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Sunday September 11, 2011Gators Take Care of Business Before Business Requires More Heavy Lifting

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – He may be a rookie head coach, but Will Muschamp has been around long enough to appreciate a donut on the scoreboard as long as it belongs to the other team.

As the final seconds ticked off in Florida’s 39-0 win over UAB on Saturday night, Muschamp walked over to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and shared some knowledge he learned from all those years as a SEC defensive coordinator.

Savor it. Enjoy it. Remember it. Whatever you do, don’t take it for granted because shutouts just don’t grow on all those tall oak trees around UF’s campus.

Saturday’s win was the Gators’ first shutout since a 62-0 stomping of Western Carolina in 2006. In his six seasons, Urban Meyer only had two shutouts. Ron Zook’s Gators didn’t produce one in three seasons.

He may be new on Florida’s sideline, but Muschamp is old school when it comes to football.

“I’ve been a coordinator for a long time, and with this day and age of college football, it’s very difficult to get a shutout,’’ Muschamp said. “The players need to be proud.’’

In their final tune-up before opening the SEC season next weekend at home against Tennessee, it was a very workmanlike performance fitting of a team Muschamp likes to refer to as blue collar.

The Gators opened with a bit of trickery after Andre Debose took the opening kickoff 50 yards. On Florida’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback John Brantley completed a 40-yard pass to Quinton Dunbar on a flea-flicker.

The Gators pulled a few more tricks from the bag along the way, like using a wildcat formation with Chris Rainey taking snaps and using versatile Trey Burton out of the shotgun on running plays.

However, Saturday was mostly about taking care of business before the business requires more heavy lifting.

Muschamp urged the Gators to be proud of Saturday’s accomplishment, but he also fired off some warning signs with the SEC slate set to begin.

Those procedural problems that were part of a nine-penalty performance, they need to go. The communication breakdowns here and there, get rid of those, too. And where are the forced turnovers?

“The turnovers we need to pick up. We need to do a better job with that,’’ Muschamp said. “We want to get three.’’

The Gators got one on Saturday when safety Matt Elam knocked the ball loose from UAB receiver Darrin Reaves and cornerback Marcus Roberson pounced on the ball. On the ensuing drive, the Gators drove 71 yards for a Rainey touchdown run that put them up 32-0.

Muschamp reminded everyone that when a team forces three or more turnovers, it wins 90 percent of the time.

So shutout or no shutout, there’s work to do before Tennessee pays a visit.

“I just didn’t feel like we played as clean as we needed to play on either side of the ball,’’ Muschamp said. “I don’t know if we played as well as we would have wanted to have played against this football team.’’

He may be a rookie head coach, but Muschamp knows all about games against Tennessee and Alabama and LSU and Auburn.

As does senior quarterback John Brantley.

Brantley had his second consecutive steady outing, completing 12 of 19 passes for 195 yards. He didn’t throw an interception and wasn’t sacked. He mostly handed off to Rainey (team-high 119 yards rushing) and a host of other backs and let them do the rest.

The Gators finished with 512 yards of total offense, 300 of those coming on the ground.

With the Vols coming to town, Brantley hears what his coach is saying.

“We know with the SEC starting we really need to crank it up,’’ Brantley said. “You prepare for every game like it’s for the championship.’’

Like Muschamp, Brantley talked about cleaning up. They weren’t talking about shaving. Instead, they want to cut out some of those penalties and communication problems that led to field goals instead of touchdowns on early drives against UAB.

If they can do that next Saturday, the Gators will have a chance to get off to a good start in their second season like they have in their first.

The Gators have outscored FAU and UAB 80-3 in Muschamp’s first two games as head coach. The last time the Gators allowed three or fewer points in their first two games was the first season under D.K. Stanley.

If you are not familiar with Stanley, we’ll forgive you. Stanley’s first team didn’t allow a point until its fifth game of the 1933 season. It’s been awhile.

Back to the future, the 2011 Gators have surrendered only 349 yards of total offense in their first two games. They have allowed just 101 rushing. In other words, they did everything they needed to get the Muschamp Era off to a good start.

“We wanted to be 2-0 and that’s where we are,’’ he said.


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