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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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.

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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 hopes to find replacement for S Keanu Neal, D.J. Durkin talks Gators defensive players

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday, a few days before his team travels to Nashville, Tennessee, to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Durkin evaluated a number of players and discussed how the Gators can improve defensively before their next game.

WANTED: STARTING SAFETY

With sophomore Keanu Neal sidelined for an unknown length of time due to a high-ankle sprain, Florida is searching for his replacement. Twice this week, coaches failed to name one player as Neal’s stand-in, instead choosing to discuss four different players that could line up to senior Jabari Gorman on Saturday.

“Keanu is a great football player; he has played really well for us. He’s productive, flies around and makes a lot of plays. Any time a guy goes down, it’s part of the game and the next guy has to step up and there can’t be a drop off in production. I think we’ll be fine,” said Durkin.

“Marcus Maye has played a bunch for us; Jabari Gorman played his best game since he has been here last week. Those guys combined with Marcell [Harris], Nick Washington and Duke Dawson, there’s a whole group of guys getting reps now and we’ll keep working them through the week to see where we’re at.”

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10/8: Will Muschamp addresses recent incidents, Florida’s preparations for LSU

Updated/completed at 1:35 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) met with the media twice on Wednesday as his team continues its preparations for the LSU Tigers (4-2, 0-2 SEC). Florida is looking to defeat LSU for just the second time since 2010 as the Gators host the Tigers on Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air live nationally on the SEC Network.

Muschamp’s regularly-scheduled media appearance on Monday was postponed as freshman quarterback Treon Harris is currently under investigation for alleged sexual battery. He addressed that and a variety of other topics on Wednesday.

TREON HARRIS SITUATION

With his second-string quarterback, freshman Treon Harris, suspended indefinitely while under investigation for sexual battery, Muschamp declined to comment further on the situation. In fact, he indicated that he preferred to not even have a press conference this week but understood that he needed to in order to help the media do their jobs.

“The statement that the university released Monday, I think, was pretty self-explanatory. It is a very serious charge, and there has been no change in his status,” he said.

“You handle things in life and you move forward and that’s what we’re going to do [as a team]. I feel very comfortable with how we’ve approached this situation.”

Muschamp declined comment on any questions related to Harris.

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Friday Final: Florida confident, prepared for UT

In this week’s Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com tackles the team’s confidence entering its third Southeastern Conference game, the emergence of a young offensive lineman and a look at the unofficial depth chart ahead of the contest.

The Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) hit the road for the second time this season when they face the Tennessee Volunteers (2-2, 0-1 SEC) on Saturday at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game kicks off at noon and will air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Tennessee, talks injuries and support
Notebook: Kurt Roper keeping Florida offense calm, focused
Story: With support, QB Jeff Driskel focused on improvement not criticism
The Silver Lining: QB Treon Harris not ready for prime time
Notebook: Muschamp, D.J. Durkin looking to fix Gators secondary

GOOD TIMING

According to players on both sides of the ball, Florida’s off week came at an opportune time for the program, just as it was coming off a devastating loss on the road to Alabama. It’s not that the Crimson Tide simply defeated the Gators while hosting them in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but rather that the victory was a dominant one which appeared to show that UF still has a long way to go to truly be competitive this season.

Simply put, not all of Florida’s players saw the gap as that wide.

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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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9/24: Muschamp hopeful off week will help Gators; changes in secondary but not at quarterback

Updated at 2:45 p.m.

Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators (2-1, 1-1 SEC) met with the media for the first time this week on Wednesday with his team currently in the middle of its first off week of the 2014 season. He discussed issues on both sides of the ball and updated Florida’s injury list 10 days ahead of the program’s next game on Oct. 4 at Tennessee.

INJURY UPDATES

The Gators could be without two starting defensive front seven players next week as redshirt seniors defensive tackle Leon Orr (meniscus) and linebacker Michael Taylor (knee swelling) were both listed as questionable by Muschamp on Wednesday. Orr had a knee scope on Monday and has a minor tear in his meniscus (along with a bone bruise), though Muschamp said he was walking around on Tuesday and looked to be recovering well. Taylor is dealing with a bothersome bone bruise as well.

Junior left tackle D.J. Humphries (ankle) remains on track to return to practice on Monday and play next week after missing two games, Muschamp said, though he is not the only banged-up offensive lineman the trainers are keeping track of during the off week. Redshirt senior Chaz Green and senior Trenton Brown, who both suffered ankle injuries against Alabama, are “going to be fine” and were listed as probable for next Saturday.

The Gators are also dealing with injuries to two of their running backs. Junior Mark Herndon tore his ACL during a kickoff on Saturday and will be out for the season. Freshman Brandon Powell tweaked his hamstring during an unspecified practice and will likely be sidelined for a couple more days.

Muschamp also clarified Wednesday what injury sophomore cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III was dealing with on Saturday, noting that Hargreaves was dealing with a bruised Achilles that swelled up on him after it had been kicked previously.

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