Florida players face the facts

Florida's Jordan Reed reaches for the touchdown pass but comes up short against South Carolina during the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 14, 2011 at 6:00 p.m.

The Florida Gators were up early for a 6 a.m. class Monday. The professor was Will Muschamp. The lesson: Eight to 12 plays that make a difference between winning and losing a football game.

Sitting at 5-5 on the season and desperately looking for answers, the players showed up early.

“We actually came in for a team meeting and everybody was here 15 minutes early,” sophomore defensive end Sharrif Floyd said. “We talked, and at the end of the day (Muschamp) said the same thing: we're killing ourselves. We've just got to get it better, and we're going do.”

Using the tape of UF's 17-12 loss to South Carolina on Saturday as a visual aid, Muschamp broke down the dozen of so plays in the game that led to a defeat instead of a victory. Play by play, he showed the Gators how they've been killing themselves.

“In every football game, there are eight, 10, 12 plays that really determine the outcome,” Muschamp said. “It isn't one play. It's generally those collective plays. We've got to make plays in those situations. We've been very inconsistent.

“We've got to do a better job putting our guys in situations to be successful. We watched plays from the game as an entire team to show them when those situations arrive and how we're hurting ourselves in a lot of those situations.

“You've got to eliminate that part from our game if you expect to win those games. Those critical plays, we've got to do a better job.”

The Gators hurt themselves Saturday with turnovers (two fumbles), breakdowns in the red zone that led to field goals instead of touchdowns, and a critical offsides penalty on nose tackle Dominique Easley that gave USC a first down with four minutes remaining in the game and allowed the Gamecocks to burn up all but the final 42 seconds.

Saturday's losing script was similar to the one the Gators followed in close losses to Auburn and Georgia.

Change a handful of plays in each of those three losses (Auburn, Georgia and USC) and it could be a different season for the Gators.

“There's a fine line in winning and losing,” Muschamp said. “There's a really fine line between being 5-5 and possibly 8-2. There's a really fine line. It goes back to 8, 10, 12 plays in a game. You've got to make those plays. You've got to put your guys in situations to be successful. That's my job.”

None of the critical plays seem to be going Florida's way.

Coaches like to talk about how critical it is for playmakers to make plays, but the Gators haven't had any playmakers step up and make plays in the potential game-changing situations.

Muschamp was asked Monday how do you get players to start making plays.

“Continue to play,” he said. “Give them the opportunity and eventually there will be some guys who step up and make plays. We've got some guys who are making plays. We're not totally deficient.

“I know we all look at the result at the end of the game and you feel like nothing good is happening. That's not the case. We have a lot of positive things happening, just not enough to get over the hump and win those games.

“That's what we've got to keep pushing for, put them in those situations in practice. That's what we'll continue to do.”

Floyd said a big part of the problem is the Gators are not staying focused for the full 60 minutes of games.

“It's a lack of mental focus,” he said. “We're practicing all week and we get in the game and we mess up once, you think, ‘Well, I just messed up once, it's fine.' Well, no, it just cost us.

“You've seen everything in practice and then one play you just don't line up where you've got to (and the offense makes a play). It's just a bunch of things, basically, lining up wrong, looking at the wrong (keys). Just things like that.”

Muschamp said it is a positive sign that the players showed up early for Monday's 6 a.m. meeting/class.

“We've got good guys on this football team,” he said. “We've got a young team. We've got some guys that are going through and getting some battle scars on us right now and we'll benefit from that in the long run. The attitude and the effort and the perseverance and the preparation have always been there.

“We've got to focus in on some of the details to make those plays in those situations. We've got a good core of young guys coming. I see a lot of positive things with those guys, how they've handled themselves through a tough time.

“They've pushed through some of the negativity. I think that's why I'm encouraged by what I see on the inside of the building.”

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