Florida continues finding ways to win

Florida continues finding ways to win

It hasn't always been pretty. In fact, it rarely ever has been this year, but somehow, the Gators continue to win. Of all the ugly wins this season, throw Saturday's 27-20 win over Louisiana at the top. It sent the Gators to a 9-1 record and one win from their first ten-win season since 2009, but the struggles on offense can take away from the strengths of the Florida defense and special teams.

"We certainly make it interesting," Will Muschamp said in his opening statement. "It's a football team that's finding ways to win games. To win the game in that fashion certainly is a credit to our character, kids and where we're headed with the program."

Even the games against the weaker teams on the Florida schedule have been adventurous. The first game of the season against Bowling Green should have been the warning. The Gators held a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter against the Falcons but were able to sneak out a win.

Last week against Missouri, the Tigers were driving at the end of the game with a chance to tie it on a pass into the end zone.

Saturday was the closest call to a loss for Florida against an inferior opponent. The Gators trail by seven early in the fourth quarter before storming back, and in the most improbable play of the year, blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown before time expired.

"They have a strong belief in one other and where we're headed," Muschamp said. "I told the guys how proud I was to be their head football coach, and I mean that. You're a reflection of your football team.

When you see guys continuing to play with passion and energy in The Swamp, all of those things are important. I see a football team that's doing that."

After the six-loss season the Florida players and coaches went through last season, they'll take the wins any way they can get them. They faced some bad luck last season, but the Gators have had positive plays happen this season in crucial situations.

"Sometimes I feel like the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you catch breaks, and sometimes you don't. Sometimes you play yourself into it.

"Mark Hudspeth said at the end of the game, ‘great teams find ways to win games.' He said, ‘you've got a great football team.' I don't know if I'd stretch it that far, but we've got a bunch of guys that are playing together and playing for each other."

PENALTIES CAUSING PROBLEMS: Whenever there was a positive play for Florida, there were plenty of times where a flag laid on the ground just behind it.

"The penalties just killed us in the game," Muschamp said. "We've talked about it. We're going to reemphasize it again. We've emphasized it every day and in every situation we could. We've benched guys.

"We've done everything we can do, but we're going to find another way. We're going to meet as a staff tomorrow to figure out how to continue moving forward."

The number of penalties is an issue, but the timeliness is, too. There won't be a penalty that happens and makes the coaches happy because of its timing, but the Gators hurt themselves at multiple times because of penalties that kept drives alive or gave Louisiana easy first downs.

It started early. Jordan Reed was called for a holding penalty on the first drive of the game that killed any shot Florida had at scoring a touchdown, and it was held to a field goal.

When Louisiana started to make its run in the second half, the Florida defense played a big role. With Florida leading 13-3, the Gators forced Louisiana into a 3rd and 10 situation. It looked like a stop after an incomplete pass, but Lerentee McCray jumped across the line of scrimmage for an offsides penalty that kept the drive alive. On the 3rd and 5, Louisiana ran for a first down.

Five plays later, Loucheiz Purifoy committed a pass interference penalty on another third down play.

It was the same type of mistakes throughout the game, and they've also happened throughout the season.

"We certainly shot ourselves in the foot enough during the game to put it in that situation," Muschamp said. "Those are things that were caused by Florida, not anybody else."

It has become an epidemic for the Florida team. It doesn't matter the side of the ball, either. The defense stood out on Saturday because of costly penalties, but the offense has dealt with issues of their own. There were 10-15 yard gains on Saturday that were called back because of holding penalties.

"I told them in the locker room, ‘we've got to get over this.' We've got to get over jumping offside on 3rd and 10," Muschamp said. "Eventually as a player, you've got to look in the mirror and realize, ‘I've got to player smarter than that.' We're going to keep holding them accountable and doing what we've got to do. We're doing all we can do."

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