12/17: Muschamp on players, Sugar Bowl, Phillips

No. 3 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss the last two weekends of practice, preview the 2013 Sugar Bowl and update the statuses as well as provide his thoughts about a number of players on the team.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (foot) and redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Ian Silberman (shoulder) will both miss the bowl game. Each player had successful surgery on his respective injury recently but will not be able to return in time. Furthermore, redshirt junior tackle Matt Patchan (torn pectoral) has been doing individual work with the team but has not been cleared to play just yet. Muschamp said there are no other players expected to be absent for the bowl game, though he did mention previously that sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders would not play.

TRANSFER CONFIRMED

Muschamp confirmed that freshman defensive back Willie Bailey, a three-star recruit who did not play this season, has decided to leave the program and pursue opportunities elsewhere. “Willie Bailey has decided to transfer. He and I met last week and felt like he wanted to move on. We will support him in that,” he said.

He also noted that there should not be any more transfers before the bowl game but things could certainly change after Jan. 2. “We’re good right now. Obviously after the bowl game you sit down and evaluate where a young man is but right now we’re good to go,” Muschamp added.

RETURNING TO PRACTICE

Florida has practiced each of the last two weekends but has spent that time mostly working on fundamentals and getting back to basics. Muschamp said that the Gators will begin preparing for the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday. Florida will then take a break for the holidays before resuming practice in New Orleans, LA, the site of the Sugar Bowl, on Dec. 27.

One thing he has tried to do since the end of the regular season is come up with a balance for the team between resting and getting away from it all but still remaining sharp football-wise.

“It’s really important for them to get away and decompress a little bit from football. You look at bowl games, with this long of a layover, it’s a one-game season. That’s how you really got to approach it,” he said. “You got to put all of your energy into it. I don’t like focusing too early on a bowl game because I think the players get too stale with the preparation. They get tired of watching the same film over and over and over again.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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Sugar Bowl against Florida a well-deserved treat for “good guy” Charlie Strong

Charlie Strong and Florida Gators defense are terms that go hand-in-hand, except this time Strong will not be leading one of the best units in the country onto the field but rather trying to figure out a way to score on it.

All of that will occur in one month when Florida and Strong’s Louisville Cardinals square off in the 2013 Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans, LA.

It will be one day short of exactly three years from the last time he donned orange and blue and coached the Gators’ defense against Cincinnati in the 2010 Sugar Bowl. Florida allowed just three points in the first half and cruised to an impressive victory.

“We are so excited here at the University of Louisville to be playing an opponent like the University of Florida,” said Strong on Sunday after the game was announced. “I spent so many years there and I just think back; it seems like it yesterday we were in the Sugar Bowl playing Cincinnati for the last time being at the University of Florida.”

Though he is years removed from the program, Strong praised the Gators’ defense and said he watches Florida play each and every week. In fact, he still communicates with some of the players he helped recruit, most of whom are in their final seasons at UF.

“You look at the defense and you’re so familiar with the guys there, when you think about those guys,” he said. “Lerentee [McCray], he has been there forever, Omar [Hunter] and [Jelani] Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver; and Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he’s still kicking there. You look at [Jon] Bostic and how well he’s played. Then you look at the quarterback position with [Jeff] Driskel being a dual threat where he can run and throw the ball.

“That’s an outstanding program; a program that’s built with toughness, offensive and defensive line, a very tough program. So it’s going to be an exciting matchup.”

Strong certainly seemed enthused on Sunday. His passion for the Florida program sounded as genuine as it was when he was a coordinator. He also took some time to praise the school’s administration, head coach Will Muschamp and what the Gators have accomplished so far this season.

Read the rest of this story…after the break!
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Snell: A good ol’ backyard woodshed ass-kicking

A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell has joined OGGOA as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2012 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.

In a game that most experts predicted was going to bring the Gators back down to earth, Florida came out and once again proved all the naysayers wrong, completely dominating Florida State in the same way they did LSU and South Carolina. This was, by far, the most complete win the Gators have had in the last two seasons and probably the most satisfying, too.

