Florida coach Will Muschamp gets vote of confidence on a ‘difficult day’

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp shakes hands with Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher at the end of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. Florida State won, 37-7.
Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp shakes hands with Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher at the end of the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013. Florida State won, 37-7.
Will Vragovic / MCT

Miami Herald Writer

Florida suffered its worst home defeat to archrival Florida State on Saturday, but athletic director Jeremy Foley remains convinced embattled coach Will Muschamp can lead the Gators back to the nation’s elite.

In an impromptu news conference before No.2 FSU mercifully ended UF’s abysmal season in a 37-7 thrashing, Foley reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to his third-year coach but acknowledged that the team’s 4-8 record — and first losing campaign in 34 years — is “unacceptable.”

“It’s been a difficult year,” Foley said. “We haven’t made an excuse all year, and we’re not going to make them now. We know what this program is all about. I have total confidence in Coach Muschamp and have made that clear. We’ve got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, that’s what you do — you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don’t panic. You don’t put orange-and-blue glasses on. It’s not acceptable, it’s not who we are and it’s not what we’re about.”

Following UF’s seventh consecutive loss — and its first three-game skid in The Swamp since 1988 — Muschamp’s record dropped to 22-16.

“I don't have my head in the sand,” Foley said. “No question there's a lot of noise out there, and I get that. But we wanted to make sure Will knew where we stood. That's important to Will, it's important to recruiting and it's important to our organization. It's important for our coaches to understand that things are tough and we're going to be there for him. The guy was 11-1 a year ago and [Southeastern Conference] Coach of the Year. To sit here and be silent, I just think that, you know or say how confident we are at the end of the year, that's not how we felt. We felt strongly whatever that was, two weeks ago and we feel just as strongly [Saturday]. We've had some difficult circumstances [Saturday], and that hasn't changed.”

The Gators — nearly four-touchdown underdogs — actually played inspired football for roughly a quarter, holding the Seminoles to just a field goal until their magic disappeared. Jameis Winston, sublime once again, shredded UF’s vaunted secondary for 327 yards and three touchdowns, including two scores in a four-minute span to close out the first half. The Seminoles — and their fans — dominated the second half, as the team now just one win away from Pasadena flexed its depth and talent.

As for the Gators, they are staying home for Christmas for the first time in 22 years.

In a season dominated by injuries and offensive ineptitude, Florida lost receiver Trey Burton to a shoulder sprain following a 50-yard “wild-Gator” run — a microcosm of UF’s struggles and poor luck.

“A very frustrating, difficult day ends a very frustrating, difficult season,” Muschamp said.

According to the staff, Burton was primed to take roughly 50 percent of the snaps — 30 to 35 plays — at quarterback. But Florida was again unable to adjust to adversity either offensively or defensively.

Muschamp said after the game he would reevaluate Florida’s offensive philosophy, something Foley spoke about before the Gators were held under 200 yards for the second time this season.

“Will is a really good self evaluator. He can look in the mirror and isn't afraid to take responsibility for what's happened,” Foley said. “We look at ourselves and how we get better. Not just sit here and say, ‘Yeah we've got a bunch of injuries, we'll be fine.’ That better not be our attitude. It better be our attitude to reevaluate every single facet of what we're doing and get this thing fixed. … It stinks for every Gator fan. This season has been no fun because we care.”

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