Friday Final: Florida preparing for Maty Mauk, Alex McCalister stepping up for Gators

In this week’s edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at the Florida Gators (3-2, 2-2 SEC) as they prepare to host the Missouri Tigers (4-2, 1-1 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. and air live on ESPN2.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Missouri prep begins with Florida playing two quarterbacks
Notebook: Kurt Roper talks Gators’ offense and rushing attack
Story: Jeff Driskel will start as Florida readies Treon Harris
Notebook: Will Muschamp updates team injuries, quarterback situation

GATORS LOOK TO AVOID BEING MAUK-ED UP

One year ago, while making his first career start against a reeling Florida team, Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk looked like a seasoned veteran, throwing for 295 yards and a touchdown and hitting the ground for another score. Sixty-one of those 295 yards came on two passes within the first 22 seconds of the game, as Mauk completed a 41-yard toss and then a 20-yard touchdown throw on consecutive plays. Suffice to say, the Gators have no plans to underestimate him this time around.

“I think he’s a very good player. He’s a guy that can make all the throws. He’s got extreme arm talent. He’s got good touch; he can zip it when he needs to. He’s got great legs,” said Florida head coach Will Muschamp. “He’s a guy that throws it extremely well. He has great command of their offense and what they do and how they’re doing it. I think he needs to get a little more help around him.”

Mauk threw four interceptions this week, though like many committed by the Gators this season, his Tigers playmakers have been partly responsible for some of his miscues by either running wrong routes or tipping decently-to-well-thrown passes. Prior to that game, he had a 14-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

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Friday Final: Roper on quarterbacks, offensive problems; Durkin on fresh faces on defense

In this week’s special edition of Florida Football Friday Final, OnlyGators.com takes a look at what offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin had to say ahead of the team’s fourth Southeastern Conference game.

The Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) return home to host the LSU Tigers (4-2, 0-2 SEC) on Saturday evening at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. and air live on the SEC Network.

THIS WEEK ON ONLYGATORS.COM

Notebook: Will Muschamp addresses recent incidents, prep for LSU
Story: Coaches want Gators’ playmakers to step it up

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Quarterback Jeff Driskel is having a horrible redshirt junior campaign. As a full-time starter, he’s completing a career-low 54.7 percent of his passes and averaging a career-worst 5.0 yards per attempt. He has thrown more interceptions through four games (six) than he did in 13 starters in 2012 (five).

Simply put, Driskel has regressed in a major way, and there should be no doubt whatsoever that confidence is the biggest factor in his decline. While Roper understands what is wrong with Driskel, he does not see a player struggling with confidence or poise.

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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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10/4: Florida-Tennessee post-game report

A come-from-behind victory fueled by a first-year signal caller led the Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) to a hard-fought 10-9 win over the Tennessee Volunteers (3-2, 1-2 SEC) at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Saturday afternoon.

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

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida has now won 10-straight games against Tennessee, a winning streak that dates back to 2005. The Gators are 25-19 all-time against the Volunteers and now 12-11 when playing in Knoxville. UF is 23-6 against UT since 1976 and 9-2 in Knoxville since 1994.
» Overcoming a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Florida pulled off its biggest come-from-behind victory in the last period since 2003. It is also the second-best road comeback for the Gators since 1966, per UF.
» Tennessee shutout Florida in the first half for the first time since 1955. It was the Vols first such shutout against any opponent since 2007.
» The Gators’ 10 points were the fewest in a win for the program since 1968 (nine, Florida State), per ESPN Stats & Information.
» It was the seventh time in the last 16 games that the Gators were held without a touchdown in the first half. UF is now 2-5 in such games after the victory, per ESPNSI.
» The Gators are now 21-4 against unranked opponents under Muschamp and 12-2 against unranked SEC teams during his tenure.
» Tennessee entered Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 nationally in third down defense (.208), while Florida was ranked No. 106 in the country in third down offense (.340). The Gators converted 35.0 percent of their third downs, the Vols just 29.4 percent.
» UF is still +8 in turnover margin on the season after finishing even (3-3) with UT.
» Redshirt senior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar has now caught a pass in 32-straight games. He is three games away from tying a school record for most consecutive contests with a reception.
» Redshirt sophomore defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. exploded on Saturday with five solo tackles, three sacks, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery. It is the first three-sack game for a Florida player since 2009 (Carlos Dunlap).
» The Gators’ six total sacks against the Vols were second-most in series history (seven, 1999).

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Florida Gators edge Tennessee 10-9 in Knoxville

Despite trailing early in the fourth quarter on the road at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, the Florida Gators (3-1, 2-1 SEC) rallied behind a quarterback change and scored 10 unanswered points to pull off a 10-9 victory against the rival Tennessee Volunteers (2-3, 0-2 SEC).

Florida has now won 10-straight games against Tennessee dating back to 2005 with Saturday’s 10-9 win tying the 2006 game (21-20) for the closest victory in that span.

The Volunteers led 3-0 at the end of the first half, shutting out the Gators in that period for the first time since 1955, but were unable to score in the last quarter of the game as Florida made a key substitution.

With redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel struggling (11-for-23, 59 yards, three interceptions), freshman Treon Harris entered in the fourth quarter and led the Gators to a pair of scoring drives. Though Harris completed just 2-of-4 passes for 17 yards and carried four times for 24 yards, the team’s change in energy was palpable with him in the game.

Florida also benefited from a tremendous rushing effort from junior running back Matt Jones (27 touches for 133 total yards, touchdown) as well as a stout defensive effort including six sacks, 10 tackles for loss, two interceptions (one to seal the game) and a forced fumble.

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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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Florida secondary faltered early, strengthened late

Though offense has been a struggle for the Florida Gators during head coach Will Muschamp‘s tenure, the team’s defense has been well-respected and even feared by opponents over the last three seasons.

Florida looked to be trending upward offensively and holding steady on its defensive success after its 65-0 season-opening rout of Eastern Michigan, but Muschamp cautioned after the game that his young secondary made a number of mistakes in the game that a better opponent would expose.

That opponent was the Kentucky Wildcats.

Picking on the Gators’ young defensive backs, Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles passed for 369 yards on Saturday – only eight fewer than he did against Tennessee-Martin – and a career-high three touchdowns.

Florida gave up eight big plays in the game and 173 yards on six of them, mostly due to miscues in the secondary.

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