Gators reach a goal: bowl eligibility


Florida Gators guard James Wilson (66) celebrates after the game against the Furman Paladins at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Furman 54-32.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 8:41 p.m.

It's been a long, hard and sometimes nervous grind, but the struggling Florida Gators have made it. They're bowl eligible.

Facts

Saturday's game

Who: Florida State (7-4) at Florida (6-5)
When: 7 p.m. TV: ESPN2
Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850

That means 15 additional practices and one extra game for a young football team that is, in many ways, still in the early stages of development.

It's big, UF coach Will Muschamp said Sunday.



“We now get an extra 15, 16 or 17 practices to continue to develop our football team,” Muschamp said on his television show Sunday. “It's very important.”

The 6-5 Gators became bowl eligible Saturday with their 54-32 victory over Furman. UF rallied for the win after trailing 22-7 at the end of the first quarter.

“It's a good win for our football team,” Muschamp said. “We made it interesting early. We did not play as well defensively and we gave up a long (touchdown) run in the second half. I'm very disappointed in that.

“But our offense created some big plays down the field and we blocked a punt. I'm very pleased with the victory.”

UF was led by senior quarterback John Brantley, who threw for career-highs in yardage (329) and touchdowns (four).

“John has played well for us all year,” Muschamp said. “We need to play better around John in some areas. I'm so proud of John Brantley. I'm glad he's my quarterback.

“I know his senior season has not gone the way he wanted it to. I'm disappointed for him from that standpoint. But it's not because of John. John has played well. He's outstanding, he hangs in there, he's injured and he never complains. He does all the right things.”

Another Gator who seems to be doing all the right things is junior place-kicker Caleb Sturgis, who made a clutch 55-yard field goal in the fourth quarter in Saturday's game. He's been UF's most consistent weapon this season.

“He's the best kicker in the country,” Muschamp said. “He's the best kicker I've ever been around.”

UF is bowl eligible for the 21st consecutive season, the longest streak in the SEC.

“It says a lot about our program, our tradition and where we are,” Muschamp said. “But more than anything, where we're going. I'm excited about the direction of the program.”

Florida can clinch a winning season with a victory over arch-rival Florida State (7-4) in The Swamp on Saturday night.

“No question, it's obviously a very important game to the University of Florida and our players,” Muschamp said. “We have a lot of familiarity with their program and their staff and their players. It's an important game for our school.”

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