GAINESVILLE -- 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 nations elite.
In an impromptu news conference before No.2 FSU mercifully ended UFs abysmal season in a 37-7 thrashing, Foley reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to his third-year coach but acknowledged that the teams 4-8 record and first losing campaign in 34 years is unacceptable.
Its been a difficult year, Foley said. We havent made an excuse all year, and were 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. Weve got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, thats what you do you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You dont panic. You dont put orange-and-blue glasses on. Its not acceptable, its not who we are and its not what were about.
Following UFs seventh consecutive loss and its first three-game skid in The Swamp since 1988 Muschamps 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 UFs 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 UFs 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 Floridas 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.