Friday Final: Bittersweet finale for Florida seniors

Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s season finale against the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles, which is scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, and air live on ESPN.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that either broke towards the end of the week or fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the five posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links below).

Monday: Changes ahead for offensive staff | Will Muschamp talks coaching changes, fixing the Gators and more injuries
Tuesday: Brent Pease asked 17 questions about job status, future at Florida
Wednesday: Snell’s Slant: Beat Florida State? It can happen. | Muschamp provides updates on injuries, thoughts about Pease

FINAL GOODBYES FOR GATORS SENIORS

Fifteen Gators football players are guaranteed to step onto Florida Field for the last time as student-athletes on Saturday as they will have used up their eligibility as either true seniors or fifth-year seniors. Below is what many of them had to say about their careers, final home game and last time wearing a Florida uniform.

» Senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins: “It’s going to be very emotional for all of us. We’ve been here four years, some five. We have some who have been here six years. It’s a new chapter for most of us to after football and actually graduating. Some of us are graduating next month. It’s going to be very exciting for both us and our families. … This is our last game we’ll ever play in The Swamp in an orange and blue jersey, so all of the seniors I know are going to go out and give everything they’ve got.”

» Redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio, who will have his parents and fiancée there to support him after running out of the tunnel: “I just hope I don’t cry like everybody else has been saying. It’s going to be very emotional coming out the tunnel one last time. I’m very excited but sad at the same time.”

» Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs, who transferred from a junior college: “It’s bittersweet. Not even just because of the simple fact that this has been a bad season. Mostly because I’m ready to move on to the next part of my life. So it’s bittersweet that way. … I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty emotional, yeah. It’s the last one. It’s probably not going to hit me until probably after a week later that it was my last one.”

» Senior do-everything Trey Burton, who will have multiple members of his family there as well as his wife and baby daughter: “A lot of mixed emotions. I’m really happy for my time here. I wouldn’t want to take anything back, all the challenges and all that type of stuff has helped me mature as a man. I’m just really happy with how things have gone. … I’m going to try not to cry. My family will be out there so I hope it won’t be too bad. I play and I have a lot of emotions for everything I do, so we’ll see. … I think it’s bittersweet for everybody. You don’t want your last game in college football to come and it’s coming.”

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No. 10 Gamecocks fight back to top Gators 19-14

The No. 10/11 South Carolina Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 SEC) withstood a ground-and-pound attack by the Florida Gators (4-6, 3-5 SEC) on Saturday evening at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC, shutting out and therefore outscoring the visitors 13-0 in the second half to pull out a 19-14 victory.

The outcome left the Gators having dropped five games in a row for the first time since 1979 and losing for the first time under the leadership of head coach Will Muschamp when rushing for 150 yards or more in a game (previously 15-0). Florida also lost for just the second time under Muschamp when leading at the half (previously 18-1).

Freshman running back Kelvin Taylor led the way for UF with 21 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns. USC only scored one touchdown on the evening but connected on 5-of-6 field goals to put its SEC East rivals away.

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Friday Final: Changes coming for Gators, Florida player updates heading into Georgia game

Florida Gators coaches and players spoke this week ahead of Saturday’s neural-site contest against the Georgia Bulldogs scheduled to kick off at 3:30 p.m. from EverBank Field in Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.

Below are some stories, notes and quotes that either broke towards the end of the week or fell through the cracks and did not make it into one of the six posts already published here on OnlyGators.com (see links).

Monday: Will Muschamp previews Georgia, updates injuries, talks new starters
Tuesday: Brent Pease talks changes to the offensive line and overall scheme
Wednesday: LT D.J. Humphries out 2-4 weeks, Florida-Georgia updates
Thursday: Overcoming embarrassment, can Gators’ defense return to form?

NEW LEADER IN THE BACKFIELD

Muschamp confirmed on Thursday during his weekly radio appearance that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor will be Florida’s starter on Saturday. “He’s earned the opportunity,” he said. “He’s really done a good job in the opportunities he’s had as the season has evolved.”

MORE CHANGES AT TACKLE

Though the Gators experimented with redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia at left tackle during the off week, he will remain in his current role. Unfortunately, sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphires going down with a sprained MCL on Monday means that redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore, who was actually benched as the starting right tackle in favor of junior Trenton Brown, will be back in the lineup.

