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.”