University of Florida

Florida Gators hope to send coach Will Muschamp out on high note

FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2014, file photo, Florida head coach Will Muschamp paces the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla.
FILE - In this Nov. 1, 2014, file photo, Florida head coach Will Muschamp paces the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla. AP

Will Muschamp isn’t a big fan of history lessons, but Florida’s lame-duck coach certainly hopes history repeats itself one more time.

The parallels between Muschamp, fired Nov.16, and former UF coach Ron Zook are endless. Both were former hotshot defensive coordinators entrusted with following school legends as first-time head coaches. Both failed to meet the lofty expectations and were officially ousted before the season’s end.

But Zook’s tenure ended in spectacular fashion, upsetting No.10 Florida State 20-13 in Tallahassee exactly a decade ago.

Zook, fired a month earlier, was carried off the field on his players’ shoulders. Muschamp would love a similar sweet send-off, too.

“I’ve kind of heard that story. Appreciate you rehashing it for me,” Muschamp said, expressionless.

“It is what it is. I mean, that ain’t gonna help us win the game. I can assure you of that.”

No, it won’t, but a victory over top-ranked FSU — the defending national champions and winners of 27 games in a row — would go a long way in altering Muschamp’s legacy at UF.

The Gators are actually the last team to beat the Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium, a 37-26 win in 2012.

They’re confident they can win one for ‘Champ’ the same way their brothers won for the Zooker in 2004.

“Love our chances,” UF sophomore defensive end Alex McCalister said.

“We’re going to end that [streak].”

Added sophomore safety Keanu Neal: “We’re going to lay it on the line for Muschamp. We have to send him out victorious.”

But Florida is just 10-13 since its win two years ago — 1-6 versus ranked foes.

Meanwhile, FSU has seized control of the Sunshine State and is two wins away from reaching the inaugural college football playoff.

Although the Seminoles appear vulnerable — FSU has trailed in four of its last five contests — they’ve found a way to win every game.

Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has thrived in pressure situations, engineering seven fourth-quarter comebacks.

“Anytime you win, it may not be exactly what you want it to look like, and certainly all the experts are taking their shots, but they’ve still won 27 games in a row. That’s really hard to do,” Muschamp said.

“They know how to win, and that’s a talent, too.”

Considering Saturday’s stakes — the in-state rivalry, FSU’s winning streak, Muschamp’s finale — Florida can’t get caught up in the moment if it hopes to really spring the upset victory.

“You turn on the tape, and you don’t get real emotional. I can tell you that. They’ve got a good team,” Muschamp said.

“They don’t need fireworks to get ready for this one.

They’ll be ready to go. Our guys are excited about this game. … We’ve had a week to feel sorry about this, that or the other, when all we can control is the controllables, and that’s getting ready for Florida State.”

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