time in UF history that the team had a 200-yard receiver and 100-yard rusher achieve their marks in the same game.
» The Gators have won 10-straight SEC openers dating back to 2004.
» Florida has amassed 1,187 yards of total offense and 101 points in two games. The Gators needed five games in 2013 to eclipse 101 points.

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9/3: Muschamp goes off on discipline critics

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp participated in the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday. He discussed a number of issues stemming from last Saturday and looked ahead to his team’s new season-opener against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m.

“THERE’S A LOT OF THINGS THAT GO INTO DISCIPLINE”

For a coach that has done a more-than-respectable job cleaning up a program criticized for years about arrest and suspension numbers, Muschamp took exception on Wednesday to those that have criticized his decision to reinstate the three players suspended for Idaho despite the fact that the game was suspended and therefore they did not actually miss a game.

“It’s not just about suspending players for games. There’s a lot of things that go into discipline,” he explained.

“It’s about altering and changing behavior, which we’ve done here. I think our discipline speaks for itself in how we’ve handled our football team. It’s not just about missing games. If it was just about suspensions, you’d never have an issue.

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9/1: Foley, Muschamp comment on Florida-Idaho, Gators suspensions, named starters

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to open up game week ahead of his team’s new home opener against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 4 p.m.

He and athletic director Jeremy Foley spoke at length about Florida’s false-start against the Idaho Vandals, which was delayed and then suspended due to lightning, and the Gators’ focus with another week to go before stepping on the field.”

THE SUSPENDED PLAYERS: REINSTATED

Sophomore wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (university sanction) and defensive tackles senior Darious Cummings and redshirt freshman Jay-nard Bostwick (violations of team rules) have all be reinstated. Muschamp said Monday that all three players will be back in action for Florida next Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

“They will be back this week with us,” said Muschamp of his Cummings and Bostwick. “They have, not just as far as the suspension for a game, they’ve handled a lot of other things for me.”

In regards to Robinson, Muschamp said his university sanction has been “resolved” and his punishment was not a continuation of the suspension that cost him the final two games of 2013. “This was a totally separate issue,” he noted.

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