1 » FOXSports.com college football columnist Bruce Feldman believes the Florida Gators face the third-toughest road to the 2014 College Football Playoff, only behind Arkansas and California. With Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State on the schedule – plus a rebuilding Tennessee and improving Kentucky along with a Vanderbilt team that snapped its 22-year losing streak to UF – Feldman believes the Gators will wind up facing up to five top 15 opponents by the time the regular season has concluded. As a means of comparison, the Razorbacks will take on Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and LSU with games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State peppered in there as well.
For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.
13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.
12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.
11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.
Updated on Monday at 6:15 p.m.
Quarterback Tyler Murphy, who was expected to be a redshirt senior competing for a starting job with the Florida Gators in 2014, chose on Sunday to leave the program and pursue other options, a decision that reportedly shocked head coach Will Muschamp.
Muschamp, who denied to The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley this week that Murphy was planning to leave the Gators after saying he had already spoken with the player and his family, told him on Sunday that Murphy did not attend the team’s annual postseason banquet and suddenly became aloof over the weekend.
He called Murphy, who didn’t answer but eventually responded with a long text message saying he felt he needed to go somewhere where he’d get a chance to start, Muschamp said.
“I told him it would be an open competition, just like I told him Jeff Driskel would be our starter last year,” Muschamp said.
Murphy completed the requirements for his bachelor’s degree in the fall and graduated on Saturday. He can transfer to another program and be eligible to play immediately without being forced to sit out a full season.
But he tells a different version of the story to GatorCountry.com, stating that he did originally tell Muschamp earlier in the week that he had not decided to transfer but also made the coaching staff aware that he would be unable to attend the banquet as he was taking his parents to the airport at that time.
Once he and his family decided his fate during that car ride, he tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Muschamp on Sunday. Instead, he was told to call Muschamp. The coach did not pick up, so Murphy sent the aforementioned text message and waited for a return call, which he received immediately.
“He wasn’t happy with [the decision to leave]. He told me he didn’t think it was a good decision for me. We kind of just went back and forth a little bit, talking about the whole situation and stuff for next year. When he kind of felt where I was leaning towards he said he appreciated everything I’ve done and stuff like that. When we hung up I thought everything was good.”
Murphy said he never intended to break the news to Muschamp via text message.
“I never tried to tell him what was going on through text,” he said. “I sent him a text kind of just so when he saw the missed call he knew what I was calling about and I could get his attention so hopefully he would call me back when he was free.”
“I was never trying to duck on him or not do it in a mature way,” Murphy said. “It just so happened that he had to hear it from me through text because he didn’t pick up my call and I couldn’t meet with him in his office.”
Criticism began to rain down on both parties Monday with some upset about the way Murphy reportedly left and others infuriated that Muschamp would allegedly paint the player in a bad light, especially one who had been a model member of the program.
The quarterback’s father, Peter Murphy, fell in the later category and discussed his concerns later Monday with Phillip Heilman of the Palm Beach Post ($).
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 game against the Florida State Seminoles.
Muschamp said redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) is “still questionable” though he did throw some early in the week. Others who might be able to play include junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) and sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard (knee).
Sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL), redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor (MCL) and freshman LB Alex Anzalone (shoulder) are all out for the game.
In his only question of the day, Muschamp was asked to evaluate the job offensive coordinator Brent Pease has done as a play-caller this season.
“I think when you lose three offensive tackles and two quarterbacks and a 1,000-yard rusher, it makes it very difficult to call plays,” he replied. “Brent is a good play-caller and an outstanding football coach. It’s been frustrating for all of us, including him, in our production offensively this year.”
Muschamp then provided one more statement which fits closer in line with his comments regarding the offense over the last couple of weeks. “We want to do what we got to do to win games. That’s what you want to do, and we haven’t done that this year,” he said.
Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media on Monday to discuss his team’s 26-20 loss to the Georgia Southern Eagles and upcoming season finale at home against the No. 2 Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, Nov. 30. The game will kick off at 12:00 p.m. and air live on ESPN.
The Gators will be without at least two more players on Saturday as redshirt junior linebacker Michael Taylor (sprained MCL) and freshman LB Alex Anzalone (dislocated shoulder) have already been ruled out for the game. Taylor will avoid surgery, but Anzalone will be forced to go under the knife.
Muschamp also called redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) questionable and listed sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (sprained MCL) as doubtful.
Junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) has already been cleared to play, and sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard (knee) is probable to see the field.
COACHING CHANGES COMING?
Muschamp refused to address the recent reports that it has already been decided that adjustments will be made to Florida’s offensive staff.
“There’s no changes that have been made at this time,” he said. “I’m not ready to make any statement on that at this point. We’re still playing out the season and those guys are going to coach their butts off. I’ll make that decision when I think it’s ready.”
In a similar vein, Muschamp was adamant that he was not at all concerned about his future with the Gators.
“Absolutely not,” he said when asked if he was worried about his job. After being questioned about his confidence in returning next season, Muschamp similarly answered, “Absolutely.”
He also once again put the blame on his shoulders – “It’s on me. We’ll get it fixed. I can assure you of that” – but admitted that it was nice to have the support of the players in addition to that of the administration.
