No. 23 Gators seek Swamp success after woeful ’11
Florida coach Will Muschamp believes he has a surefire way of
keeping his team from overlooking Bowling Green in Saturday’s
”I’ll turn the tape on from last year and let our team watch
that,” Muschamp said. ”You watch the Furman game?”
The 23rd-ranked Gators haven’t forgotten the near-debacle
against the lower-division Paladins. Or that embarrassing loss to
rival Florida State the following week.
Those are Florida’s last two home games – forgettable
performances for sure. No doubt, then, that the Gators want to
provide a better showing Saturday in The Swamp.
”We know that what we put out last year isn’t University of
Florida, and this season we have to change that,” center Jon
Harrison said. ”That’s our goal: to change. We’ve been working
hard all offseason to change this season around.”
Florida needed a victory in the Gator Bowl to avoid the team’s
first losing season since 1979. It was an eye-opener for many,
including Muschamp. He hired a new offensive coordinator and
revamped the team’s weightlifting program in hopes of closing the
gap on Southeastern Conference heavyweights Alabama and LSU.
If the changes work, Year 2 of the Muschamp era should go
considerably smoother than 2011.
The Gators went 7-6 last season, which included four consecutive
losses in October. They managed a combined 11 points in the second
half against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia, and they didn’t
score a single point in the fourth quarter.
Needless to say, finishing was a big theme in the offseason and
during fall practice.
”We’re thinking of this as a new year, trying to redeem
ourselves,” right tackle Chas Green said.
It starts against the Falcons, a middle-of-the-pack team from
the Mid-American Conference.
Bowling Green returns 17 starters, including 10 on defense, and
seemingly heads south with some confidence.
”I think we have to talent and depth to give them a game and
come out victorious,” center Chip Robinson said.
Surely, the Falcons watched Florida struggle much of last
season. They also know things could be very different under new
offensive coordinator Brent Pease.
Pease spent the last six years at Boise State, helping direct
one of the most prolific offenses in the country. Can he do the
same at Florida?
It could depend on what happens under center.
Sophomores Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel have battled for the
starting job since spring practice – and the coaches insist they’re
still neck and neck.
So Muschamp decided to play them both in the opener. One will
start, the other will play the second quarter and the Gators will
decide at halftime how to proceed from there. It’s certainly an
unconventional situation, one Pease doesn’t anticipate will carry
into the SEC opener at Texas A&M next week.
That means the first half could be the final audition for
Brissett and Driskel, one last, pressure-filled chance in front of
nearly 90,000 people to state their case for starting.
”This is our biggest opportunity and our biggest chance,”
Bowling Green feels the same way about playing at Florida Field.
Sure, the Gators haven’t been all that impressive the last two
years; they ranked 105th in total offense in 2011. But the program
still maintains national recognition, the result of winning two
championships in the last six seasons.
”These are opportunities to make a national name for
yourself,” said Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson, whose program
also plays at Virginia Tech in three weeks. ”We get two of those
opportunities this year. This is the first of those two. This is
part of the reason we play those games: to put ourselves on a
national stage and give ourselves an opportunity to do something
Furman almost pulled it off last November, leading 22-7 in the
first quarter and scaring Florida much of the afternoon. The Gators
returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the final 13 minutes
to seal the victory.
Players believe things will be different this season, and the
opener is the best time to get things headed in the right
”It’s very important,” receiver Frankie Hammond said. ”It’s
the first game of the year. We want to go out and get things going.
We’ve been in camp going against each other for Lord knows how
long. We want to go against an opponent and see, finally, all the
hard work we put in pay off and finally get things going into the