Bowl preparation is grind time for Gators

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 at 2:53 p.m.

Florida's reward for a 6-6 season likely will be a 75-minute bus ride to play in a bowl game in a stadium where the Gators play a regular-season contest every year.

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Florida running back Chris Rainey is tackled for a loss by Cornellius Carradine during the first half of the Gators 21-7 loss to Florida State at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian

And while there will be some typical bowl festivities in Jacksonville (UF's probable destination), this likely will not be a typical, laid-back approach to a bowl game for the Gators, who were called "soft" by their head coach after their 21-7 loss Saturday night to Florida State.

The Gator Bowl figures to be the Grind Bowl for the Gators.

"We're going to get about 15 practices where we go out and develop our football team," UF coach Will Muschamp said Sunday on his television show. "We've got to develop more mental and physical toughness on our football team, more discipline.

"I think we've made strides with our football team. But, obviously, it isn't what we want right now, but we'll get where we want to be."

UF appears headed to the Jan. 2 Gator Bowl and a date with Ohio State, the future team of former Florida coach Urban Meyer.

It's doubtful the Gators will be spending time in Jacksonville worrying about Meyer and the Buckeyes' future. They'll be busy working on their own future, Muschamp said.

Muschamp said after Saturday night's loss that the Gators are going to have physical bowl practices to start instilling some of the toughness he said is missing on the 2011 team.

"I thought we had a physical training camp," he said. "I thought we amped up our physicality as far as practices are concerned. But we need to take it to another level, obviously."

It will start in pre-bowl practices in Gainesville and carry over to Jacksonville the week before the bowl game.

"I think we'll have some fundamental practices before the game, about six where we're working strictly on Florida and improving our program and developing our young players," Muschamp said. "I'm excited about having really another spring practice to get ready for the bowl.

"Bowl practice is critical to continuing to develop your program the way you want it, and to continue to build that mental and physical toughness we need to do."

Muschamp said Florida's current two-year run (a record of 14-11) is unacceptable.

"I know it's very frustrating for the Gator Nation right now. It's frustrating from my standpoint," he said. "We put two years back-to-back of 8-5 and 6-6, and that's very disappointing and not acceptable here.

"We're going to get it turned around. We've got to get out on the road and recruit. We've got to continue to build our roster. We've got to get more depth on both lines of scrimmage. We've got a lot of good football players (coming) back. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about our bowl practice."

Muschamp also probably is feeling better about his defense after its performance against the Seminoles. UF held FSU to 95 total yards and had 13 tackles for losses. The Seminoles also converted only two of 15 third-down plays.

"We played good up front and had a good plan going into the game and certainly responded from the week before," Muschamp said. "We played more consistent. Obviously, the issue of turnovers killed us in the game.

"You can't survive and win turning the ball over (on offense) and that's been a problem for us all season."

Robbie Andreu is a Gainesville Sun staff writer.

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