The day after the announcement of Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp stepping down following this season, the emotions felt by the players in the South End Zone meeting room at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium were on display.
A team that loved their coach would no longer have him past this season — the final nail in Muschamp’s coaching coffin coming after Saturday’s loss to South Carolina. It was believed, and later expressed by Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, that if Muschamp had won the rest of the SEC games following the October 18 loss to Missouri that the head coach most likely would have kept his job.
However, Florida didn’t, allowing the Gamecocks to come from behind and win in overtime, the sixth loss at The Swamp in the last eight games.
Muschamp met with the team Sunday, which was was tough for offensive lineman Chas Green. Green said there was a sense of disbelief from the loss Saturday, given how important it may have been to the Muschamp’s future at Florida.
“It was something that we were kind of ready for given all the buzz around the program, and we knew how important it was to get that South Carolina win, that’s why it was so heartbreaking,” Green said.
Throughout the season, Muschamp was on a hot seat that seemed to get warmer with every turnover, busted assignment and blowout loss. At times during the season fans at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium were heard making calls for the head coaching’s firing, the strongest after the Missouri loss, in which the Gators were down 42-0 at halftime.
During the times when the noise outside the program was the loudest, offensive lineman Max Garcia said the team tried to stick together and persevere, staying locked into improving what was leading to losses over the season.
“I mean we’ve been hearing it all season you know that this could be Muschamp’s last year or whatever,” Garcia said. “So I mean we didn’t really think about it. We just knew that we wanted to play for him and we wanted to represent Gator Nation to its fullest.”
Florida responded with convincing wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt, the sign of what seemed to signal a turnaround for the team. However, South Carolina’s win put an end to the players’ hopes of seeing their coach around for another season.
Despite the scrutiny Muschamp faced throughout the season, Green said the coach didn’t want the team to play with the thought of keeping of keeping his job.
“I think it was something that was known. But I don’t think he wanted us to play with that pressure, which speaks to his character. He wanted us to just play with the mind-set that we are going to get better each and every week and we had the goal in mind to make it to Atlanta.”
Linebacker Mike Taylor said the news Sunday was as disappointing as the game was Saturday. Taylor said the team’s effort was there, however the way they did things could have been done differently.
“I wouldn’t say failed,” Taylor said. “I mean we failed to an extent, but I say some things just didn’t fall our way. Sometimes we tried hard in certain areas where it needed to be done in different areas. Sometimes it felt like we were doing the wrong thing with the right purpose.”