Will Muschamp was given a vote of confidence this week—he will be the head coach of the Florida Gators in 2014. Both athletic director Jeremy Foley and University of Florida president Bernie Machen have come out in support on Muschamp; Foley going as far as to say he is 1,000% convinced Muschamp is the right man for the job. Debates will rage on, but are now as pointless as are those regarding possible future coaches. Will Muschamp will return, as far as we know.
With the votes of confidence from Foley and Machen, Muschamp can focus on what is sure to be a tough run of final games. The regular season, and in all likelihood the entire season, comes to an end on November 30 with a visit from the currently undefeated Florida State Seminoles. One week before that, the Gators host Georgia Southern in what at one time was thought to be an easy victory. Easy victories have become a thing of the distant past. Prior to both of those games, there is Saturday’s trip to Columbia, South Carolina to face an old friend and another ranked opponent.
I will always have a feeling of admiration for Steve Spurrier, and maybe that makes me a different sort of Florida fan. There are those, and they still seem many in numbers, that despise the man that once led the Gators to glorious moment after glorious moment. After all, he left the Gators and that is the sin of all sins. You don’t win and win plenty at the University of Florida and then leave for a new opportunity or because the pressure was too much. The Gators have had two national championship winning head coaches do so, and many fans are not pleased about it and never will be.
There are some of us, though, that have moved on. I don’t blame Spurrier for leaving; I praise him for what he built. You can argue that the Florida Gators were destined for greatness regardless of the man that led them there. The school is large enough and the state in which it resides is plentiful of star high school prospects. While the 1970s had low points, the 1980s had high ones before Spurrier arrived. In 1990, things changed though. Spurrier returned to Gainesville and took the Gators to new heights. No one can predict what would have happened if he hadn’t, but I like to think those 12 seasons and 122 wins helped pave the way for SEC titles and national championships after Spurrier had long left the orange and blue.
Today, Spurrier leads the enemy. He is closing in on matching the numbers of years he coached our Gators. This is his ninth season at the University of South Carolina. While he hasn’t experienced the success he did while with Florida, what he has accomplished has been impressive nonetheless. While the Gators and Muschamp entered this season off of an 11-2 2012, so did the Gamecocks and Spurrier. In fact, South Carolina went 11-2 in 2012 and 2011. This season they are 7-2, sitting at No. 10 in the BCS standings.
Admittedly, the two losses aren’t great ones. That’s a bold statement from someone repeatedly cheering for a 4-5 team, but that 4-5 team has five losses to teams with better records. South Carolina’s two losses came to teams that currently have worse records than the Gamecocks. And there you have, you’ve made it to the part of the article where I grasp at straws. Without at least a slice of positivity, it all turns into maniacal laughter. We’ve reached that point several times this season and surely will again, so there’s no harm in finding a sliver of silver lining even if it is small and truly means nothing.
Okay, silver lining over, even if it was the weakest silver lining in the history of silver linings. Saturday could be a dumpster fire reaching new, unbearable levels of heat. The Gators are beaten, battered and broken. The middle of the defense—Antonio Morrison—has joined the ranks of those out for the season; the middle of the offense—Tyler Murphy—looks set to join him. The rumor mill is up and running and spitting out reports that say Murphy could not only miss South Carolina, but Georgia Southern and Florida State too.
When original starter Jeff Driskel went down for the season, the Gators turned to a quarterback that had never attempted a pass at the college level. If Murphy is also down for the count, the Gators will do the same again. Behind Murphy are six other quarterbacks (seven if you count Alex Adler; Adler’s position is listed as “HS,” but Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army tells us he’s also a QB)—Jacob Guy, Ryan McGriff, Skyler Mornhinweg, Christian Provancha, Max Staver, and Chris Wilkes. There are only two that had any realistic chance of taking meaningful snaps for the Gators during their careers—Mornhinweg and Staver. With the coaching staff hoping to preserve Staver’s redshirt, Mornhinweg is up. If Murphy is out for the remainder of the season, Mornhinweg is starring down the barrel of two top-10 opponents. Good luck Skyler, we’re behind you, but also praying for you.
Regardless of Murphy or Mornhinweg or any of the other quarterbacks coming in and lighting up opposing defenses, there’s a very real chance the Gators could finish their 2013 season in a couple of weeks at 5-7 without a bowl game on the horizon. It’s a sad and harsh thought that is closer to becoming a reality every day. Spurrier looms and the Seminoles aren’t far behind. A possible step back in 2013 has become a fall into the depths. Competent football is out there somewhere; we’ve seen glimpses even if they are fewer and farther between with each passing game. South Carolina is no longer about 2013, but about 2014. We want to know what we’re going to see a season from now.
From the beginning of the 1993 season to the end of the 1996 one, the Gators lost only six games (and tied one unbelievably frustrating one). If my math is correct, that’s a span of 1,217 days. On Saturday, the Gators could lose their sixth this season in a span of 78 days. It’s painful, and more so because it could come courtesy the man that led the Gators to that previous era of dominance. There’s little hope Florida is done losing for the season. Support is there, cheering continues, but an air of exhaustion also hangs over our heads. 4-5 takes a lot out of you, more so if you’re a coach or a player.
In a season that needs to be over, it isn’t yet. It continues for three more weeks and three more 60-minute battles (or struggles if you wish). Will Muschamp will return for 2014 regardless of the outcome of the final three games, but Brent Pease may not. The Gators’ season is on crutches and it’s likely they’ll walk without them anytime soon. Coaches, players, fans, we all have to get through the next three games one way or another. Let’s try to do it without tearing another proverbial ACL.