11/19: Florida vs. Furman post-game notes

The Florida Gators (6-5) became bowl eligible with one game left to play after fighting back from a 15-point deficit to defeat the Furman Paladins 54-32 on Saturday. OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game along with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and the players.

CAUGHT OFF GUARD

Fans were not the only ones surprised when Furman’s offense gashed Florida in the early part of the game, scoring a touchdown on their first drive and taking a 22-7 lead seemingly without breaking a sweat. Muschamp explained after the game what happened to UF and why the team was not prepared defensively.

“They had been a pro-style team all season. They jump to the double slot option and had not shown a snap all season,” he said. “Obviously the first series we were completely scrambling on defense trying to adjust to it. It’s happened maybe one other time in my coaching career, but it happened today. The next two series we had an eye-control issues on the bubble pass [that] busted coverage for a big play, and then on the fourth one we have an eye-control issue – not watching what you’re supposed to watch. That’s their three scores in the first half.”

Though Muschamp was obviously disappointed in that occurrence, he was happy with the way the Gators responded to being put in a hole so early in the game.

“As ugly as the victory may be for us, the most pleasing part of the win was the fact that nobody panicked on the sideline. We just kept playing, hanging in there, made the adjustments defensively,” he said. “You start to realize that if it could have gone wrong, it already has, so eventually it has to start turning our way. That’s part of the game; that’s why you play the game for 60 minutes.”

Muschamp referred to the strategy as a “good plan on their part” and credited the Paladins and their head coach with being creative and doing what it took to win.

LONG RUN THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

The 77-yard rushing touchdown that Florida was stung by at the end of the third quarter was the one play in the game that truly bothered Muschamp. “Defensively, more than anything, [I’m] very disappointed with the long run there in the second half. You can’t allow that to happen in a game like that,” he said.

After the game, Muschamp criticized the defensive alignment on the play, which was most likely referring to a decision made by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

“We got bounced out of our gap, and we didn’t leverage the ball correctly. We shouldn’t be in a man pressure in that situation. You zone the ball when you’re up 12 in the fourth quarter. We need to do a better job of letting our kids execute in that situation.”

He also addressed the fact that the Gators have been run on quite frequently after being so stout in that area early in the season. “We’ve been exposed on tape in some areas quite frankly,” he noted.

BRANTLEY, DEBOSE BREAK OUT WITH CAREER GAMES

Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley made all of the throws he was supposed to on Saturday, connecting with his pass catchers on 16-of-28 attempts for career-highs of 329 yards and four touchdowns. He did what offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has asked him to do all season – play within himself – and helped rally his team back from a tough early deficit.

“You got to give Furman a lot of credit. They came into here and played us hard and played us well. We just kept fighting. We knew things would go our way if we stayed calm and collected, and it did,” Brantley said. “This team has grown up a lot through these ups and downs, that’s the only think you really can do, learn from it and mature, and that’s what we have done.”

One of those players coming into his own is redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose, who caught three balls from Brantley for a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns (of 80 and 64 yards, respectively).

“The two routes I ran today were go routes. The [defensive back] was a little bit too close, and I took full advantage of it and just beat him with speed. Johnny B had some great throws,” Debose said. “I was very surprised the way they played me the second time. Usually teams put a safety on top and try to prevent the deep ball from us. They really didn’t play it that way, and we took full advantage of it.”

Brantley also hit redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar for a 29-yard touchdown to give Florida the lead at the end of the first half.

INJURY AND ABSENCE UPDATES

Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed, who caught four balls for 56 yards and a touchdown in the first half, left the game before halftime with an ankle injury and did not return. Muschamp said the early indication is that he will be able to play against Florida State on Saturday. Junior tackle Xavier Nixon also left the contest with an undisclosed injury, and his status is to be determined.

Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder) was held out, as was redshirt freshman tackle Chaz Green (ankle) and redshirt senior guard Dan Wenger (ankle). Redshirt freshman safety Joshua Shaw was not at the game after requesting to go home and visit his family due to his grandfather being ill.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Muschamp on Debose: “When we’re able to gain single coverage outside, Andre’s the guy that can do some things vertically down the field. He really made two very nice plays on the ball in my opinion. He’s done that all season for us when given the opportunity. The thing I always challenge him on is mental intensity; it’s got to be an everyday thing. It’s not just a one day thing. That’s where Andre’s biggest challenge is right now. It’s an everyday thing to go out and play hard, concentrate and focus on being a really good player. He’s extremely talented, but if you don’t bring the other part it won’t always happen for you. “

» Muschamp said that being bowl eligible is important but what is even more important are the 15-18 extra practices the team will have. Because 70 percent of the roster is composed of underclassmen, getting the extra reps, snaps and opportunities will give the team a chance to pull together and become even more cohesive with the playbook.

» Muschamp on freshman safety De’Ante Saunders and his second interception in as many games: “Pop’s got really good instincts on the ball. He’s got a very good feel for the game. He’s improved his tackling although he still has some work to do on that. He needs to get stronger – that’s part of the issue being a true freshman. He’s a guy that came in here mid-year, he’s highly intelligent and very smart. He picks things up very well. He can play corner, nickel, dime, safety – he can play every position we have. He’s got very good football instincts and that’s what makes him a very good player.“

» Muschamp on if Urban Meyer going to Ohio State would surprise him: “Yeah, it would. I think it would be great for college football. I think Urban is an outstanding football coach. He does it the right way. He did a phenomenal job at Bowling Green, Utah and obviously here at Florida. He’s just a first-class guy. With his deteriorating health there and his family – as important as that is to him – I wouldn’t think he would, but again that’s just my opinion.”

» Brantley on Debose: “He’s one of the fastest people on the team. As long as they give you the right coverage and you throw a decent ball to just give him a chance, he’s coming up with it more times than not.”

» Brantley on the team struggling to start: “All of us are recruited very highly. We want to play at our best each time. Sometimes that doesn’t happen. You get a little frustrated, but you just got to keep learning from it and moving on.”

» Debose on his consistency: “I would say my consistency is a lot better. There are still things I have to work on myself, but I would say overall my consistency is much better.”

» Debose on Muschamp motivating him: “Coach Champ, he just stays on me all the time. This week he’s been saying mental intensity and jamming that in my head.”

» Debose on what he has to improve: “My routes – it takes a lot for me to work on my routes. Coming in and out of my cuts and working off the jam, I have a lot of trouble when somebody comes up and tries to jam me.”

» Junior linebacker Jon Bostic on redshirt sophomore LB Jelani Jenkins’s pick-six: “He needed that. He made a great play on the ball. The quarterback threw it high; he picked it off and took it back”

» Bostic on teams running all over the defense: “That’s our main priority – stopping the run. They came out and gave us a couple new wrinkles. We made the adjustments and gave up one play [after that] and that’s about it.”

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Florida escapes Furman with 54-32 victory

A victory may have been in doubt for a while, but the Florida Gators (6-5) fought back from a 15-point first quarter deficit to defeat the Furman Paladins (6-5) 54-32 on Saturday afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL.

Florida senior quarterback John Brantley completed 16-of-28 passes for career-highs of 329 yards and four touchdowns in the win. With the victory, the Gators became bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season, the longest streak in the Southeastern Conference and second-longest in the nation.

Furman shocked Florida by scoring on their first possession, running the ball six-straight times for 67 yards and a rushing touchdown after UF redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 51-yard field goal attempt.

The Gators committed a safety the next time they got the ball when redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison snapped it over Brantley’s head close to the end zone. The Paladins took advantage of the short field on the ensuing kickoff by concluding a five-play, 55-yard drive with a 31-yard touchdown through the air.

Down double digits, Florida fought back immediately. Brantley completed a 41-yard pass deep down the right sideline to redshirt senior wide receiver Denote Thompson and another 14-yard strike down the middle of the field to redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed three plays later for a touchdown.

With their lead cut to eight, Furman looked to regain their two-score advantage. Stationed at UF’s 47-yard-line, QB Chris Forcier tossed the ball to TE Colin Anderson, who threw it 47 yards down the field to Sederrik Cunningham for a touchdown.

The Gators were reeling at the end of the first quarter but took it to the Paladins shortly after the second quarter began. Florida ended a seven-play, 65-yard drive with a one-yard rushing score by freshman fullback Hunter Joyer, and Brantley hooked up with redshirt sophomore WR Andre Debose for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of UF’s next possession. A two-point conversion failed, leaving the Gators down 22-20.

