Muschamp: 'Positive time to be a Florida Gator'
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 6:42 p.m.
Only a year ago, the Florida football program seemed to be in a considerable funk. The Gators were 6-6, coming off a humbling home loss to arch-rival Florida State and the immediate future did not seem to hold a whole lot of promise.
Now, the Gators are 11-1, ranked No. 5 in the nation, coming off a dominating victory over the Seminoles in Tallahassee and looking forward to playing in a BCS bowl game, likely the Sugar, in January.
It's been quite a turnaround season in Will Muschamp's second year.
“We've come a long way,” Muschamp said on his Sunday television show. “We're not where we want to be. Our goal is to go to Atlanta every year, and unfortunately we didn't reach that goal this year.
“I'm very proud of our football team. We've got a fantastic fan base, the best fans in the country and outstanding support from our administration. Everything is in place as we move forward. It's a positive time to be a Florida Gator.”
The Gators put the exclamation point on their successful season with perhaps their biggest victory of the season — a 37-26 thumping of the Seminoles that, at least for a few hours, had UF on the brink of possibly reaching the BCS Championship Game in Miami.
That didn't happen because No. 1 Notre Dame won at Southern Cal on Saturday night. But, still, it's hard to find many disappointed Gators over what has happened this season, and how the year is ending.
This is only the fifth Florida team in history to win 11 games in the regular season, and it appears the Gators are headed for the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. UF will know for sure next Sunday night when the final BCS Standings are released, along with the bowl pairings.
There is a chance the Gators could face Oklahoma in a rematch of the 2008 national title game.
This Florida team has turned out to be similar to that 2008 championship team in terms of its toughness, resiliency and knowing how to win.
The Gators have grown into a team this season, Muschamp said.
“Understanding what it's like to be a football team,” Muschamp said. “Understanding playing for each other.
“When I first got here, I don't know that that was totally true. We play for each other. We're playing for what's on the helmet rather than what's on the back of your shirt.”
Muschamp pointed to senior tailback Mike Gillislee as being a perfect example of that. Gillislee rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns against the Seminoles and became the first Gator to rush for 1,000 yards or more in a season since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.
“I told Gilly when I met with the captains before the game, ‘We're going to get you a thousand today,' ” Muschamp said. “He said, ‘Coach, I don't care. I just want to win the game.' That's the type of young man he is. He's a program guy.”
The Gators seem to have a lot of those now.
Muschamp said the keys to Saturday's win were the five turnovers the Gators created and the fact UF won both lines of scrimmage.
“It was a fantastic season and it certainly ended on the right note,” he said. “You beat your in-state rival in a sound fashion and that's what we really wanted to do in the game, dominate the line of scrimmage, which we did on both sides of the ball. I'm very pleased with our effort.”
As they have done so often this season, the Gators came from behind for the victory, winning the fourth quarter by a score of 24-6 (115-29 for the season). UF trailed 20-13 going into the quarter.
“We've had (gut checks) all season,” Muschamp said. “Certainly, we've responded the right way every time.
“When I first got to Florida, people questioned our toughness and questioned our resolve as a football team. As a program, we've taken some positive steps. I'm so proud of our guys and how they continue to fight. They're a resilient bunch.
“They play for each other. They play together. They play for the University of Florida.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.