The Gator Nation should give quarterback Jeff Driskel a standing ovation. Ankle sprains, whether severe or not, don’t heal in just two weeks. The training staff obviously worked Driskel over and ensured that he was ready to go on Saturday. One could tell from some of his facial expressions that the ankle (and other parts of his body later in the game) was hurting him quite a bit. That’s true guts, people. That’s one quality of a good leader. He cared more about this team and helping them win than about a bum ankle or the massive shot he took to the side of his body.

Everyone needs to come to the understanding that, at this point, the genetic makeup of this offense, especially at the QB position, is not to put up gaudy, ridiculous video game numbers. Driskel is doing what head coach Will Muschamp and in turn offensive coordinator Brent Pease have asked him to do all year: play smart and make solid gains while taking care of the ball.

This is a big reason why Florida crushed FSU and improved to 11-1 on the year. Driskel, for the most part, managed games very well and ensured his team was always in a position to win. Though he struggled against Georgia and had a costly turnover on Saturday, he also did what was necessary down the stretch to give the Gators a shot in the former game and bring them back in the latter.

He has made crisp, sound decisions, and he has not put the offense in too many situations that were impossible to dig out of. All of this and he is a true sophomore who is still learning how to play college football in his first year with a new offensive coordinator. It is crazy that people were giving him such grief at times because this young man gave you all that he had this year.

Read the rest of this edition of Snell’s Slant…after the break!
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11/26: Jenkins out, players praised, bowl notes

No. 4 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s important 37-26 victory over the then-No. 10 Florida State Seminoles and preview the next few weeks of inaction.

INJURY UPDATES

Exciting the game early, redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins learned that he broke a small bone in his foot and will be out 4-6 weeks. Muschamp said he was having surgery on the foot Monday and will probably miss the bowl game.

Florida is relatively healthy otherwise. Redshirt sophomore LB Neiron Ball (ankle) will be back in time for the bowl game. Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel (ankle) is sore but fine coming out of the Florida State victory. Redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison (ankle) got dinged up and is in a boot but will be OK as well. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Leon Orr (kidney infection) should be able to return to physical activity this week.

As far as sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders, Muschamp said he remains out for the bowl game with what was mentioned a few weeks ago to be the hamstring injury.

Reporter: “Saunders, you said a couple weeks ago wouldn’t…”
Muschamp: “Yeah, he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Is that injury or discipline?”
Muschamp: “Yep. he won’t be in the bowl game.”
Reporter: “Because of?”
Muschamp: “Injury.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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11/24: Florida at Florida State post-game report

No. 4 Florida Gators football (11-1) concluded the regular season with a huge 37-26 victory over the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (10-2) at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL on Saturday. Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media and provided some of his thoughts after the game.

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida won 11 regular season games for the fifth time in school history.
» The Gators are 4-1 vs. teams currently in the BCS top 12.
» Florida is 34-21-2 all-time against Florida State and leads the series 13-11-1 on the road in Tallahassee. This was UF’s first victory vs. FSU in three years.
» The Gators boast the No.1 ranked strength of schedule nationally.
» Florida is 4-6 against ranked teams under Muschamp with a 4-1 mark in 2012 with wins over Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State (and a loss to Georgia).
» The Gators are 12-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards, 11-1 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 12-3 when scoring first and 14-1 when leading at the half.
» Florida has faced four top-25 total offenses, giving up an average of 20 points per game to those teams. FSU was the first opponent that UF let score more than 20 points this season.
» The Gators have faced five top-20 total defenses and five top-20 scoring defenses. Against the Seminoles, the Gators scored 37 points.
» Florida completed 8-of-15 third-down conversion attempts (53.3) percent despite heading into the game with a 34.3 percent conversion average.
» The Gators possessed the ball for 36:20, 3:31 longer than their season average, which ranked ninth nationally and first in the SEC.
» Florida is +17 in turnover margin after being -12 in 2011. UF forced five turnovers on Saturday and gave up the ball just once.
» The Gators are outscoring opponents 115-29 in the fourth quarter in 2012.
» Florida has grabbed 19 interceptions so far in 2012, 11 more than it registered one year ago. UF has grabbed at least one pick in nine games and has also recovered 10 fumbles.
» UF’s defense has allowed just two passing touchdowns over its last six games.

