Max Garcia’s lips quivered as he spoke.
His eyes were bloodshot, and Florida’s senior center barely held back tears explaining how the Gators found a way to inexplicably lose — again.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Garcia said. “We just came up short. It hurts, and it’s going to last. This is my last regular-season game as a Gator, and it will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Will Muschamp’s tenure as UF’s outgoing coach ended in fitting fashion Saturday, as Florida (6-5) exasperatingly lost 24-19 to then-No.1 Florida State (12-0) thanks to missed chances, a bungling offense and awful penalties.
Instead of a Hollywood ending, Muschamp’s finale followed a typical script.
Florida failed to capitalize on five FSU turnovers, consistently squandering excellent field position and a dominant defensive effort. FSU quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston threw four interceptions, and it didn’t matter.
With the Gators’ usual self-inflicted woes — 10 penalties, two turnovers, a pair of missed field goals — they became the first team in the country to pick off four passes and lose.
“Again, it just wasn’t enough,” senior linebacker Michael Taylor said. “It just wasn’t enough. It sucks, and I wish we could have went out with a win. The win was right there. We tasted victory, but unfortunately we couldn’t get it done.”
The Gators didn’t “get it done” against LSU or South Carolina, either, and their latest gut-wrenching defeat is why they’re looking for a new coach.
Florida fell to 5-14 against ranked foes — and just 1-3 against FSU — under Muschamp, and Saturday’s stinger left a locker room downcast and full of raw emotions.
Afterward, Muschamp told the team he loved them, and the players said the same thing.
“We cried for him. We hugged him,” Garcia said. “We just told him that we loved him, too.”
Said Taylor: “This was the first time we actually saw him emotional about the situation. I loved him as a coach and a player. I loved him as a person even more. He told us that he loved us, and he appreciated everything we did for him, but we appreciate him more than he can even realize.”
Muschamp finished with a 28-21 record at Florida, but he leaves with a team that isn’t as far away from its undefeated rival as many might believe.
“Just a guy that did it the right way,” Muschamp said about his legacy at UF. “I hold my head walking out of here. We did things the right way. We didn’t win enough games. I was asked to clean up a program. We did that.”