“We were going to give Trenton Brown an opportunity to start at right tackle,” Muschamp explained. “Unfortunately, D.J. Humphries sprained his MCL Monday in practice and he’ll probably miss 2-3 weeks. We hope to get him back before then. But Tyler Moore will bump over to left tackle.

“Max has been playing inside and playing very well inside at left guard. We didn’t feel like it was good to move him and possibly create another void at the left guard position.”

BURNING REDSHIRTS

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10/30: Can Florida’s defense return to form?

Florida Gators defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin met with the media on Wednesday ahead of the eighth game of the season against the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 2.

OVERCOMING EMBARRASSMENT

Missouri embarrassed one of the nation’s top defenses two weeks ago, racking up 500 yards of total offense while playing with a quarterback who was making his first career start. The Tigers ran the ball down the Gators’ throats and shredded Florida’s secondary. Suffice to say, the players and coaches were sufficiently ashamed.

“There was obviously things we could’ve done much better in that game,” Durkin said. “We just need to handle [adversity], if that happens to us, bounce back quicker. We’re going to get hit on a play here and there, especially if you’re playing receivers like they got. Credit to them. A lot of 50-50 balls, they went up and made the play.

“We just gotta line back up and go play. I think at some point we didn’t react the way we need to on defense. That’s something that hasn’t happened with our group and obviously we hope it doesn’t happen again. … It was something our guys are not used to, and quite frankly, we don’t want them to be used to it.”

As disappointed as he was in UF’s performance two Saturdays ago, Durkin is confident that Florida will not put up a similar dreadful performance against Georgia this weekend.

“The way our guys practice, the way they prepare, the guys we’re coaching. I think we got guys with great character and guys that are really good football players. Their response this past two weeks with how they’re practicing and preparing tells me they’re ready to move on and they know what it takes and what they need to do,” he said.

Redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor is one of those players, and he was just as adamant as his coach that things would be different this time around.

“That’s not characteristic of us. That’s not what we allow. That’s a one-time thing. I can guarantee you this: that won’t happen again,” he said. “Last week was inexcusable.”

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10/30: D.J. Humphries (MCL) out 2-4 weeks

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp made his scheduled appearance Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference‘s weekly coaches teleconference and touched on a number of topics surrounding his team heading into Saturday’s neutral-site contest against the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville, FL.

ANOTHER BIG LOSS

While he was practicing to save his starting left tackle job on Monday, sophomore D.J. Humphries sprained his MCL and has been ruled out of action for the next 2-4 weeks, Muschamp announced. “He’s a quick-recovery guy. It’s the other knee that he had sprained from earlier in the season. So we’re hoping just two weeks on it and get him back out there,” he said.

Humphries will be replaced on the left side of the line by redshirt sophomore Tyler Moore, who was on his way to losing his starting right tackle job after another poor performance last week. Junior transfer Trenton Brown will start at right tackle in his place. Redshirt junior left guard Max Garcia may also play some left tackle in Saturday’s game as he cross-trained at the position during the bye week.

INJURY UPDATES

The rest of the injury news was positive for a change.

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) is fine and redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) practiced Tuesday for the first time in more than two weeks. He and senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) are both “good to go” for the game. Redshirt junior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) was also able to practice Tuesday, but his status remains up in the air at this time.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Freshmen DTs Joey Ivie and Jay-nard Bostwick have been playing well in practice and may see the field on Saturday. Both players are currently redshirt candidates as neither has stepped on the field this season.

» On whether freshman running back Kelvin Taylor reminds Muschamp of Fred Taylor: “I don’t think that’s fair with Kelvin, to compare him to his father. Kelvin’s his own player and he’s a really good football player. He’s got natural running instincts. He’s a one-cut runner, gets the ball north and south. He’s a guy that’s got some special ability. But the thing that’s really struck me as we’ve moved forward in the season is him doing a better job in protection and some of the other things you got to do at the running back position besides running the ball. He’s really worked extremely hard off the field on those things, and I’m really proud of him.”

» On if he feels bad for Georgia with their injury problems: “Not necessarily. I hurt for young men. These guys put a lot of time and effort into playing college football, and it’s hard, no matter where you are. By the time you put in offseason workouts, spring practice, summer workouts, people don’t realize the amount of time and effort they put in to playing college football. … You don’t want anyone to get hurt. That’s not good for anybody. That’s not good for college football.”