Florida sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley blocked a punt on FU’s next drive, getting his team the ball back at their opponent’s 34-yard-line. Brantley responded with a 29-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman WR Quinton Dunbar, who tapped one foot down in the back of the end zone for the score.

UF had a chance to add a field goal at the end of the half, but Sturgis pushed a 40-yard attempt to the left and Florida kept its 27-22 lead at the break.

The teams traded field goals and punts to open the second half before swapping touchdowns to close the third quarter. The Gators had possession with 1:16 to play in the quarter, and Brantley again threw deep to Debose for a 64-yard touchdown. The Paladins responded immediately with a 77-yard rushing touchdown from running back Jerodis Williams on the first play of their ensuing possession.

Florida held just a five-point advantage into the fourth quarter but took their shots at Furman from that point forward. Sturgis nailed a 55-yard field goal to end the quarter’s first possession, and freshman safety De’Ante Saunders intercepted Forcier’s next pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to put the Gators ahead 47-32.

After another pair of punts, Florida got back on the board when redshirt sophomore Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins picked off Forcier and returned it 75 yards for the second pick-six of the game.

Though they were trailing 22-7 at the end of the first quarter, the Gators outscored the Paladins 47-10 through the final three quarters of the contest.

Debose had a career-high 151 yards and two touchdowns, and redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey led the rushing attack with 15 carries for 90 yards. Reed added four receptions for 56 yards and a touchdown, Dunbar had two catches for 54 yards and a score, and Thompson made two grabs for 45 yards.

Saunders registered Florida’s first interception return for a touchdown this season and caught his second pick in as many games. Jenkins nabbed his first interception of the season after dropping a number of balls early in the year.

Sturgis’s two field goals gave him 44 for his career, good for second all-time in school history behind Jeff Chandler (67).

The Gators posted more than 50 points in a game for the first time since registering 55 against Vanderbilt one year ago.

Despite the 22-point victory, Florida only outgained Furman 453-445. The Gators had 116 more yards in the air (329-213) but were outrushed 233-124 on the afternoon. UF committed six penalties for 60 yards in the contest, gave up two fourth-down conversions (on two attempts) and possessed the ball 13:24 less than FU (23:18-36:42).

Florida will conclude its regular season next Saturday by hosting rival Florida State in The Swamp. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m., and the game will air live on ESPN2.

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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Florida Gators vs. Furman Paladins Gameday

Location: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 88,548]
Weather Forecast: 77°F, partly cloudy, winds E at 10 mph
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: Pay-Per-View
SiriusXM: 217/198
Online Video: ESPN3.com (Subject to blackout)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

FLORIDA GATORS FURMAN PALADINS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Bruce Fowler
Record: 5-5 (3-5) Record: 6-4 (5-3)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -31

HOMEWORK

Need to catch up on the Gators before week four action? No problem. OGGOA has been here all week compiling a ton of information so you can do your homework on the team before its next exam Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

Story: Florida’s little mistakes result in big losses
Story: Gators’ CB Marcus Roberson out for season
Story: Foley says Muschamp has a chance to be “special”

