With the No. 18 Florida Gators‘ early non-conference schedule now wrapped up and a 39-0 victory over the UAB Blazers in the books, OGGOA takes a look at some of the notable occurrences before, during and after Saturday’s game with notes and quotes from head coach Will Muschamp and some of Florida’s players.
Before he answered questions about Saturday’s victory, Muschamp gave an opening statement about the game touching on some positives and negatives that he noticed.
“Obviously any time you win it’s a positive and to win 39-0, it’s very difficult nowadays in college football or in any level of football to get a shutout. I’m very proud of our defense but really you got to attribute a lot of that to our offense in the second half. The ability to be able to run the football – that was kind of the plan to win at halftime when we were presented those circumstances. Very pleased with the victory, but I think the red zone offense is disappointing, the defense created one turnover had an opportunity on two other situations.
“I thought we had a chance to get there. We had some miscommunications defensively; I don’t know if we played as well as we would have wanted to play against this football team defensively. Procedural issues are very frustrating – had to take two time outs in the first half – we can’t afford to do that as we move forward in the SEC.”
Redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey
’s 162-yard effort on Saturday once again showed that he is turning into a one-man gang for the Gators’ offense. With four touchdowns in two games, he has accounted for nearly half of the team’s end zone trips and approximately one-third of their offensive yardage. Muschamp was, once again, impressed with Rainey’s output but said it is not coming as much of a surprise to him.
“Since I’ve been at the University of Florida, I’ve watched a guy who is extremely competitive; he’s a great practice player. You ought to come watch a practice – you know, if we ever open it up. It may not happen and he’s a senior,” he joked. “He is extremely electric with the ball in his hands and a lot of fun to watch. You watch him compete in practice – he blocks hard in practice – he does everything that you want a good football player to do to contribute to your football team.
“He brings a certain energy to the football player. He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s worked hard. He’s competitive, he’s tough and God’s blessed him with an awful lot of ability. [...] You see certain guys that have a certain bounce about themselves every day in practice. Chris has that. He positively affects everybody in the organization. A guy that’s really passionate about what he does. He likes football, really enjoys playing football, and I’m glad he’s a Gator.”
Florida honored America during the game by commemorating September 11th with a pre-game video, halftime band tribute, ribbons painted on the orange stadium walls and in-game announcements but nothing was more stirring than watching cheerleaders and players run onto the field with American flags before the game began. Muschamp said that everyone who carried a flag has/had a relative in the military.
Those players included sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley, Brown, redshirt junior linebacker Lerentee McCray, sophomore safety Matt Elam, junior left tackle Xavier Nixon, freshman CB Loucheiz Purifoy and freshman S Jabari Gorman. Additionally, sophomore fullback Jesse Schmitt (who got a carry in the game), will be a commissioned second lieutenant upon graduation.
“9/11 affected us all in different ways. Certainly a very irrational occurrence that happened – very difficult to deal with – so I wanted to pay our respect to those people,” Muschamp said. Nixon also spoke about what it was like to carry the flag out of the tunnel. Flag: “It feels great and prideful. I felt good,” he said. “I saw my mom’s face and it almost brought tears to my eyes because I’m very proud of my parents.”
PENALTIES A MAJOR CONCERN
Through two games, the Gators have accounted for 18 penalties for 120 yards (not counting yardage lost due to plays being called back). Muschamp was aggravated with the fact that the team committed nine penalties for 65 lost yards on Saturday and let it be known that would be a point of education this week.
“We had a miscommunication one series on a call on third down – it’s not what we wanted to be in. We had some penalties that put us behind. I believe we finished the game with nine penalties – too many penalties,” he said. “We had offsides defensively in critical situations, especially third down – disappointing. Discipline issue – penalties, and you can’t afford to have those. You can’t put yourself behind the sticks offensively, especially in the red zone when the pass zone is condensed and it’s tougher to run the football and then people outnumber you in the box. We’re going to go back and look at it and make the corrections we need to make.”
BURTON SEES THE FIELD, SUCCEEDS AS A RUNNER
Having left the season opener early due to a bruise, sophomore RB Trey Burton came on strong in Florida’s second contest, rushing for 46 yards on just a handful of carries and accounting for a touchdown as well. Burton came in as a power back and also took some Wildcat snaps, including one he ran in for a score. “Most importantly it gives Rainey and Demps a break,” he said of his performance on Saturday. “They don’t have to be in every single play. Thankfully Coach [Charlie] Weis is giving me the opportunity to play running back and I really enjoy it.”
Muschamp said he was pleased with what Burton is able to accomplish with his versatility. “I think you see him line up in the slot, you see him line up at fullback, you see him line up at halfback. He’s really good in protection. He’s an outstanding receiver,” he said. “You saw him tonight running the football, getting his pads downhill. It provides for us to get a bigger back in the game with the same personnel grouping on the field with taking a Chris or a Jeff and putting them in the slot with some of our one-back stuff. He’s just a really good player. Football comes very easy to him – he gets it, he understands it. Really happy he’s a Gator.”
RED ZONE EFFICIENCY STILL A CONCERN
The Gators may have scored every time they entered the red zone on Saturday, but Weis was visibly upset on the sideline because Florida failed to convert each trip into a touchdown. Not only did some penalties push UF back, miscommunications and badly executed plays forced the Gators to kick more field goals than they want. Considering Weis believes kicking a field goal in the red zone is a failure, Florida’s offense has a long way to go to be successful in his eyes.
