As the clock ticked down, eating away at the last few seconds before an inevitable win, the Gators celebrated on the sidelines. Will Muschamp ran around like a kid again, hugging players, coaches, trainers anyone in his way. The stadium was half empty, or — if you’re an optimistic — half full of Gators, as the Bulldog fans had long left their seats for uncomfortable barstools across the street at The Landing.
Meanwhile, beneath the stands at Ever Bank Field, in a room normally reserved for the Jacksonville Jaguars defense, the media waited for Will Muschamp.
It took a little longer than normal but don’t blame Muschamp for soaking this up. He walked in to the room with a renewed pep in his step. His smile was one of pure joy and he told associate athletic director Steve McClain, “This is going to be a fun one.”
As a student-athlete at the University of Georgia, Muschamp went 0-4 against the Gators and was 0-3 as a coach against his alma mater on the field.
“Let me lift this thing off my back,” a relieved Muschamp said while pantomiming taking a monkey off of his back. “One less thing for you to write about. I’m just extremely proud of our football team and how they came out and performed.”
Muschamp then delved into his normally long-winded opening statement. A keen football mind, he recalls plays with little effort and dissects what went wrong or right on any particular play. He stopped briefly, “not now Robbie,” he said to longtime Gainesville Sun beat reporter Robbie Andreu. “I’ve waiting a long time for this one, let me enjoy it.”
His football team got the job done. The plan was simple and they executed it to perfection giving Will Muschamp his first Cocktail Party win ever. “They’re probably not going to put me in the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame,” he joked. “But maybe I’ll be on the ballot now.”
Florida started slow and after one quarter of play it seemed like the prognosticators that labeled the Gators a double-digit underdog would be right. The Gators hadn’t even mustered up 50 yards of offense in the first quarter and Georgia’s freshman running back Nick Chubb had 119 all-purpose yards — more than Florida was allowing in rushing per-game.
That changed when Florida did something that wasn’t what we’re used to seeing. Lining up for a field goal, with the wind behind them, Will Muschamp dialed up a fake field goal that Mike McNeely carried 21-yards into the end zone. “I’m just a risky guy as far as I see,” Muschamp quipped.
Muschamp was on fire in this press conference. His confidence and the team’s confidence restored, Muschamp was laughing, joking and most noticeably relieved. Until the press conference took a more serious turn.
“I wish my father was here,” Muschamp said speaking about his father, Herbert Larry Muschamp, who passed away in May. His eyes welling up in tears the head ball coach opened up. “That’s what I thought about at the end of the game.”
Asked what his dad would have said to him after notching the signature win of his career Muschamp responded saying, “Oh, I don’t know. Don’t get me started, I’ll get all emotional.”
“You can imagine how tough it is, that’s part of it.”
Larry may not have been in attendance but he would be happy to know that even during the biggest moment in his son’s career, his dad was the thing he was thinking about. Not perceived hot seats or what it meant to finally get a win in this rivalry. Just how much he wanted to be able to share the moment with his dad.
Muschamp finished up his press conference having run the gamut of emotions in just a short 20 minutes. He laughed he joked he almost cried but at the end of the day he kept the Gators’ chances alive.
Will Muschamp walked out of Ever Bank Field a winner in the Florida-Georgia rivalry for the first time ever and he’s never looked better.