Muschamp happy with opener, wants to see improvement
Published: Monday, September 5, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 11:50 p.m.
Some might say Will Muschamp and the Florida Gators enjoyed an almost ideal opener Saturday night in The Swamp.
Pleasing but not perfect.
Although coaches are always striving for perfection, they also like to go back, break down the tape, find the mistakes and then get back on the practice field and correct them for the next game.
This is especially true in a season opener, where mistakes are expected.
The No. 22 Gators had their fair share of opening-day mistakes Saturday night, but also displayed plenty of positives in a 41-3 victory over Florida Atlantic.
An ideal opener.
“I think we need to be realistic here,” Muschamp said. “We'll face better opponents through the season. But for a first ball game, we need to make some improvements, we need to make some adjustments from a personnel standpoint after the film. We'll certainly do that.
“We've got to clean some things up before the next game, but I'm very pleased with how we executed. I thought we tackled OK for our first ball game. Not bad. But we have some things we need to work on.”
One thing Muschamp was not be pleased with is the turnover margin in the game. The Gators turned the ball over three teams, while forcing none.
Throughout the spring and preseason camp, Muschamp and the coaches stressed turnover margin, saying it was vital the Gators win that statistical battle throughout the season.
It was not a good start in that regard, with quarterback John Brantley throwing two interceptions and No. 2 quarterback Jeff Driskel throwing one.
“We didn't get any turnovers,” Muschamp said on his television show Sunday. “We really talk to our players in terms of turnover margin, how important that is. Very disappointed we didn't get that done.”
Florida also was penalized nine times for 65 yards and had a breakdown in kickoff coverage — mistakes typically seen in the first game of the season.
“For the most part, we played a really good game,” Brantley said. “We have a couple things to clean up here and there, but we'll be able to do that, just clean up and keep executing.”
One of the biggest positives in the game was the way Brantley managed and executed the offense. He completed 21 of 30 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown and UF rolled up 468 yards of total offense.
Brantley looks like a different quarterback than a year ago, when he seemed an awkward and uncomfortable fit in the spread offense.
“My confidence is pretty high right now,” Brantley said after the game.
Muschamp and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have been expressing their confidence in Brantley since last spring. Brantley showed Saturday night it's been deserved.
“John did a great job of orchestrating our offense, getting us in and out of the right run and pass looks and taking the ball to the right place,” Muschamp said. “You saw what we can do offensively, getting it in the playmakers' hands. Charlie did a great job calling the game.”
Another positive, Muschamp said Sunday, was the fact the Gators controlled both lines of scrimmage Saturday night.
“I just want to control the line of scrimmage,” he said. “We play in a line of scrimmage league. You've got to be able to control the line of scrimmage, and I thought we did that for the most part.”
The offensive line gave Brantley time to execute the offense and generated openings for speedy tailbacks Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps, who combined to rush for 184 yards (105 by Demps) and three touchdowns. Rainey is the first player in Florida history to score three ways (pass reception, run and return) in a single game. The line surrendered no sacks.
“I thought we played very clean up front,” Muschamp said. “I didn't see our quarterbacks get hit very much. We did have a couple of negative runs, but a little of that was on the runner at times. We got a hat on a hat in the run game and protections.”
Overall, it was a promising start for the Gators, who now have specific things to work on this week in preparation of Saturday's game against UAB, which opens its season against UF.
There is one fashion note for the upcoming game in The Swamp. Muschamp said the Gators will be back wearing their traditional blue jerseys after donning orange tops in the opener.