Beating Dawgs clinches East


Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel runs the ball against the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the game on Saturday in Gainesville.

Elizabeth Hamilton / Correspondent
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 7:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 7:57 p.m.

With the 44-11 victory over South Carolina on Saturday, the No. 3 Florida Gators took another important step toward transforming this turnaround season into a possible championship season.

Facts

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Who: No. 12 Georgia (6-1) vs. No. 3 Florida (7-0)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville
TV: CBS

At 6-0 in SEC play, the Gators can clinch the Eastern Division title with a victory over Georgia in Jacksonville on Saturday.

“It's the SEC,” UF coach Will Muschamp said on his television show Sunday. “It's difficult every week. Our players understand that.

“You continue to climb the mountain and every step becomes a little bit more treacherous as far as where you're going with your season. We're looking forward to going to Jacksonville and playing Georgia.”

Muschamp said his team, as it has done in every game during this 7-0 run, will come ready to play.

“Our guys will be fine,” he said. “They'll look forward to the game. They understand what's at stake. The work ethic has never been an issue with our guys.

“They'll focus on what we need to do, the task at hand, remove all the clutter and the outside stuff that really have nothing to do with preparing well for the football game. We'll be fine.”

The Gators put themselves in this position with yet another impressive team victory against South Carolina. UF won with a combination of creating turnovers, excellent, game-changing special teams play, a highly efficient offense in the red zone and a dominant defensive performance.

“It's a team win,” Muschamp said. “That's what we've been all season. We're doing what we need to do offensively to score points and help our football team. Defensively, we've played pretty consistently throughout the year and special teams is outstanding.”

The Gators scored 21 points off of turnovers in the first half. Two of those turnovers were created on special teams — a fumble on a punt return, followed by a fumble on a kickoff return.

“Those 21 points were the difference in the game,” Muschamp said. “I thought Andre Debose fielded the ball really well on punt returns and he had another good kickoff return to start the second half.

“The third quarter was key. (We had) 133 yards and they didn't have any first downs. That really clinched the game for us.”

The special teams star of the game was sophomore punter Kyle Christy, who flipped the field position in UF's favor throughout the game. All seven of his punts were for 50 yards or longer. He averaged 54.3 yards a punt, with a long of 62.

“That was really a key thing going into the game,” Muschamp said. “We really emphasized that all week. Credit to coach (D.J.) Durkin and the entire special teams unit. (Christy's) punts and flipping the field position (was key) and the coverage was outstanding, as it has been all season.”

The Gators dominated in two of the three phases of the game — special teams and defense. And the offense, after being held to 29 yards in the first half, made adjustments at halftime and put the game away with three consecutive scoring drives to open the third quarter.

“I thought our staff did an outstanding job going into halftime, looking at what we were doing and what we could do. I thought (offensive coordinator) Brent (Pease) and the offensive staff did a great job.

“We came out on fire (in the second half) on defense and had a couple of three-and-outs to gain momentum and put the offense back on the field. We converted well on third down offensively. I'm very pleased with the victory and what we were able to accomplish.”

Now, the Gators are in a position to accomplish something even bigger — a division championship with a win over Georgia.

“The more steps you take, the slippier the slope can get,” Muschamp said. “We're excited to be in that part. We look forward to it.

“That was a game (against Georgia) we felt like we let slip away last year with some mistakes we made. And you've got to give them credit for the plays they made. Our guys will be ready and we'll have a good week of preparation. We understand what's at stake.”

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