Dunbar could have pouted when he was benched before Florida’s home game against Missouri. The Florida coaches knew they needed more production, and the fifth-year senior simply wasn’t providing it. Ahmad Fulwood took his place in the starting lineup and was expected to use his size to give the Florida quarterbacks a bigger target down the field.
When Fulwood went down with turf toe on Saturday against Vanderbilt, Dunbar was thrown back onto the field. He led the Florida receivers with four catches for 97 yards, including a 60-yard gain.
Despite being relegated to backup duties, Dunbar still worked hard on the practice field, and because of that, he was ready to make an impact when the Gators needed him on Saturday.
“When you lose your confidence, you don’t play as fast and you’re not as assertive in what you’re doing all the time,” Muschamp said, referring to when Dunbar was benched. “Sometimes you have to get your confidence back. Quinton has done that, but he has worked hard to do that. He practices hard every day and does everything you’re supposed to do.”
TABOR’S PLAY: The highlight of the night came on a one-handed interception from freshman cornerback Jalen Tabor as the Commodores were trying to score a late touchdown when the game was out of hand. Tabor jumped into the air and extended his right arm, trying to knock the ball down for an incomplete pass. Instead, he brought the ball to his body to complete the interception.
“I taught him that the second day of practice,” Muschamp said with a grin.
Tabor and Quincy Wilson have both earned starts this year at the cornerback position opposite of Vernon Hargreaves. Tabor was even named SEC co-Freshman of the Week for a big game against Tennessee. After an inconsistent spring, the freshman has proven this season that he’s a big part of the Florida secondary going forward.
“He’s a very good football player,” Muschamp said. “He’s got good ball skills but he’s got really good length. A bigger corner, and we like to have bigger guys to match up down the field. Outstanding play on his part.”
SEC EAST RACE: The Gators took care of what they needed to do by beating Vanderbilt and need to beat South Carolina on Saturday in their final SEC game of the year. For Florida to remain alive in the East race, Georgia has to lost to Auburn on Saturday. Missouri has to lose against Tennessee on November 22 and one game against Texas A&M (November 15) and Arkansas (November 28).
“We need to let the chips fall where they may,” Muschamp said. “We’ve dug ourselves our whole.”
Florida hosts the Gamecocks on Saturday with a lot on the line. The Gators need to win for SEC East purposes and to keep the heat off Muschamp. It would also make the Gators bowl eligible after missing a bowl game last year.
South Carolina still has work to do to make a bowl game. The Gamecocks need to win two of their final three games against Florida, South Alabama and Clemson to be bowl eligible. South Carolina had a bye to rest up and spend time preparing for Florida.
“We need to go play an outstanding South Carolina offense,” Muschamp said. “The last time I saw them on tape, they were slinging it all over and Coach Spurrier is as good as there is. We need to get prepared for that. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”