Muschamp was walking to his weekly press conference while Donovan was heading to work out in the football stadium. There was small talk before they talked about the outcome of Saturday's game, but the 17-year veteran coach was immediately impressed with the demeanor of the young football coach.
"I just thought he had an incredible perspective of where his team was at, where his program was at and where he wanted to go," Donovan said. "He knows exactly what he wants to do in recruiting and knows exactly how he wants his team to play.
"I've got a whole lot of respect for him."
After that conversation, the Gators continued to take their lumps on the way to a 7-6 season in 2011. The view of Muschamp never changed in Donovan's mind. That's a big reason why there hasn't been much of a surprise to the basketball coach what the Gators have done on the gridiron this season, ripping off an 11-1 record and a spot in the Sugar Bowl.
His encounter with Muschamp after such a low moment like the 2011 Alabama game gave Donovan confidence that it wouldn't take long for Florida to get back among the elite football programs.
"Like anything else, there's a building process that needs to go on," Donovan said. "I give him and his coaching staff a lot of credit. I also give the players a lot of credit. A lot of those same guys on the team and a year ago needed to get a lot better, and they obviously made a commitment to get better. They've played a very difficult schedule.
"I take a lot from watching his team's play. They looked a lot last year like a team that wasn't physically tough. Now, they've developed into a very physically, mentally tough team. That's a great tribute to all of them. They've had an incredible year."