Muschamp’s presser | Weis comments on offense | Quinn comments on defense

HISTORY and STREAKS
» Florida leads the all-time series against Furman 6-2 but has won six-straight games dating back to 1947. The teams have not played since 1990.
» All five of the Gators’ losses this season have come to ranked opponents.
» UF will be bowl eligible with a victory on Saturday.
» Florida is 5-0 when outrushing their opponent but 0-5 when being outrushed.
» The Gators are last in the nation in penalties, committing 83 in 10 games. Florida has lost/given up 614 yards due to those miscues. Those numbers average out to UF committing 8.3 penalties per game for 61.40 yards.
» In their five victories, the Gators are outscoring opponents 54-3 in the first quarter, while in their losses they have been outscored 31-20. Florida has also scored on their opening drive in four of 10 games.
» UF’s offense has struggled as of late, and the Gators have had major problems putting the ball in the end zone. Florida has scored points in 28 of 40 quarters this season and touchdowns in only 20 of those quarters.
» The Gators have half as many upperclassmen (13 seniors, 12 juniors) as they do underclassmen (27 sophomores, 23 freshmen) seeing action this season. The roster is equally split with 19 seniors, 14 juniors, 33 sophomores and 33 freshmen.
» Florida is only converting 45 percent (14-of-31) of their red zone opportunities into touchdowns but has scored at least a field goal when the offense has a possession inside the 20-yard-line 87 percent of the time.
» The Gators have a negative turnover margin in their wins and losses this season. UF is -1 in its five wins and -9 in its five losses.
» Florida is No. 12 nationally and fifth in the SEC in total defense (305.4 yards per game). The Gators are also No. 20 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense (19.3 points per game).
» UF’s pass defense is allowing just 113.9 yards per game, good for fourth in the SEC and eighth nationally.
» The Gators’ defense is fifth in the nation in preventing third-down conversions, allowing just 29.4 percent of those attempted to be successful. However, UF is 55th nationally in preventing fourth-down conversions, allowing a 47.6 percent success rate.
» Florida’s defense has forced the most turnovers in the SEC (313) since 2000. UF also has the most interceptions in the nation (74) since 2008.

LAST TIME OUT

Florida last faced Furman during the third week of the 1990 season, defeating the Paladians 27-3 in Gainesville, FL. Gators quarterback Shane Matthews passed for 238 yards and three touchdowns in the victory, which was Florida’s third-straight in route to a 9-2 season with losses only to Tennessee and Florida State.

INJURIES / ABSENCES

» Questionable: Redshirt junior Sam linebacker Lerentee McCray (shoulder), redshirt freshman offensive tackle Chaz Green (ankle), redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr (shoulder)
» Inactive: Redshirt senior guard/center Dan Wenger (ankle), redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown (knee), freshman CB Marcus Roberson (neck)

PLAYERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON

FLORIDA
» Redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley (#12)…who has completed 59.1 percent of his passes (107-of-181) this season for 1,479 yards and six touchdowns but also threw three interceptions including one returned for a score. Brantley had missed 10 quarters of action after injuring his ankle against Alabama but returned with limited health and mobility against Georgia.
» Redshirt senior RB Chris Rainey (#1)…who has 993 yards of total offense this season with five touchdowns (including a punt block return). Rainey is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and 14.6 yards per reception and leads Florida in rushing and receiving this season. He became the first player in school history to have a rushing, receiving and return touchdown in the same game, achieved the school and SEC record for career punt blocks (five), and is the active leader in that category nationally. He also rushed for 100 yards or more in three-straight games, the first UF player to do so since Fred Taylor last accomplished that feat 14 years ago.
» Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Andre Debose (#4)…who jumped to second on the Gators’ receiving list with mirror image 65-yard touchdowns against Alabama and LSU. Fans have been waiting for Debose to emerge for some time, and his 272 receiving yards are the second-best on the team through its first 10 games. Additionally, his 22.7 yards per catch is the highest average in the SEC and second nationally.
» Redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed (#11)…who had a season-high five receptions for 62 yards last week and has caught 12 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown over the last three games. Reed is starting to emerge as a reliable receiving option for Brantley and Florida.
» Sophomore safety Matt Elam (#22)…who is the most valuable member of Florida’s secondary. He is second on the team in tackles (61) and at one point created turnovers in three-straight games (fumble-INT-INT). His 12 tackles against LSU a month ago marked a career high, and his 7.5 tackles for loss this season are a team-high.
» Defensive tackles sophomore Dominique Easley (#2) and redshirt senior Jaye Howard (#6)…who have solidified the interior of the Gators’ strongest unit. Howard is the team’s most experienced player on defense (27 starts), while Easley may be its most dynamic off the snap, with a first-step raved about by teammates and coaches alike. Howard and Easley have combined for 12.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
» Linebackers junior Jon Bostic (#52) and redshirt sophomore will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (#3)…who are 1-3 on the team in tackles. Bostic (77) and Jenkins (50) have each excelled in different areas for Florida. The former has six tackles for a loss and three sacks while the latter has one sack and five pass breakups on the year.
» Redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs (#19)…who has returned for Florida after missing eight games one year ago with an injured back. He is 19-for-21 in field goal attempts on the season (long: 55) and is perfect with 21 extra points, leading the Gators with 78 points scored this season. Sturgis is third in the nation with 19 field goals made but missed a game three weeks ago (leg).

