UF takes on Missouri
Published: Friday, November 2, 2012 at 6:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:49 p.m.
They've been talking since August about being tougher and stronger, about being better equipped, mentally and physically, to handle adversity when it comes thundering down the road.
“Florida Never Breaks.”
This has become the Florida Gators' motto this season.
But is all this stuff just talk? Or is it real?
We'll know more today.
For the first time this season, the Gators find themselves having to respond to a loss. And not just any loss. It was a crusher — the 17-9 defeat at the hands of Georgia that cost UF a chance to clinch the SEC's Eastern Division title.
Florida's fate is now out of its hands, and in Georgia's. If the Bulldogs win their last two SEC games (Ole Miss at home today and Auburn on the road next Saturday), they will be representing the division in Atlanta in the SEC title game.
For the first time this season, the Gators appear somewhat fragile. Because if they lose today, many will say the unbreakable team has been broken. A loss would basically end any UF hope of winning the division title.
A heavy dose of adversity is knocking on the door.
Muschamp says he has a good idea how his team will answer, and much of that knowledge comes from what he saw last Saturday when adversity had the Gators surrounded in Jacksonville.
“You've got a bunch of guys that when it wasn't going well, they continued to play hard, continued to fight, continued to do what they had to do,” Muschamp said. “You have days at the office like that. When things don't go well, you continue to play and play through it, and the kids did.”
But they came up short. They lost. Now, they need to forget that one and move on — or face the possibility of losing to Georgia twice in a week.
“The bottom line is you have to refocus and move forward,” Muschamp said. “You can't let it linger.
“I don't know that (today's game) will tell me anything other than what I already know. I certainly feel like we'll move forward and we will be fine and we will refocus and we'll be prepared to play Missouri.”
Even though the Gators have won seven of eight games this season, even though they have taken down two top-10 teams (LSU and South Carolina), last week's loss revealed some of the warts.
The offensive line is struggling with protection. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is still making some questionable decisions and is coming off a four-turnover game. The passing game downfield has all but disappeared. Opposing defenses have figured out Mike Gillislee is going to run the ball on first down most of the time. The overall offensive production has plunged in recent weeks.
Despite all that, Muschamp said he feels good about his team and what it has become this season.
“I've looked at the opportunity of eight games and we've accomplished what we wanted to in seven of them,” he said. “What I see on tape is a team that's playing fast and playing physical and playing motivated and playing together, regardless of the adversity or the situation or the circumstances.
“I think we've been a team that is just playing hard, playing with toughness, playing the way we want to play. It hasn't always been what we wanted, but for the most part, we've done some good things.”
Muschamp said that based on what he's seen this week, the Gators are responding favorably to the loss. They're doing it mainly by putting it behind them and focusing on the Tigers, who have struggled in their first season in the SEC but have the kind of aggressive and physical defense that has caused UF's offense all kinds of problems.
“Kids are pretty resilient,” Muschamp said. “I don't worry about them as much as the staff. Kids bounce back quicker than adults do. We've had a good week.
“Missouri will catch your attention. You turn on the film with Sheldon Richardson, and it will catch your attention very quickly. He's a guy who leads his defense in tackles from the tackle position. It's hard to do.
“James Franklin at quarterback and what they do offensively (in the spread) presents issues. We need to be really focused on what we're supposed to be doing.”
It's all about winning, about focusing on Missouri and forgetting about last week's loss to Georgia.
“You're going to be disappointed, especially with what was at stake in last weekend's game,” Driskel said. “But you can't dwell on it too much just because there's a lot of football left to go. You have to press on and be positive because we do have another challenging SEC opponent.
“You learn from your mistakes. It was a big loss. We're going to have to respond. We're going to have to play well this week.”
Or run the risk of being broken.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.