“I think it’s important. Obviously I think that they understand where we are and where we’re headed with the program.” Muschamp said. “They have total confidence, in my opinion, of where we’re headed. I think they understand the plan and what we need to do … as we move forward.”
The Florida Gators (4-7) lost their sixth-straight on Saturday, dropping their first game to an FCS opponent in program history and guaranteeing a losing season for the first time since going winless in 1979. The Georgia Southern Eagles (7-4) upended the Gators 26-20 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL, dominating both sides of the ball on the way to their first-ever victory against an FBS program.
Following his team’s loss, the worst in program history, Florida head coach Will Muschamp met with the media to provide some of his thoughts on the defeat.
Though Muschamp has made a habit in the past of taking accountability and putting pressure on his own shoulders following a loss, he did exactly opposite on Saturday – even if there were times in which he squeezed in similar phrasing.
After the game, Muschamp criticized Florida’s offense, which was led by a third-string quarterback in redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg but nevertheless only generated 279 total yards and 20 points on the afternoon.
“You got to change the scoreboard offensively. You got to be able to change the scoreboard. We’ve just struggled scoring points offensively. It’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence. My job to get it fixed and it will get fixed,” he said.
“Very disappointed for our program, an embarrassment in this situation. We had our opportunities there, the kids kept playing hard. It’s very difficult for us to create explosive plays to get anything down the field. Just don’t ever do it.”
Asked to pinpoint the Gators’ offensive struggles, Muschamp explained that there was no one thing wrong with it but rather the entire side of the ball was failing as a whole. Should he somehow remain Florida’s coach after this season, Muschamp has certainly set up his offensive staff to take the fall.
“Where do you start? From a protection standpoint, the run game, being able to consistently run the ball, move the front. It’s been an occurrence really for us all season for the most part,” he said. “We just have a hard time in protection. We hit the play-action pass where the quarterback got his chin splattered when he threw the ball, too.
“It’s a combination of things. It’s just hard right now. It’s hard, as many moving parts as we’ve had, it’s difficult. It becomes infectious. It’s hard. When you give up 17 points, you hope you can score 17. So it’s hard right now. You can look at where we’ve rolled since about middle of the season to this point. That’s what’s happened to us.”
Nevermind that UF offense, indeed with a third-string signal caller and an incredibly banged up offensive line, managed to generate 20 points while the team’s defense coughed up 26 to Georgia Southern via 429 yards of total offense.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy (shoulder) has not been ruled out to start Saturday’s game against the Georgia Southern Eagles, but the Florida Gators are being cautious and preparing as if redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg will line up behind center following the opening kickoff.
Murphy spent Monday’s normally light practice “absorbing the game plan, jogging around,” according to offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who refused to say that Mornhinweg had already been named the starter.
Instead, Pease is preparing a game plan that either player will be able to manage, a quite obvious decision considering Mornhinweg did not have that much on his plate during Saturday’s 19-14 loss to South Carolina.
When he was on the field, Mornhinweg handed it off most of the time. It was not until late in the contest when he was forced to throw the ball – due to the score and time remaining on the lock – and ultimately threw a game-ending interception.
But Pease said Tuesday that Gators’ game plan had less to do with Mornhinweg’s inexperience than it did UF’s offensive line and the presence of Gamecocks defensive end Jadaveon Clowney.
“Understand that last week was really based around No. 7 on their team, too. That guy’s the best player in the nation. He can change the game, cause a fumble, pick the ball up and run. Going in, our plan was really designed to make sure that we were going to do things that he couldn’t change the momentum of the game,” he explained.
With South Carolina in the back window and Georgia Southern standing as Florida’s next task at hand, Pease plans to open things up for Mornhinweg, if he is indeed the one who starts Saturday.
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 game against the Georgia Southern Eagles.
Muschamp said that both sophomore left tackle D.J. Humphries (MCL) and junior cornerback Marcus Roberson (ankle) will miss Saturday’s game. Humphries “tried to do some things” on Wednesday but did not feel comfortable, and Roberson simply has not healed since he went down two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
Not listed as “out” but rather “questionable” is redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who missed the South Carolina game with a shoulder injury. “[He] threw a little bit [Tuesday] and we’ll see what else he can do [Wednesday] and we’ll go from there.”
Though Murphy has a 50-50 shot to start on Saturday, Muschamp said the Gators would have redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg play in his place if the game was earlier in the week. “We’ll see what Tyler can do Thursday and it is what it is. Closer to the weekend, we’ll see where it is,” he said.
Muschamp added that Murphy is not being held out over structural concerns but rather how he feels throwing the football.
“It’s all about his discomfort level right now. It’s gotten better every day. From Sunday to [Wednesday] it’s much, much, much improved,” he said. “We’ll just continue to work through that. It’s all about his comfort level. Right now, the shoulder is stable and all of that. It’s just all about his comfort level.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
» On how junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy has dealt with NFL Draft talk all season: “I think Loucheiz has played well. I think he’s focus has been on our season and what we need to do to be successful. I think he’s played well. I think he covered very well last week against a very good core of receivers. I think through the year he’s played consistently well.”
» On needing a win Saturday to snap the five-game losing streak: “Our guys understand the situation with where we are. We need to go out and execute the game plan and play well.”