University of Florida

Gators seniors ready to play final home game against the coach who brought them to UF

Joey Ivie (91) still remembers the in-house visit. Will Muschamp, then the head coach of the Florida Gators, and a pair of assistant coaches sat at Ivie’s dinner table, at Chinese food and explained to the high school defensive lineman from the Tampa area why he should come to UF.
Joey Ivie (91) still remembers the in-house visit. Will Muschamp, then the head coach of the Florida Gators, and a pair of assistant coaches sat at Ivie’s dinner table, at Chinese food and explained to the high school defensive lineman from the Tampa area why he should come to UF. AP

Joey Ivie still remembers the in-house visit.

Will Muschamp, then the head coach of the Florida Gators, and a pair of assistant coaches sat at Ivie’s dinner table, at Chinese food and explained to the high school defensive lineman from the Tampa area why he should come to UF.

“That’s something you’ll never forget as a kid,” Ivie said.

Ivie followed through and committed to the Gators, but Muschamp would only be his head coach for two seasons. He was fired during the 2014 season after going 28-21 in four years at the helm. He spent a year as Auburn’s defensive coordinator before accepting the head coaching position at South Carolina in December.

Two years after his firing, Muschamp will be back in The Swamp on Saturday, Florida’s senior day.

With SEC East implications on the line, No. 22 Florida’s senior class will face its former head coach for the first time when it plays Muschamp’s Gamecocks. Kickoff is set for noon and the game will be televised on CBS. Ivie is one of eight scholarship seniors and one of 30 Florida players who Muschamp signed to play at UF.

“It’s definitely going to be something special for us who played for Muschamp to play against him,” Ivie said. “From their standpoint, I know he’s going to want to come in here especially leaving Florida and try to get a win.”

On a teleconference call Sunday, Muschamp briefly reflected on his career at Florida, his first chance to be a head coach.

He said he was grateful for the opportunity, but in the end, he didn’t win enough games in order to keep his job.

“There’s no hard feelings. There’s no animosity. There’s no grudge,” Muschamp said. “It’s part of our profession.”

Yet since McElwain took over, his success rate has been nearly identical to Muschamp’s first two years.

Through 22 games, McElwain is 16-6 overall and UF is 1-6 against ranked opponents. Its six losses have come by an average margin of 18.5 points.

Muschamp had a 15-7 record in his first 22 games, with a 4-6 record against ranked foes. The seven losses were by an average margin of 14.3 points.

The only difference is McElwain has an SEC East title under his belt already and has the chance to do it again this year.

The Gators (6-2, 4-2 SEC) can clinch the division if they win against South Carolina and defeat LSU on the road next weekend.

But UF, led by Muschamp’s successor Jim McElwain, is not overlooking a South Carolina team that has found its groove over the last three weeks.

After averaging just 14 points in its first six games, the Gamecocks (5-4, 3-4 SEC) have scored 89 points in their last three games -- wins against Massachusetts, Tennessee and Missouri.

Freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, who overtook the starting role at the start of the win streak, is completing 73 percent of his passes and has thrown six touchdown passes without an interception.

“You can see the confidence of the guys around him,” McElwain said. “He knows where he’s going with the ball immediately and I think it’s fun to watch.”

The Gators, meanwhile, have fallen into a slump as of late. UF has recorded more than 300 yards of total offense and more than 25 points once in its last four games.

McElwain is hoping graduate transfer Austin Appleby, who will be making his third start of the season with Luke Del Rio out with a shoulder injury, can provide a spark.

“He’ll be ready,” McElwain said.

Ivie said he will likely talk with Muschamp after the game, but the Gators need to take care of business on the field first before he reminisces with the head coach that got him to Florida.

“Before the game, they’re your enemy,” Ivie said. “That’s how I approach it. Anyone who’s not a Gator to me is an enemy until the game is over.”

Saturday: South Carolina @ No. 22 Florida

Kickoff: Noon; Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field, Gainesville.

TV/radio: CBS; WINZ 940.

Favorite: Florida by 11.

Records: Florida 6-2 (4-2 SEC); South Carolina 5-4 (3-4 SEC).

Series: Florida leads 25-8-3.

Florida injuries: Questionable — DL Cece Jefferson (foot); RB Mark Herndon (undisclosed). Doubtful — LB Jarrad Davis (ankle). Out — QB Luke Del Rio (shoulder); LB Alex Anzalone (arm); WR Dre Massey (knee); DB C.J. McWilliams (ACL); OL Antonio Riles (knee).

South Carolina injuries: Questionable — RB A.J. Turner (knee). Out — TE Robert Tucker III (neck); WR Randrecous Dais (hamstring).

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