PLAYER NOTES

» Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis made three field goals for the second-straight week and fifth time this season. He has set the school record for made field goals in a career with 69, passing Jeff Chandler’s former record of 67. Sturgis also tied Bobby Raymond’s single-season record of 23 made field goals.
» Senior running back Mike Gillislee became the first Florida rusher to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. Saturday was his third 140+ yard game of the year his fourth two-touchdown game of the season. Gillislee alone rushed for more yards than Florida State has allowed to any team this season.
» Seven different Gators forced and/or recovered turnovers on Saturday: junior safety Matt Elam (INT), redshirt junior Will linebacker Jelani Jenkins (INT), sophomore cornerback Marcus Roberson (INT), sophomore LB Darrin Kitchens (FF), sophomore CB Jabari Gorman (FR), freshman LB Antonio Morrison (FF), junior defensive end Dominique Easley (FR). The five total turnovers were a season-high.
» Sophomore CB Loucheiz Purifoy became the first player since Keiwan Ratliff (2002) to start on offense and defense in the same game.
» Sophomore RB Matt Jones registered a career-high 81 rushing yards and ran for more yards than the Seminoles had given up to six teams this season.

OPENING STATEMENT

“We seem to make it interesting and overcome [the penalties]. Very proud with how we played the game, the mental toughness that we played with. When I first came to Florida, it was a little bit of a question mark. Last time we were in this stadium it was a 31-7 game, and it wasn’t tonight. That football team showed you their resolve and their fight and their oneness and their togetherness, and I’m very proud to be a part of them. We have an outstanding staff that’s completely on board with what we’re trying to do and we have all the support to continue to move forward. Just very proud of the victory. The fifth team in UF history to win 11 games in the regular season. Heck of a season. Pulling for ‘Fight On.’ Some of them guys, I’ve always been a big Lane Kiffin fan.”

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say on the run and the players…

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No. 4 Florida Gators chomp No. 10 Florida State as Mike Gillislee rumbles for two touchdowns

A 24-point fourth quarter for the No. 4 Florida Gators (11-1) turned around what looked to be an epic collapse and clinched a 37-26 win over the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (10-2) at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, FL.

Florida senior running back Mike Gillislee led the way for the Gators offense, rumbling for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. That unit got plenty of support from the defense and special teams, which combined to recover five turnovers on the afternoon. Redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis was also clutch for UF, making all three of his field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards.

Florida opened up the game throwing, completing two of its first three passes and tossing the ball eight times on a 14-play, 54-yard drive that lasted 5:47 and ended with a 39-yard field goal Sturgis. Florida State took the kickoff at the 35-yard line after Sturgis booted it out of bounds and got down to UF’s 27 in just two plays. However, a third-down interception thrown by FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel and caught by junior safety Matt Elam ended the possession without any points going on the board.

The Gators looked to be stalled at their own 34-yard line on their next drive, but a 31-yard scramble by sophomore QB Jeff Driskel extended the possession, which wound up going 62 total yards. Faced with 3rd-and-1 at the Seminoles’ 26, Driskel threw incomplete on a play action and junior running back Trey Burton missed brother and sophomore tight end Clay Burton on a muddle huddle play attempted on fourth down.

A few possessions later, Florida put together another long drive but stalled short of the end zone. The Gators converted two third-down tries but settled for a 45-yard field goal to take a 6-0 lead after gaining 54 yards in 10 plays.

Florida got another big play from its special teams on the ensuing kickoff as junior linebacker Darrin Kitchens forced a fumble that was recovered by sophomore defensive back Jabari Gorman at Florida State’s 21-yard line. Three plays later, Gillislee rumbled nine yards down the left sideline for a touchdown, giving UF a 13-0 lead with 5:26 left in the first half.