“We moved the ball the whole first half, we just got in the red zone and you just can’t have those critical errors in those situations. It’s demoralizing for an offense to kick field goals in the red zone,” Muschamp explained. “You want to leave with points regardless, that’s the first thing, but when you get down there, you got to put seven on the scoreboard, especially with where we’re heading.
“That’s something we got to get corrected. And it’s disappointing. If they make a good play defensively, we can live with that. We don’t like it, but we can live with it. But when you shoot yourself in the foot, that’s what you can’t [have]. And that’s what we did tonight.”
TURNOVER FOUND, PASS RUSH NOT SO MUCH
Elam ripping the ball out for the first fumble recovery of his career also resulted in the Gators’ first turnover of the year – more than six quarters into the 2011 season. Junior LB Jon Bostic said after the game that it was nice to get the monkey off the unit’s back, but he agreed with Muschamp, who said that one is not nearly enough. “We want to get three. Your chances of winning a game go to 90 percent when you get three turnovers,” Muschamp said. “We just preach over and over again – the game is called ‘football’ for a reason. It’s all about the possession of the ball.”
Florida failed to register a sack on Saturday and the front seven continue to struggle getting consistent pressure on the opposting quarterback. UAB did have a veteran offensive line in the game, but UF must improve in that area overall if they want to win SEC games. Muschamp said he was not so much concerned about the sacks as he is about players hitting the quarterback.
“The sacks are going to come hard when you play an offense like that. The ball is out. It’s a quick passing game; it’s a controlled passing game. There’s not a vertical passing game down the field so it’s going to be difficult to get sacks,” he said. “I don’t look at sacks as much as I look at hits on the quarterback. That’s really important because you’re hitting the guy every snap. I think we got good pressure at times, but the turnovers we need to pick up. We need to do a better job of that.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on controlling the ball and running the clock: “I’m very proud of being able to line up and run it when they know we’re going to run it and we’re still able to run it and take possession of the ball because we’re going to have some games where we’re going to have to do that. Where we’re going to have to slow the tempo down offensively and help our defense play good team football. That was what we wanted to do at halftime.”
» Muschamp on opening up the offense with some wildcat/direct snaps: “We install for the season. We game plan each week to win the game and do what it’s going to take to win the game. Each week we pull a package offensively, defensively and special teams what we’ve got to do to win the football game. We wanted to use some of those things this week. We felt like it gave us a good advantage to win the game.”
» Muschamp on redshirt senior quarterback John Brantley’s performance: “I thought John again played very well, did what we asked him to do within the offense. Again with some of the communication issues, when we had a couple guys go down, we have to iron out. The first person I’m going to blame is me. As a staff we have to get those things communicated better on the field. We’ll get together as an offensive staff tomorrow morning and find out what we got to do.”
» Muschamp on Floyd: “I support Sharrif Floyd. My issue – I stand by it 100 percent – that’s how I feel about the situation. I’m going to move on with it and we’re going to move on with it as the University of Florida.”
» Muschamp on junior RB Mike Gillissle’s touches: “Mike certainly brings some value to our team because he’s different than what we have. You look at Jeff and you look at Chris and they’re both speed backs, they’re both perimeter backs. We do run them inside purposely at times. Mike certainly is a guy that can give us some tough yards in the middle. We run a little different path with him as far as the inside power, the inside zones. He’s a downhill runner. Very pleased with Mike’s progress to this point.”
» Muschamp said he is very pleased with the effort from redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturigs up to this point. He noted that Sturgis has hit from as far as 56 yards in practice but the team’s goal is always to get to the 35 because he is very solid from 52 yards out.
» Brantley on the heavy amount of running the offense did: “The running game was working. Our line did a great job opening up those holes for the running backs. If it’s working, stay with it. That’s Coach Weis’s mentality and that’s what we did.”
» Brantley on the game-opening flea-flicker: “We were working on it all week. We were hoping to get the right look and we did. I got hit on the play, so I really didn’t see much of it, but I heard the crowd cheering so I knew it was good.”
» Brantley on Floyd’s absence: “One of our brothers was down, and we just had to step up. The other defensive linemen, the offense had to step up to make up for that and we definitely missed him.”
» Rainey on his exciting performances: “I’m just doing my job and trying to score the touchdown for the team. I give a lot of credit to the O-line and the receivers because they’re doing a good job blocking out there.”
» Rainey on his quick moves: “I’ve been working on it a lot more – trying to cut fast and not slow down when I cut.”
» Rainey on taking direct snaps: “It was fun – the first time I was doing it so I liked it. I hope we keep doing it. You can see everything – you see like five different holes and you just got to choose one.”
» Rainey on how Muschamp relies on his mindset in practice: “When I’m happy, the team happy. They tell me if I’m down, they down.”
» Nixon on the offense’s ability: “It’s potential is limitless. We’re as good as we want to be any day. The only way we do bad is if we play bad against ourselves – if we mess our own game up with penalties, mental errors and things like that.”
» Burton on getting ready for SEC play: “These first two games help prepare the young guys for the SEC games because they get to get in, play, get a lot of reps. I know as a team we’re really excited to start SEC football. It’s going to be fun.”
» Burton on what he’s told freshmen about playing in the SEC: “I tell them it’s no joke. Every mistake you do they’ll capitalize on it. It’s a little faster. The guys are a little better. Just overall a lot more fun.”