GAINESVILLE -- Florida’s historic defeat to Georgia Southern — a middling and mediocre Football Championship Subdivision team with double-digit losses to Samford, Wofford and Appalachian State — ignited a wildfire in an-already-toxic environment.
A seething Gator Nation hoped (and perhaps presumed) a seismic coaching shakeup was looming. One week before Saturday’s embarrassing loss, Florida fans were told to “get a grip,” and then the Gators dropped a home game to a FCS foe winless in 20 tries against Football Bowl Subdivision competition.
But to the dismay of a disgruntled fan base, embattled coach Will Muschamp isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s all disappointing. It’s hard to really measure it,” Muschamp said following Florida’s sixth consecutive loss. “It’s my job to get it fixed. We will get it fixed.”
Muschamp will get that chance.
Despite presiding over one of the worst defeats in school history — the Gators paid the Eagles $550,000 to come into The Swamp and humiliate a team that won 11 games just last season — UF’s third-year coach is all-but-assured to return in 2014.
UF’s 4-7 campaign, its first losing season since Jimmy Carter was president, has been effectively written off by the school’s administration because of the team’s crippling injury situation, losing 10 players to season-ending surgeries including quarterback Jeff Driskel, star defensive tackle Dominique Easley and three offense tackles.
Two weeks ago, following a then-momentous home loss to Vanderbilt, athletics director Jeremy Foley released a public vote of confidence, saying he’s “a thousand percent convinced” in Muschamp’s leadership. Despite Saturday’s harrowing defeat, the administration’s sentiment hasn’t changed, according to UF spokesman Steve McClain.
On Sunday, McClain told ESPN’s Joe Schad that Foley’s position remains resolute.
But while Muschamp will survive the tidal wave of criticism, Florida’s program remains seemingly directionless and answerless.
UF’s defense — Muschamp’s brainchild — surrendered 429 yards rushing, but for the first time all season, Muschamp lashed out at UF’s incompetent offense.
Florida’s coach called the offense’s struggles “infectious,” while distancing himself from beleaguered coordinator Brent Pease.
“You’ve also got to change the scoreboard offensively,” Muschamp said. “You’ve got to be able to change the scoreboard, and we just struggled scoring points offensively. It’s been a week-in, week-out occurrence.”
Florida’s anemic attack, ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in scoring and total offense, couldn’t muster 300 yards Saturday. The Gators haven’t topped 20 points during their six-game slide. UF has just 26 touchdowns all season, while No. 2 Florida State, next Saturday’s opponent, has 27 scores in the past three games.
“Where do you start?” Muschamp asked rhetorically. “When you give up 17 points, you hope you score 17. That’s hard right now.”
On Saturday, Florida’s offensive ineptitude was perfectly illustrated during a red-zone possession in the fourth quarter when two Gators accidently blocked each other 5 yards from the line of scrimmage.
With Foley’s backing, Muschamp is likely to overhaul Florida’s offensive staff, and Saturday’s disturbing performance made that decision even easier.
But as Florida continues to break all the wrong records under Muschamp’s leadership, questions ring loudly. A loss to a projected cupcake wasn’t the result of a few rotten eggs. Systematic changes could be in order.
“At the end of the day you take ownership with where we are,” Muschamp said. “Nobody needs to point a finger right now. It’s time to look in the mirror. I’ve told them that several times this season. Regardless of situation and circumstances, we need to produce better. That starts with me. So that’s what we’ll do.”