» On Bulldogs RB Todd Gurley: “He’s a back that, whether they block him or not, he gains positive yards. You don’t see many negative plays when he’s in the game. He runs. The thing that strikes me with the guy is he competes, he competes on every run. He goes after it every play. He’s a guy that’s certainly got the speed to take it the distance at any time. … He’s a big, physical back that’s got really good speed. He’s got the combination you want. He catches the ball out of the backfield well, he protects. He’s a complete back, no question.”

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10/28: Taylor to start for Florida vs. Georgia, injury statuses, offensive line updates and more

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss progress made during the off week and the upcoming World’s Largest Cocktail Party showdown against the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 2. The contest will kick off at 3:30 p.m. from Jacksonville, FL, and air live on CBS.

IT’S (“PROBABLY”) TAYLOR TIME

Though Muschamp was quite clear that freshman running back Kelvin Taylor would be getting more work than usual on Saturday against Georgia, he stopped just short of declaring him the unquestioned starter. “Well, we’re working through the week and that’s probably what we’ll end up doing, he said.

Muschamp did, however, offer up a fair amount of praise for Taylor. “He’s continued to improve throughout the season, week-to-week. He’s always been a very instinctive natural runner. It’s very obviously. But again, with assignments and different things, I think he’s done a nice job and he deserves the opportunity,” he said.

Those are sentiments shared by redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy.

“He’s shown that he can do a lot of good things with the ball in his hands. I think the coaches, as well as myself, have to do a good job of finding ways to get him the ball so he can create big plays for us,” Murphy explained. “Like I said, we’re going to need some explosive plays and he has the ability to do that. We’re just going to have to find ways to continue to give him the ball and eventually he’s going to break. He’s very talented, very elusive player. Looking forward to seeing him this week and what role he’ll have.”

ALL HEALED UP

Muschamp did not list Murphy on Florida’s injury report two weeks ago, but he was nevertheless a game-time decision when UF took on Missouri. Murphy played with what was revealed Monday to be a sprained AC joint and put together his worst performance of the season as he was inaccurate with the ball throughout the contest.

“It didn’t bother me at all. I think maybe just not practicing or not throwing a little bit kind of hurt me a little bit. Other than that, I felt fine. It wasn’t bothering me or anything,” he said. “I had that overthrow to Trey [Burton] which hurt us in the beginning. I kind of couldn’t help but laugh because he was so wide open. You gotta hit him.”

Murphy did not throw during the off week – redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg took all the snaps – but should be back in action on Monday and completely cleared to take first-team snaps by Tuesday.

INJURY UPDATES

Redshirt junior linebacker Ronald Powell (ankle) missed Saturday’s game against Mizzou but “ran well” during the off week and even got in some change of direction work on Sunday. Muschamp said he expects Powell back in action on Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest “if he were to play in the game.” He admitted: “[It is] still kind of up in the air whether that will happen or not.”

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) is set to return to practice on Tuesday and is listed as probable, while senior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder) and redshirt freshman tight end Colin Thompson (foot) are both doubtful.

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10/23: Muschamp talks injuries, state of Gators, confidence in staff, running Kelvin Taylor

Updated at 5:45 p.m.

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spoke twice on Wednesday, making his scheduled appearance on the Southeastern Conference‘s coaches teleconference before sitting down with the media for the only time during his team’s off week.

INJURY UPDATES

Florida lost another player for the season, Muschamp announced, as freshman linebacker Jeremi Powell tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a non-contact situation during the Missouri game while on the field with the punt block unit. He is the eighth player the Gators have lost for the season, four of which have gone down with ACL injuries. “He’s a guy who was really emerging, special teams-wise. He did a great job on kickoff for us and on special teams, was really playing well,” Muschamp said.

Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who played Saturday with an injured shoulder after not practicing most of the week, will be held out of practice all week but “will start throwing again next week [and] should be fine” to start against Georgia.

Similar precautions are being used with redshirt junior LB Ronald Powell (ankle), who missed the Mizzou game and will also be held out of practice this week. Muschamp expects to get him back on the field next week. “I think we’ll get Ronald Powell back next week. He’s been unable to do anything thus far this week. He’s been running but just not ready for the change of direction and taking on blocks. But I think he’ll be fine,” he said.

