Battered Gators will get rest


Florida Gators coaches Will Muschamp, right, and Charlie Weis talk with running back Trey Burton against the Auburn Tigers during the first half at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. on Saturday. The Tigers defeated the Gators 17-6.

MATT STAMEY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 1:20 p.m.

When Florida opened the season with a 4-0 record, it was expected. The Gators had better personnel and it showed in their performance.

Facts

GATOR GAME

What: University of Florida (4-3) vs. University of Georgia (5-2).

When: 3:30 p.m. Oct. 29.

Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville.

TV/Radio: CBS, 103.7-FM and AM-850.

Information: Visit www.gatorsports.com or www.gatorzone.com/football.

And the Gators going 0-2 against the top-two ranked teams in the nation to start October isn't a surprise.

But what has come as a shock has been how the Gators have been dominated, losing by 28 to No. 2 Alabama last week and by 30 to top-ranked LSU on Saturday. The 41-11 defeat is UF's worst since losing 62-24 to No. 1 Nebraska in the 1996 championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. It's been 40 years since the Gators were so manhandled in back-to-back games.

"Our team has got to persevere through this time," Florida coach Will Muschamp said on his Sunday television show. "We have a good, young football team.

"I'm excited where we are, not necessarily from the outcome of both games, but where we're headed."

After Saturday's game in Baton Rouge, La., and on Sunday, Muschamp said changes will be made on a defense that has given up 464 yards rushing in the losses and on an offense that managed just 128 yards on the ground and only converted six of 25 third downs the past two weeks.

"We are going to move forward with the guys who are going to work hard and are going to be dedicated to getting this to a championship level," he said.

Penalties is another area that needs improvement for the Gators, who are second worst in the nation by averaging 9.1 per game, the coach said.

"We killed some drives in those situations," Muschamp said. "I can deal with some aggressive penalties. The undisciplined ones we can't tolerate. Those guys who continue to make those mistakes won't play."

Also of concern for the first-year head coach is the psyche of his young team after being overwhelmed the past two weeks.

"We need to keep this bunch together," Muschamp said. "Sometimes adversity can cause two things: you can divide or you can unite. We're going to unite and we're going to move forward.

"We have to rebuild some guys. But we have competitive guys, guys who want to win. They understand what it takes to win. We're going to be fine. There are better days ahead."

While the Gators' remaining schedule gets easier in terms of rankings, it remains formidable. Next up is defending national champion Auburn on the road.

"We really need to take care of Florida," Muschamp said. "I don't think we've played as well or as well as we're capable of playing the last two weeks. And that falls on my shoulders."

Arnold Feliciano is the Gainesville Sun sports editor.

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