Muschamp frustrated after Gators latest loss

The frustration of Florida’s fading season was evident on coach
Will Muschamp’s bandaged and bloodied right hand.

The third-year Gators coach took questions after his team’s
fifth-straight loss, a 19-14 defeat to No. 11 South Carolina on
Saturday night, with two fingers bandaged and a third knuckle
bloodied after he struck a chalk board at halftime.

Tailback Mack Brown didn’t see Muschamp’s punch. ”I heard it,
though,” he said.

At least Muschamp won’t miss any games, unlike most every other
Florida player who gets banged up these days. The Gators came into
this one without leading tackler Antonio Morrison (knee), their
10th player to go with a season-ending injury, and quarterback
Tyler Murphy (shoulder).

Muschamp started third-string freshman Skyler Mornhinweg, a
freshman who’d yet to take a college snap before Saturday.

Still, the Gators (4-6, 3-5 SEC) relied an opportunistic run
game and their Southeastern Conference leading defense to keep in
front for most of the game until South Carolina’s defense tightened
up for its record-setting 16th straight home victory.

Muschamp received support this week from Florida athletic
director Jeremy Foley and University President Bernie Machen. But
it was clear the coach was bothered by the harsh words of
critics.

”You can say what you want say, you can write whatever in the
hell you want to write. It’s frustrating for that locker room,”
Muschamp said. ”Forget me. These kids have fought their butts off.
Our fans need to get a grip.”

Florida played hard enough, especially on defense, to get the
victory. Instead, the Gators on their longest losing streak since
losing nine in a row during the 0-10-1 debacle of 1979. They’ll
need to close the season by beating Georgia Southern and No. 2
Florida State or their 22-year bowl run will be over.

”They can criticize me all they want,” Muschamp said. ”They
pay me enough money for that. Those kids don’t deserve it. Nobody
has ever questioned their effort. We just didn’t get it done.”

The Gators were also minus starting cornerback Marcus Roberson,
who the team said was suspended for violating team rules.

Florida did its best not to overwhelm Mornhinweg, whose father
Marty is the offensive coordinator of the New York Jets, in his
first college action. Burton, a receiver, ran the wildcat formation
and the Gators ran 22 of 24 plays.

Mornhinweg was 10 of 13 for 107 yards with an interception.

Elliott Fry made field goals of 25, 45, 22 and 43 yards, the
last two in the final quarter to lift the Gamecocks. Bruce
Ellington had South Carolina’s lone touchdown, a 32-yard grab from
Connor Shaw on fourth down to cut Florida’s 14-6 halftime lead to
one point.

South Carolina’s defense, scorched by the Florida run game in
the opening half, stiffened in the second half to send the Gators
to their fifth straight loss, their longest such streak since
losing nine in a row during the 0-10-1 debacle of 1979.

”Somehow or another, it worked out again,” Spurrier said.

The Gamecocks (8-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) struggled to
score points against the Gators’ SEC-leading defense until Fry gave
them a 16-14 lead with a 22-yard field goal with 6:43
remaining.

Trailing 19-14, Mornhinweg led the Gators into South Carolina
territory but was intercepted by Jimmy Legree to end the
threat.

The Gamecocks’ win surpassed the 15 straight the program won at
home from 1978-80 when Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers was
leading the way. South Carolina’s 16 straight in its home stadium
is longest current streak in the country.

But Florida sure looked ready to end it the way it played in the
first half. Without injured starting quarterback Tyler Murphy, the
Gators successfully went to the run. They ran for 169 yards in the
opening half and Kelvin Taylor had rushing TDs of 20 and 29 yards,
the two longest permitted by South Carolina this season. Florida,
though, had just 31 yards rushing the last two quarters.

”We kept ourselves alive” in the SEC East race, quarterback
Connor Shaw said. ”I’m proud of our guys for battling back. You
can’t count us out at Williams-Brice.”

Florida had its chances. The Gators to South Carolina’s 8 after
the Gamecocks’ touchdown, yet Austin Hardin missed a 32-yard field
goal.

Florida tried a fake punt play on fourth-and-13 and trailing
16-14, but Trey Burton’s pass to defensive lineman Leon Orr was
knocked away with 4:40 remaining.