UF flexes muscle against FSU
Published: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 10:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 24, 2012 at 10:08 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE — They didn't want to leave the field, the coaches, the players, the trainers. They gathered in the corner of an otherwise empty stadium and celebrated with the Florida fans who made the trip and sang the alma mater and fight song so loudly the exiting FSU fans had it ringing in their ears.
They slapped hands. They hugged each other. It was one of those nights you didn't want to end if you were part of this 11-1 college football team.
Especially because they did on Saturday just what they have done all season. They won when all looked lost. They bounced back with steely resolve and the toughness of John Wayne storming a beach.
How's 37-26 in Tallahassee for a sexy win?
“I think it was a real sexy win,” said Florida coach Will Muschamp. “I was going to come in here with my shirt off.”
It was sexy if you like physical, tough football. And that may be why this win was more than just a win over a top-10 team with so much on the line.
It was on this field two years ago that this program was overwhelmed so badly, the coach at the time declared it broken. It was against this team a year ago that many of these same players were labeled soft by their coach.
And it was on this field against this team that Florida football made its loudest noise of the season by being the tougher, more physical team. By being the better team.
“It was a performance of will,” said center Jonotthan Harrison. “Our will broke their's.”
Florida ran for 244 yards against the nation's No. 1-ranked run defense. The Gators wore out the Seminoles the same way they wore out LSU so many weeks ago. With their first-team offensive line back healthy, they dominated the game.
When FSU made its run of 20 straight points and everything seemed to be going wrong (including what, at the time, was a 10-0 FSU advantage in penalties) and this game looked like it was heading in the wrong direction.
And that's when Muschamp told offensive coordinator Brent Pease to get back to the running game.
“They had a nice surge there,” quarterback Jeff Driskel said of the Seminoles. “But we're a resilient team. We have been all year. We've done this before.”
And that was the theme on the sideline when the stadium was its loudest.
The game turned on a physical play by Antonio Morrison and kept running on dominating play by the Gator offensive line.
“They had a good game plan,” said FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner. “They used great technique. The way they were double-teaming — they did it and I've never seen it before and I give credit to them.”
Florida had started the game throwing the ball all over the place to loosen up the FSU defense and had success. They jumped out to a 13-0 lead.
“We wanted to show that we're here,” Driskel said. “We're not going to just pound the ball … but we are going to do that.”
Still, at halftime, there was an uneasy feeling with a 13-3 lead. FSU had seized some momentum with a late field goal and Florida had missed several opportunities to extend the lead.
“It was disappointing honestly,” Muschamp said. “We have Caleb Sturgis, and I had to call a fake field goal so I look like an idiot again. But I told our guys to play aggressively because we are going to call it aggressively.”
The third quarter was a mess for the Gators, but Muschamp knew that his team would be able to run it when it had to because FSU rarely faced a power running team in the ACC.
And that running game blew the doors off Florida State in the fourth quarter.
Florida's resume is now complete and it is thick and meaty. The team that lived on the edge with a small margin for error has won 11 games against a brutal schedule.
There have been five other Florida teams that have won 11 games in the regular season. I'm not sure where I'd rank this one.
But I do know this — this was by far the most amazing.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.