Among other things, Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp confirmed Thursday what GatorCountry.com reported Wednesday about safety De’Ante “Pop” Saunders and offensive lineman Matt Patchan transferring.
His comments on the duo were brief after the team arrived in New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl, which features Florida (11-1) against Louisville (10-2) at 8:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 2.
“I really appreciate their time at Florida, and we wish them the best,” Muschamp said during his opening comments.
When pressed to elaborate, Muschamp kept his reply simple.
“I think both guys just needed a fresh start given their situations,” he said.
Florida senior linebacker Jon Bostic commented specifically on Saunders, a sophomore safety who had missed time for violations of team rules and injuries.
“He’s one of our brothers and it’s tough to see him leave the program,” Bostic said. “Though at the same time, this might be what’s best for him personally.”
Drive to a Dozen
Muschamp said winning the Sugar Bowl was “critical” for the continuing progress of the Florida program. He spoke about becoming the sixth team in UF history to win 12 games, finishing among the top 3-5 teams in the nation and sending seniors out on a positive note.
The latter obviously is important to Muschamp — he mentioned it twice during his nine-minute news conference.
“This is a one-game season,” Muschamp said. “We haven’t played in a long time but there’s a lot of motivation to play well in this game since it’s a BCS game. We have a special team, and they deserve a special night. We want to send them out the right way and that can only be done with a win.”
Driskel spoke about the team rallying together in the offseason after finishing 7-6 a year ago. A win in the Gator Bowl was all that prevented the Gators from having their first losing season since 1979.
“We didn’t have a season that Florida expects year in and year out, so we kind of took that to heart in the offseason,” Driskel said. “We trained hard, we practiced hard and we really came together. It’s kind of cool to see all the hard work in the offseason pay off during the season.”
With mostly Louisiana media at the airport to greet the team, one reporter looked for a local angle when he asked if the LSU game, a 14-6 home win by UF, served as a turning point in the season.
But Driskel wasn’t giving the reporter much fodder for that story.
“I think Texas A&M on the road was really the key game that got us going,” Driskel said, referring to his team’s 20-18 comeback victory in College Station, Texas. “That’s a big game early in the year on the road. I think more of the Texas A&M game got us going and has carried us this far.”