Florida AD Foley backs Muschamp again; UF falls
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley refuses to panic.
Not after the worst loss in school history. Not after the first losing season since 1979. Not after missing a bowl game for the first time in 23 years. And not after a humbling loss to rival Florida State.
Foley held an impromptu news conference before Florida's season finale — a 37-7 loss to No. 2 Florida State on Saturday — and reiterated "total confidence" in coach Will Muschamp.
"Obviously, it's been a difficult year," Foley said. "We haven't made an excuse all year and we're not going to make them now. We know what this program is all about. I have total confidence in coach Muschamp and have made that clear. We've got to fix some things. When you have seasons like this, that's what you do: you evaluate, you analyze and you fix things. You don't panic. You don't put orange and blue glasses on.
"It's not acceptable. It's not who we are, and it's not what we're about. Confident we can fix it. I've heard that it's my ego speaking. No, it's my belief."
Foley made it clear staff changes are coming. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis are likely gone, scapegoats after a dismal offensive season. The Gators entered Saturday's game ranked 111th in total offense. They managed 193 yards against FSU — and that included a 50-yard run on the team's second series.
"We need to take a look at ourselves schematically with what we're doing," Muschamp said after the game. "There have been some things that have happened that are very difficult to overcome, but schematically there's no question we need to take a look at ourselves. ... I'm willing to do what we need to do to score points and win games."
Foley told his staff earlier this week that he doesn't "own this franchise," but added that it's his job to make sure things are headed in the right direction. And he believes Muschamp has the Gators pointed the right way.
Muschamp fell to 22-16 in three seasons in Gainesville. That includes last week's 26-20 debacle against lower-division Georgia Southern.
"I don't have my head in the sand," Foley said. "No question there's a lot of noise out there, and I get that. But we wanted to make sure Will knew where we stood. That's important to Will, it's important to recruiting and it's important to our organization. It's important for our coaches to understand that things are tough and we're going to be there for him.
"The guy was 11-1 a year ago and SEC Coach of the Year. To sit here and be silent ... that's not how we felt."
Probably the only thing that has saved Muschamp this season is last year's 11-2 record that included a trip to the Sugar Bowl.
The Gators (4-8) ended the season by losing seven consecutive games — their longest losing streak since going 0-10-1 in 1979 — and were a mismatch against the unbeaten Seminoles (12-0).
"I feel like we hit rock bottom this year," guard Max Garcia said. "I feel like the only way we can go is up."
Florida has been decimated by injuries, losing quarterback Jeff Driskel, running back Matt Jones, receiver Andre Debose, defensive tackle Dominique Easley, three offensive tackles and several others for the season. Backup quarterback Tyler Murphy also missed the final three games with a sprained throwing shoulder, leaving third-stringer Skyler Mornhinweg to start.
The injuries are surely a viable excuse, but many insist no amount of personnel problems should lead Florida to be ranked in the triple digits in total offense for three consecutive years.
The question is whether Muschamp will alter his run-first offensive style that leads to so many close games and leaves little margin for error.
"I think Will is a really good self-evaluator," Foley said. "He can look in the mirror and isn't afraid to take responsibility for what's happened. ... We look at ourselves and how we get better. Not just sit here and say, 'Yeah, we've got a bunch of injuries, we'll be fine.' That better not be our attitude. It better be our attitude to reevaluate every single facet of what we're doing and get this thing fixed.
"Yeah, it stinks. It stinks for every Gator fan. This season has been no fun because we care."