Will Muschamp remains Florida’s football coach.
For now, anyways.
Florida’s fourth-year coach is all but certain to be fired after the Gators were embarrassingly routed 42-13 on homecoming to a mediocre Missouri team, losing for the 10th time in 13 games.
The Tigers (5-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) managed just 119 yards and seven first downs, yet won convincingly with two special teams touchdowns and a pair of defensive scores as Florida (3-3, 2-3) self-destructed from the opening kickoff.
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“You don’t give yourself a chance to win when you turn the ball over six times,” Muschamp said.
“So very disappointed in the performance. It falls on my shoulders.”
Muschamp’s hot-seat was ablaze before the blowout, but Saturday’s shellacking marked the low-point for a coach whose résumè includes losing to an FCS school, presiding over the end of UF’s 22-year bowl streak and recording the team’s first losing season since Jimmy Carter was president.
According to ESPN Stats Inc., the loss also marked the second time under Muschamp that the Gators have dropped a game when their defense yielded less than 120 yards. Over the last decade, all other FBS head coaches are 94-0 in the same scenario — yet Muschamp’s teams have done it twice (Florida State 2011, Missouri 2014).
The “Fire Muschamp” chants echoed loudly in The Swamp, but afterwards Muschamp declined to address his job security.
“I’m really worried about this football team right now,” he said. “I’m not concerned about things I don’t have any control over.”
The Gators are idle this week before traveling to Jacksonville to take on No. 9 Georgia on Nov. 1.
Muschamp’s record is 25-19 at Florida, and coincidentally, Thursday marks the 10-year anniversary of Ron Zook’s infamous loss at Mississippi State. Two days later, athletic director Jeremy Foley fired Zook, saying, “What should be done eventually, must be done immediately.”
Foley, who publicly stated last year that he was a “1,000 percent convinced” in Muschamp’s ability to lead Florida to championships, has remained the embattled coach’s staunchest supporter.
Earlier this fall, Foley said Florida would not make a change midseason. But with little (if any) hope moving forward, Muschamp’s firing no longer appears an “if” but rather “when.”
Still, senior center Max Garcia said the Gators wouldn’t quit on their coach.
“Foley said earlier that Muschamp is here and he’s staying here,” Garcia said.
“We’re going to play that way. We’re not going to give up on him. We’re not going to give up on the team. We don’t have any quitters on this team.”
Florida’s 2013 season was clouded by injuries and offensive ineptitude. This year Muschamp promised a resurgence and called this season’s group his “most talented team.”
Instead, the Gators look worse than a season ago. UF’s offense remains an impotent, turnover machine, and the Gators must now upset either Georgia, South Carolina or No. 2 Florida State just to reach bowl eligibility. They also play Vanderbilt and Eastern Kentucky to finish the season.
“We’re still going to fight. We’ve still got three more SEC games in the East that we have to win in order for anything to happen, so we’ve got to take care of these games,” Garcia said.
“They’re slipping away. We’ve got a few more home games left and we’ve just got to capitalize on them because they’re running out.”
Following the team’s fifth home loss in two years, Muschamp again repeated that his team’s struggles fall on his shoulders. And yet, he appeared to blame his players for their constant issues in pass protection, special teams execution and quarterback play.
“I know we all want to drop back and throw it, but there’s a reason why we can’t. You saw it,” Muschamp said. “When we got in the drop back, we struggled tremendously to protect and to hold the edges. … Some of our guys need look in the mirror. They need to play better in some situations.”
Florida’s players must play better, but this is Muschamp’s team. The one he recruited, developed and currently coaches.
It just may not be his much longer.