Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to review his team’s 20-17 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies in the league opener for both squads on Saturday. He also discussed the game ahead this week as Florida will travel to Knoxville, TN to face the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday at 6 p.m.
EXPERIENCE AND TOGETHERNESS
Muschamp said after Saturday’s game that he is not sure if the Gators would have prevailed in a similar situation a year ago. Asked Monday why that would be the case, he pointed to two things in particular that have improved as far as the team is concerned over the last few months.
“The number one thing is experience,” he said. “We had a bunch of guys playing for the first time last year. You look at our sophomore class from last year, I know I can’t tell you the exact number of snaps they played their freshman year, but it wasn’t many. So for the first time a lot of these guys were in those situations and playing for the first time.
“Togetherness – I think this is a pretty close team. You didn’t see any finger-pointing at halftime; you didn’t have any of that. You didn’t have the offense and defense divided in what we were trying to do. As a matter of fact, [offensive line coach] Tim Davis said in a staff meeting yesterday how good it was that the defense came off the field telling the offense, ‘Let’s go. Let’s keep it going.’ When you start to see things like that and guys pulling for each other and understanding it’s bigger than what’s on the back of their jersey – that it’s about playing for each other. I think this team has shown that they are willing and able to do that.”
Offensive Player of the Game: redshirt junior center Jonotthan Harrison
* Muschamp said he was pleased with the way he directed the offensive line and got the team in and out of protections.
Scrap Iron: senior tackle Xavier Nixon and redshirt junior guard Jon Halapio
Defensive Player of the Game: senior Mike linebacker Jon Bostic
* Muschamp said he made a bunch of good plays in space and in the run game and was also a big-time leader throughout the contest.
Hard Hat: freshman LB Antonio Morrison
* Muschamp said he liked his physicality and instinctiveness. “This guy. He’ll throw his stuff up in there.”
Special Teams Players of the Game: redshirt senior kicker Caleb Sturgis and sophomore defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy
* Muschamp said Purifoy did an outstanding job playing coverage on punts and held a big-time returner to next to nothing throughout the game.
* Sturgis was also named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week
Big Play: redshirt sophomore running back Mack Brown
* Muschamp said Brown’s big play came on the kickoff after the final touchdown when he blew up the wedge and made a tackle inside the 20. “What a momentum change for us – to continue to have the momentum as opposed to letting him get to the 35-40-yard line. It’s a field goal game. People don’t see those things. What a huge play he made there; really proud of his efforts.”
Scout Team Players of the Week: walk-ons redshirt freshman defensive lineman Evan Holmes, junior wide receiver Ryan Parrish, freshman WR Darius Masline
NOTES AND QUOTES
» Muschamp on the overall game:
“It was a great effort by our team. Very pleased in a team win, and I mean that in all parts as far as offense, defense and special teams. Not always exactly what we wanted in any phase but certainly picked each other up when we needed to throughout the game. That’s a credit to our players.”
» Muschamp n dominating the fourth quarter: “Won the fourth quarter. That’s something we emphasized to our guys – making plays in those situations and opportunities when they present themselves. Thought we did a good job of that.”
» Muschamp on the defense’s resurgence in the second half: “The second half they had six possessions and five of them were three-and-outs. Our guys came out poised at halftime, understood what we needed to do to be successful. Didn’t get any turnovers. We need to start the game better. We need to play with more discipline on defense, that’s the bottom line. I said it after the game. Our effort and your enthusiasm and our want-to is off-the-charts, but we’ve got to play more disciplined as a group as far as doing your job. You can’t cross-face on blocks and back-door blocks. It’s out of effort of wanting to make a play; it’s not out of defiance of not wanting to do something. It’s just guys that are trying to do a little too much. We just need to do our job.”
» Muschamp on how well the special teams unit played: “Special teams – back to our standard. Great effort. Outstanding effort on special teams. We’ve got some guys that were straining their guts out there, playing a bunch of snaps in a hot, hot day there in Texas. Very pleased with them.”
» Muschamp on Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley and the Volunteers: “He’s done a nice job there at Tennessee, especially if you look at their football team right now from a year ago. Obviously the injuries they had last year decimated their season. […] You got an experienced team back. They want to be physical and run the football. They want to take advantage of their strengths offensively which are at the quarterback and receiver position this time. He wanted to get more aggressive defensively, and I think they’ve done that. His background has always been in special teams and I think they’re really good on teams. I think you’re seeing a little bit more of his identify and personality in this football team as maybe opposed to the previous two years.”
» Muschamp on the luxury of having Sturgis on the roster: “He’s very accurate and very dependable, never gets shook. He just lines up and does his job. […] In my two years as head coach to have that opportunity to have a guy like him has just been a relief.”
» Bostic on the team’s winning streak against UT: “It’s a rival you never really want to lose to. Going into the season it’s always one of the games on your schedule that’s always circled. Pretty much a statement game. That’s usually our first SEC game but this year it’s our second, so we want to keep it going.”
» Bostic on the young linebackers: “Those guys, they can play. Even though they haven’t played as much, they can play. They learned the defense just like we did. It goes by game experience now. As soon as they get in they pretty much get to play and make checks just like I am.”
» Bostic on freshman LB Antonio Morrison: “He’s a physical linebacker, especially for a freshman. He doesn’t play like a freshman. He’s smart, pretty much learns from our mistakes. That’s one thing – you see him after every practice he’s beating me in the film room. That’s a good thing to start out with as a freshman because a lot of freshmen really don’t understand how important watching film is.”
» Bostic on redshirt junior cornerback Jeremy Brown: “It just shows how much of a fighter he is. He’s open of those type of guys, you see him in the training room 24/7. He’s not one of those guys who is ever down. He’s always laughing, smiling with a positive attitude. I respect him for that. He’s one of those guys who has been through pretty much everything and just keeps coming back.