The Seminoles were able to hold on to the ball on the next kickoff, but Manuel threw his second interception of the game on the opening play from scrimmage, tossing a bullet right into the hands of redshirt junior Will LB Jelani Jenkins. The Gators would waste the possession by getting called for two penalties and suffering a big loss on third down.

Florida State finally made some offensive gains on its last possession of the first half as Manuel completed three passes and scrambled for 23 yards to put his team in field goal range. The Seminoles reduced its deficit to 13-3 at the half as K Dustin Hopkins knocked in a 50-yard field goal.

UF won the time of possession battle 21:58-8:02 in the first half and nearly doubled up FSU on offense but had a bigger advantage before the home team’s final possession as it sported a 192-53 advantage through the first 27:50 of the opening half.

Read the rest of the Florida-Florida State game story…after the break!
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11/12: Driskel doubtful, injuries, Florida’s case

No. 6 Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review the team’s tight victory over the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns and preview Saturday’s game against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks.

INJURY UPDATES

Sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who went down with what is being called a sprained ankle during the third quarter on Saturday and did not return to the game, was listed as “doubtful” by Muschamp on Monday. He is currently in a precautionary walking boot and will spend Monday and Tuesday trying to rehab his ankle before being given an opportunity to test it out on Wednesday.

Joining Driskel on the “doubtful” list were redshirt sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball (ankle) and redshirt junior wide receiver Andre Debose, who hurt his knee in practice two weeks ago and has yet to play since. Specifics have not been provided.

Muschamp said he expects senior left tackle Xavier Nixon (knee), redshirt senior left guard James Wilson (knee) and redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown (ankle) to return to practice Tuesday and be ready to play on Saturday.

He was not as optimistic about four other players that got hurt on Saturday, noting that he expects redshirt junior WR Stephen Alli (shoulder), sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders (knee), redshirt freshman defensive back Valdez Showers (shoulder) and redshirt sophomore guard Ian Silberman (shoulder) to miss practice on Tuesday. All four will be reevaluated on Wednesday, which is when a decision will likely be made as to whether or not they can play in the home finale.

Read the rest of what Muschamp had to say…after the break!
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Purifoy, Jenkins link up for game-changing play

“In all my years of playing football, I’ve never seen a touchdown like that on a blocked [punt]. I went ballistic,” said Florida Gators junior defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, recalling how Saturday’s game against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns came to a thunderous conclusion right before his very eyes.

For most of the players on the field and many of the fans both in the stands and watching nationally the SEC Network affiliates, Saturday’s game was an unexpected nail-biter and ended with a jolt that was equally unfathomable.

After tying the game 20-20 late in the fourth quarter, Florida kicked off to Louisiana-Lafayette, expecting the team to try and gain a first down in order to run out the final 1:42 of regulation and force overtime.

As head coach Will Muschamp explained:

“We score, I wanted to see what they were going to do. Obviously when they put [running back Alonzo Harris] in the game, which had been about 100 percent run in the game on first down, I knew we had two timeouts. I was going to hold it and see what they did on second down.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns ran the ball again, but Muschamp did not budge and allowed the clock to continue ticking down. After Harris ran a third time and was stopped three yards short of a first down, he called his first time out with 13 seconds left in regulation.

“I felt very good about what D.J. [Durkin] had for a [punt] block. I asked D.J. on the headsets, ‘Do you feel good about [us] getting there?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ So instead of taking this timeout after second down, I was going to take it to overtime and then try to block on third down. It just turns out it worked out well for us,” Muschamp explained.

“They ran the ball there on third down. We called timeout. We had 13 seconds. I told [sophomore safety De’Ante Saunders], ‘Don’t field the ball – get away from it – we’re going to try to block it.’ I told D.J., ‘Make sure we’re safe just in case they might try and fake one.’ He said, ‘We got all the eligible [receivers] covered and we’re going to go after it.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s go do it.’”

And “do it” the Gators did.

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