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-South Carolina post-game report: Gators coaches, players failed when it mattered most

A 23-20 overtime defeat at the hands of the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) cost the Florida Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) plenty on Saturday and may ultimately result in a change in the job status of head coach Will Muschamp.

Florida aimed to “take back The Swamp” against South Carolina, looking to reverse its fortunes at home and avoid dropping three-straight contests at Florida Field for the second-straight season. Instead, the Gators floundered in the fourth quarter at overtime with the coaches and players all contributing to a meltdown that should have ripple effects over the next few days, weeks and months.

AN ALL-AROUND MELTDOWN

Florida’s failures were multiple on Saturday. They started and ended with the coaching staff, but the Gators on the field were not above blame either, despite UF’s defense making a number of crucial stops in the fourth quarter.

In the end, a coach who played not to lose – lost, and a team that had a game well in hand did not make the plays they needed to actually win it. Here are seven things that went wrong over the fourth quarter and in overtime.

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South Carolina fight back in The Swamp, defeats Florida 23-20 in overtime

Two blocked kicks – first on a field goal, then on a punt – kept the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 3-5 SEC) alive, and a powerful running game allowed the visitors to pull out a 23-20 overtime victory over the Florida Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida spoke all week about its plans to “take back The Swamp,” and the Gators appeared to have the game well in hand until late, when after failing to gain a first down that would have run out the clock, UF had a punt blocked with 39 seconds remaining. USC rumbled into the end zone a couple plays later to force overtime and eventually outscored the home team 6-3 in the extra period to end the contest with a win.

The Gators dropped an overtime game for the first time in five tries and are now 4-3 all-time in such contests including 3-2 in The Swamp and 1-1 this season. UF is also now 22-7 against unranked opponentsa nd 13-5 against unranked Southeastern Conference teams under head coach Will Muschamp.

Muschamp falls to 1-3 against South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier, and his ability to keep his job is in serious question after another late meltdown cost UF another win at home.

Continue Reading » South Carolina fight back in The Swamp, defeats Florida 23-20 in overtime

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Florida works past Vanderbilt 34-10 in Nashville

The Florida Gators (5-3, 4-3 SEC) won consecutive games against Southeastern Conference opponents for the first time in more than a year, working their way to a 34-10 defeat of the Vanderbilt Commodores (3-7, 0-6 SEC) on Saturday night at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.

Though Florida’s rushing attack was nowhere near as proficient as it was when it compiled 418 yards on the ground against Georgia one week ago, the Gators did their damage on the ground, racking up 214 yards and four touchdowns on 50 total rushes. Three of those scores came on the legs of UF quarterbacks with freshman Treon Harris rumbling in for two touchdowns and redshirt junior Jeff Driskel adding a one-yard score of his own.

Harris finished 13-of-21 for 215 yards, adding 49 net rushing yards on 10 attempts. Driskel did not complete his only pass try, throwing the ball into the ground, but was effective in a rarely-used direct snap role.

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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.

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

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10/11: Florida-LSU post-game report

A soul-crushing 50-yard game-winning field goal pushed the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) ahead of the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, as LSU took advantage of multiple Florida miscues to pull off a 30-27 come-from-behind victory in The Swamp.

Head coach Will Muschamp spoke with the media after the close loss, and OnlyGators.com takes a look at a number of key moments in the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» After the win, LSU is now 27-31-3 all-time against Florida, trailing the Gainesville portion of the series 12-15-3. The Tigers have won four of their last five meetings with the Gators.
» Saturday was the 44th consecutive year, dating back to 1979, that UF and LSU squared off on the gridiron.
» The Gators are now 21-5 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 12-3 against unranked SEC teams during his tenure.
» Florida has converted 19-of-20 red zone trips into points this season but have only scored 11 red zone touchdowns through five games.
» The Gators scored more than 21 points in regulation for the first time in nine SEC games.
» UF’s offensive line once again did not allow a sack; the Gators have only given up five through five games, including none against Eastern Michigan, Alabama and LSU.
» Florida entered Saturday with a +8 turnover margin but lost three turnovers in the game and did not gain any back; the Gators are now +5 for the season. UF gained 15 turnovers in its first four games.
» Florida’s run defense had only allowed 11 double-digit runs on the year entering Saturday’s game but gave up nine more over the course of the LSU contest.
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar entered Saturday having caught a pass in 32-straight games. He dropped his only target of the evening and came three games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.

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Late field goal lifts LSU over Florida 30-27

An intense, hard-fought, back-and-forth affair Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, came to a close as Colby Delahoussaye booted a career-long 50-yard field goal to push the LSU Tigers (5-2, 1-2 SEC) to a 30-27 victory over the Florida Gators (4-2, 2-2 SEC).

LSU benefited from three forced turnovers – all coughed up by Florida redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel – tough running and some questionable penalty calls throughout the contest, while the Gators had multiple chances to win the game late but came up short by making numerous mistakes on both sides of the ball.

Freshman running back Leonard Fournette was beastly for the Tigers, taking 27 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. LSU sophomore wide receiver Travin Dural also broke through for 52 yards and a one-handed touchdown, hauling in a huge 41-yard reception on 3rd and 25 late in the game to put his team in position to score.

For Florida, Driskel completed 14-of-25 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown, but a fumbled early in the contest and a late interception (one of two for the game) that led to Delahoussaye’s game-winning field goal. He also carried the ball a team-high 21 times for 71 yards and another score.

Redshirt senior WR Andre Debose was the Gators’ best playmaker on Saturday, returning one punt 62 yards for a touchdown and another 53 yards to set up a second Florida score. He also had one carry for 35 yards. Sophomore WR Demarcus Robinson, the beneficiary of a 73-yard bomb from Driskel late in the fourth quarter, led the wideouts with 104 yards on the evening, and freshman RB Brandon Powell took six receptions for 66 yards.

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9/29: Muschamp talks injuries, support, secondary

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) met with the media on Monday as his team begins preparations for the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC). Florida will look to extend its nine-game winning streak against Tennessee on Saturday at noon when the Vols will host the Gators at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee.

INJURY UPDATES

While Florida’s injury issues are nowhere near as bad as they were in 2013, the team is certainly dealing with some injured Gators one-quarter of the way through the season.

Redshirt senior defensive tackle Leon Orr (meniscus) will be sidelined for Saturday’s game as expected, though Muschamp hopes he will be able to return against LSU. Junior Jonathan Bullard will take many of his snaps on the interior.

Florida’s defense may also be without redshirt senior linebacker Michael Taylor (knee swelling), who is listed as “questionable-to-doubtful” this week. Freshman running back Brandon Powell (hamstring), who has not played since the opener against Eastern Michigan, received a similar designation from Muschamp on Monday.

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