FURMAN
» QB Chris Forcier…who has passed for 2,099 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season and leads the FCS in passing efficiency with a 180.9 rating. He is completing 65.4 percent of his passes in 2011 and hopes to top former Gators QB Ingle Martin for most touchdown passes in a season in school history (22).
» RB Jerodis Williams…who has rushed for 922 yards with seven touchdowns this season. He is attempting to become the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2003.
» TE Colin Anderson…who is the team’s leading pass catcher with 668 yards and seven scores on 38 receptions. He is a big target and great outlet for Forcier.
» LB Kadarron Anderson…who has registered 111 tackles (5.5 for loss) with two sacks and a forced fumble in 2011 but may miss the game after spraining his knee against Elon last week. Anderson has started 32-straight games for Furman.

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SIX BITS: Trattou, Donovan, Dwyer, gym, swim

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou will participate in the 2011 East-West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, FL on Saturday. He will wear No. 84 in the game, which will air live on NFL Network at 4 p.m.

2 » Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan is currently participating in The Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is representing the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization in the contest. Vote for him right here and remember that “inspiration is contagious.”

3 » When it comes to Dwyer High School four-star quarterback recruit Jacoby Brissett (West Palm Beach, FL), it seems no one knows exactly what he is going to do. Though he has officially eliminated South Carolina and Florida State from contention, Brissett is being pursued heavily by a number of schools in addition to the Gators. Miami and Washington are both going hard after him, according to the Palm Beach Post. Dwyer head coach Jack Daniels believes Brissett is the “No. 1 player [Miami] target[s],” and says the player is intrigued by Washington because of their success in getting players ready for the NFL. Daniels disputed that Brissett “holds a grudge” against Florida. “He doesn’t hold a grudge because it’s a new coaching staff. He’s just proud, and he wants to show everyone who didn’t offer him early,” he said. “It wasn’t against UF; it was against the staff that was there before.” That statement aligns with the original story on the subject, the point being that the negative feelings may be too much to overcome – even with a new coaching staff in place.

Daniels also told the Post that four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt (West Palm Beach, FL) was pleased with an in-home visit from Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley. He is planning to visit the Gators next weekend and, though he may take an unofficial trip to Miami, is likely between UF, UT and Wisconsin with the first two schools out in front.

4 » No. 1 Florida gymnastics (3-0, 2-0 SEC) continued their winning ways on Friday, defeating the No. 24 LSU Tigers (0-3, 0-2 SEC) 196.425-194.00 on the road at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, LA. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson won her 10th all-around title while claiming at least a share of each of Friday’s five event titles. She is the first Gators gymnast since 2000 to sweep all of the event titles in a single meet, winning the floor exercise (9.95), vault (9.90) and balance beam (9.825) while sharing the uneven bars title (9.80).

5 » Though they put together a solid performance, No. 5/6 Gators men’s and women’s swimming fell to the No. 6/12 Auburn Tigers on Friday at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn, AL. The men (4-3, 2-1 SEC) lost 167-133, while the women (4-4, 0-2 SEC) were upended 165-135. Florida’s men had not fallen in SEC competition in almost two full years…their prior defeat also came at Auburn on Jan. 24, 2009.

In more upbeat news, three Gators swimmers were selected to the United States’ 2011 FINA World Championship Team on Friday. Senior Conor Dwyer, junior Teresa Crippen and freshman Elizabeth Beisel will all participate for USA Swimming in Shanghai, China from July 24-31. Gregg Troy, Florida’s head swimming coach who agreed to coach the United States’ men’s team at the 2012 London Olympics, will be an assistant coach on the FINA squad, which also features another former Gators swimmer, Ryan Lochte. Florida’s three selections to the team led any NCAA school.

6 » No. 9 Gators men’s tennis (1-0) took home an impressive 7-0 victory against the Furman Paladins in their season-opener on Friday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won their doubles match 8-3; No. 4 Lacroix also won his singles match 6-0, 5-7 (10-4). Other ranked victories came from sophomores No. 28 Sekou Bangoura, Jr. (6-1, 6-1) and No. 52 Bob van Overbeek (6-0, 6-1) in singles action.

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