Florida toughness shows again in win

There was a confidence in Will Muschamp when he found his way to the interview room after No. 4 Florida knocked off No. 10 Florida State 37-26. It was a lot like the way he looked after road wins against Texas A&M and Tennessee. The game plan hasn't changed much for Florida since that early season road trip, but Florida coach Will Muschamp still isn't ready to say his program is back.

There aren't any rings on fingers, and the only new trophy in the football office is the one Florida earned with its with in the Gator Bowl last year. It's not the hardware Muschamp wants before proclaiming his program as back among the elite in the sport.

"Everybody wants to talk about we've arrived and we're back," Will Muschamp said. "Hell, we haven't won a championship. Until you win a championship, I'd have a hard time sitting here and saying we've arrived and we're back. That's what we're striving for every day at the University of Florida — championships."

His stamp on the program is becoming clear as Florida continues to rip off wins against elite programs in the country. It's the toughness he preached about in his opening press conference that has bled through the Florida roster.

It has shown as the Gators continue to plow through second half come backs on the road when all the momentum of the crowd is with the home team. It happened in College Station, it happened in Knoxville, and just to prove the early-season magic hadn't worn off — it happened again in Tallahassee.

"(Very proud of) the mental toughness that we played with," Muschamp said. "That's something that, when I first came to Florida, that was a bit of a question mark. Last time we came to this stadium, it was a 31-7 game. It wasn't tonight. That football team showed their resolve, fight, oneness and togetherness. I'm proud to be a part of them.

"We don't use excuses. We did enough of that last year."

The comebacks on the road against Texas A&M and Tennessee happened throughout the entire second half, but Saturday was more about the fourth quarter. Florida State posted 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to take a 20-13 lead. The 83,429 in the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium were loud and the energy on the Florida State sideline was impossible to ignore.

The Gators fought through it. They outscored the Seminoles 24-6 in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

"I don't want to say we don't look at the scoreboard, but our guys understand it's about 60 minutes and how you continue to play and perform," Muschamp said. "We really challenged our football team on winning the fourth quarter and those games and situations to perform well when the game is on the line. We didn't do that well a year ago.

"That was a culmination of our football season. Very fitting fashion."

The truth for the Gators is that without a sloppy performance in Jacksonville against Georgia, Florida would be controlling its own destiny in the national championship hunt.

"We shot ourselves in the foot too many times in Jacksonville, or we'd be sitting here undefeated," Muschamp said. "That's the bottom line."

INJURY REPORT: Florida linebacker Jelani Jenkins suffered an injury that Muschamp didn't know much about after the game, but he did say it "doesn't look good." Jenkins had a boot on his right foot while walking off the field after the game.

Mike Gillislee suffered a rib injury late in the game that forced freshman Matt Jones to run the clock out, but Muschamp said after the game that it was a rib injury and the senior should be fine.

TURNOVERS: Last year, it was the Florida offense that caused the loss with its turnover issues. This year, the Gators flipped it. Florida forced five turnovers — three interceptions and a fumble by Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel — as they have all season.

"That's why our season has turned around this year—turnover margin," Muschamp said. "It's totally flipped and totally different for our team. There's no question that we're a physical football team. That's what we pride ourselves on."

That was the change in production with this year's defense. In 2011, the statistics were good but Florida couldn't take the ball away. The defense showed against on Saturday that it's no longer an issue.

It's the normal process that happens when a young team matures in the SEC.

"We understand now more about winning," Muschamp said. "In this league, you have to be physical. You can be fast and all that, but you better be physical."

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