Additionally, senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (head) should return next week. Jacobs was injured against LSU when his helmet came off in a pile and he got kicked in the head. Florida pointed out that he returned to the game, but Jacobs did not fly with the Gators to Columbia, MO, and has not practiced since. “I felt like he was going to play last week. I really didn’t know until Thursday practice he was not going to be able to go,” Muschamp noted.

He also could not provide much of an update regarding redshirt junior LB Darrin Kitchens (shoulder), who is rehabbing from his injury but also currently away from the team with his wife, who gave birth to a baby girl Monday night. “He’s been with his family, which is where he needs to be,” Muschamp said.

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Gameday: No. 22 Florida Gators at No. 14 Missouri

Location: Farout Field at Memorial Stadium – Columbia, MO [Capacity: 67,124]
Weather: 50°F (feels like 45°F), sunny, winds WSW at 14 mph
Time: 12:21 p.m. EDT

TV: SEC Network (Dave Neal, Andre Ware, Cara Capuano) [Affiliates]
SiriusXM: 112/200 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: None
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

No. 22/22 FLORIDA GATORS No. 14/14 MISSOURI TIGERS
Head Coach: Will Muschamp Head Coach: Gary Pinkel
Record: 4-2 (3-1 SEC) Record: 6-0 (2-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -3 | O/U: 43.5

KEEP UP WITH THE GATORS

Busy during the week? Miss a feature, story or post on OnlyGators.com? No worries. Catch up on what you missed via the links below!

Story: RB Matt Jones out for the season | Notebook: Will Muschamp previews Missouri | Notes: Updated depth chart | Story: Limping, struggling Gators down but not out | Notebook: Muschamp updates injuries, kicking game | Notebook: Brent Pease talks RB Kelvin Taylor, pass protection | Friday Final: Florida controls own destiny, players speak

HISTORY / STREAKS / STATS

» Florida and Missouri are 1-1 in the all-time series against each other with UF picking up a 14-7 victory in Gainesville, FL, last season. It was the first meeting between the teams since Mizzou joined the SEC.
» The Gators will be playing in Columbia for the first time. Saturday’s game is also the furthest north Florida has traveled for a game since 1991.
» Last week, the Tigers beat a top-10 opponent on the road for the first time since 1981.
» Last week, the Gators fell to a top 25-ranked opponent for the fourth time in their last five opportunities dating back to Oct. 27, 2012.
» Missouri has not hosted a ranked opponent since Oct. 23, 2010. A victory that evening was also the last time the Tigers started a season 7-0.
» Florida is 15-0 under Muschamp when rushing for more than 150 yards (7-10 when rushing for fewer than 150 yards). The Gators are also 18-4 when holding opponents to fewer than 21 points, 13-3 when an opponent rushes for fewer than 100 yards, 14-4 when scoring first (8-6 when an opponent scores first) and 18-1 when leading at the half (4-9 when tied or trailing at the break).
» UF has registered a nation-leading 104 interceptions since 2008. Florida is also first in interceptions returned for touchdowns (17) and interception return yards (1,830).
» The Gators have forced the most interceptions among SEC teams this century (360).
» Florida has at least one turnover in 17-straight games.
» Missouri has at least one turnover in 36-straight games, the longest active streak in the nation among BCS teams.
» The Gators’ top-ranked defense and Tigers’ top-ranked offense will provide one of the best match-ups of the season. Florida is ranked third in total defense (235.3 yards), fourth in scoring defense (13.0 points) and first in passing efficiency defense (85.52), while Missouri is 12th in total offense (515.7 yards), eighth in scoring offense (45.7 points) and 15th in passing efficiency (158.02). UF is fourth in first down defense (84 allowed) and eighth in third down conversion defense (.271), while Mizzou is 11th in first down offense (164 gained) and 10th in third down conversion percentage (.519).
» Florida is also first in time of possession (37 minutes), second in passing yards allowed (152), fourth in rushing defense (83.3 yards), sixth in kick return defense (16.88 yards) and 13th in red zone defense (.692).
» Missouri is also first in interceptions (13) and fourth in turnover margin (+9).
» The Gators have gained more than 400 yards of offense in three of six games; UF had the same number of 400+ yard games in 13 contests in 2012.

Read about the injuries and absences and much more…after the break!

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