Will Muschamp seeking first win in Georgia-Florida series

Will Muschamp seeking first win in Georgia-Florida series

October 29th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Florida head coach Will Muschamp

Florida head coach Will Muschamp

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier defeated Georgia 11 times in 12 tries.

Georgia coach Mark Richt has only four wins against Florida in 12 tries, but he's tasted some success in the rivalry. Current Florida coach Will Muschamp, who was a Georgia safety in the 1990s, is 0-6 in the series heading into Saturday's renewal in Jacksonville.

"I hate to give a boring answer, but I don't approach this one any differently from the other ones," Muschamp said Monday afternoon at his weekly news conference. "It's a critical game for us, obviously, being a great rival of the University of Florida and a great rivalry game. It's one of the best college football games year in and year out, and it's exciting to be a part of it."

Muschamp was asked if being 0-4 as a player or 0-2 as a coach in the rivalry weighed on him more, and he said 0-2 as a coach but that "none of it's fun."

After skyrocketing from 6-6 in Muschamp's first regular season in 2011 to 11-1 last year, the Gators are backtracking just as rapidly. Florida is 4-3 overall and 3-2 in SEC play, matching Georgia's records, and each team is on a two-game losing streak.

The Gators lost 17-6 at LSU on Oct. 12 and were thumped 36-17 at Missouri on Oct. 19, which was when Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley received his first inquiry about Muschamp's job status.

"He's not going anywhere, and I'm not going anywhere," Foley told the Gainesville Sun.

Florida has been decimated by season-ending injuries, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, tailback Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose, tackle Chaz Green and defensive tackle Dominique Easley. The Gators had Driskel, Jones and Easley for their Sept. 7 trip to Miami and racked up 413 yards to 212 by the Hurricanes, but Florida was undone by five turnovers in a 21-16 loss.

The defense gave Florida a chance in each of its first six games, but both phases struggled at Missouri as the Tigers racked up 500 yards while allowing just 151.

"Missouri was a good team that was balanced and gashed us in both the run game and the pass game," Gators defensive end Dante Fowler said at Monday's news conference. "They put up points and executed their plan, and we didn't. It was uncomfortable watching the film as a defense, because they're not supposed to put points on us like that."

The injuries have not subsided, with defensive tackle Damien Jacobs and outside linebackers Ronald Powell and Darren Kitchens missing Monday's workout. Muschamp said Powell would be questionable and Kitchens doubtful for Saturday's game.

Florida had held 13 consecutive SEC opponents to 20 or fewer points until the debacle at Missouri. The Gators were off this past weekend, and Muschamp said time was spent simplifying things on both sides of the ball.

The Gators, as is the case most seasons, have been solid on special teams, with one of their touchdowns at Missouri occurring on Solomon Patton's 100-yard kickoff return.

"We need to get our guys playing faster, and we need to get our guys playing with more confidence in what we're trying to do," Muschamp said.

Freshman tailback Kelvin Taylor, the son of former Florida running back Fred Taylor, is expected to start this week. The younger Taylor has 28 carries for 172 yards (6.1 per carry) this season and was the lone offensive bright spot at Missouri with 12 rushes for 74 yards.

"He's always been a very instinctive, natural runner," Muschamp said. "That's very obvious, but with assignments and different things, I think he's done a nice job and deserves the opportunity."

Georgia handed Florida its only setback last year in the regular season, winning 17-9 largely due to six Gators turnovers. The Gators remember the score, because Fowler said it's been posted for months in the weight room.

Muschamp said Monday that the focus needs to be on Florida and its execution, and the last question he was asked concerned why the Bulldogs never beat the Gators when he was a player.

"They had guys like me," Muschamp said smiling. "They've got better players now. They've recruited better."

Bulldogs practice

Georgia held a two-hour practice in full pads Monday, and tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) went through it in a regular jersey, as did safety Tray Matthews (hamstring), center David Andrews (foot) and backup tailback J.J. Green (shoulder). Receiver Michael Bennett (knee) wore a noncontact jersey.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.