The players all said the right things during the last week. They didn’t want to talk about Will Muschamp’s job security, noting only that they supported their head coach and loved playing for him. Saying the right things was only one part of it. They had to come out and play better following a 42-13 loss to Missouri two weeks ago.
Even if only for a week, the Gators made the talk about Muschamp’s job go away with their play in Jacksonville.
“We had a lot of pressure built up on us during the week, knowing that our head coach was on the hot seat,” running back Matt Jones said. “He needed this win to get over that bump. We’re still behind him and released that energy after the big win.”
It’s a mantra the team developed during the bye week. Muschamp has been billed as a player’s coach since his early days as a defensive coordinator in the Southeastern Conference, and it’s even easier to see that now that he’s the head coach. For all his shortcomings in the last four years, the players love him and want to play for him.
That doesn’t mean much when it isn’t matched with wins on the scoreboard. The Gators provided just that on Saturday.
“We wanted to win, but I think this was a Will Muschamp game,” Jones said. “We wanted to win for him. We took some heat off him.
“We’re going to carry that the rest of the year, just trying to keep him here on our side. We love the guy. We’re behind him 100 percent. I love him coaching, and I hope he stays here.”
The emphasis was on the ground, where Jones posted 192 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Kelvin Taylor posted 197 yards on 25 carries, the first time in school history Florida had two rushers go over 190 yards.
This is what they expected coming into the season. The numbers on Saturday were big and more than the two expected to happen, but they were optimistic both backs would be heavily involved throughout the year. There was even talk at the team’s media day that both running backs wanted to get over the 1,000-yard mark.
That likely won’t happen for Taylor, who is sitting at 397 yards after Saturday’s breakout performance, but Jones needs 332 yards over the rest of the season to be the first Florida running back to break 1,000 rushing yards since Mike Gillislee in 2012.
“These are the kind of games we envisioned when we both came off that great camp we had,” Jones said of him and Taylor. “We needed this game to get us going.
“They knew we were going to run the ball, but we still ran the ball at them.”
That’s a big reason why Jones and Taylor plan to take the offensive line out to dinner on Thursday night this week, thanking them for opening the holes they provided. Early in the third quarter, it was obvious that the offensive line’s physicality was wearing Georgia down.
Multiple offensive linemen said they saw it happening, and Jones did, too.
“They started wearing down,” Jones said. “We were running the ball and up-tempo. Every time we had a big play, we’d come back with another speed play. They were tired and couldn’t get set fast enough.”