Florida Gators overcome the adversity on the field, again

SEC coaches risk fines for publicly complaining about officiating.

They have to get creative with their words to avoid those fines and official reprimands.

Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp famously exclaimed how his team must “Overcome the adversity on the field!” during a halftime radio interview. His comments came after he was arguing with officials on his way off of the field at halftime of a 44-11 win against South Carolina. Of course, savvy video/audio work resulted in his rant making it to Youtube.

Muschamp didn’t utter a word publicly about the officials who called Saturday’s game at Doak Campbell Stadium, but his team certainly overcame adversity en route to a 37-26 victory against the Florida State Seminoles.

As it turns out, Florida has been overcoming adversity at Florida State for years. Interestingly enough, it’s been 14 years since the Seminoles were whistled for more penalties than the Gators on their home turf. That’s something that may be worth examining more closely by both leagues.

Most importantly, Saturday’s win sealed up a BCS bowl bid for the No. 4 Gators, which finish the regular season 11-1.

“I think that was a culmination of our football season, very fitting fashion,” Muschamp said after Saturday’s win, which snapped FSU’s two-game winning streak in the series.

Saturday’s Tallahassee trip was for a non-conference game, so the officiating crew was pulled from a pool of the home team’s conference officials. The ACC crew called 12 penalties on Florida as compared to three on the Seminoles.

The first 10 penalties were whistled on Florida. Well, actually 11 as the first one — an offensive pass interference on receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. for pushing off — was declined by the Seminoles.

In order not to risk a fine, this was as close as Muschamp came to commenting on the officiating by using his code word “overcome” as he did on his halftime sound off.

“Way too many penalties again,” Muschamp said. “But again we seem to make it interesting and overcome ‘em. Very proud of how we played the game.”

After only one penalty by either team was accepted during the first 27 minutes of the game, yellow flags began flying all over the field. Of course, none were called on Florida State until the 3:04 mark of the third quarter.

Apparently, the Seminoles played flawless fundamental football for nearly 42 minutes of the game.

“The mental toughness that we played with — I think that’s something when I first came to Florida that was a little bit of a question mark,” Muschamp said.

To compare, Florida committed four penalties as compared to nine for Florida State during the Seminoles’ 21-7 win with an SEC crew calling the game on Florida Field a year ago. During a 31-7 FSU win in 2011, an ACC crew called 11 penalties on Florida and just five on Florida State on Bobby Bowden Field.

The last time the home team had more penalties than the visiting team was during the Gators’ 37-10 win in 2009, which capped off a 12-0 regular season. Florida overcame 12 penalties as compared to five on Florida State to win at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Moreover, the last time Florida was called for more penalties than Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium was in 1998. Florida had six penalties while Florida State had a whopping 16. The Seminoles used a touchdown pass and reception by Peter Warrick to rally from a halftime deficit for a 23-12 win that season.

Since then, there was one game in Tallahassee where both teams had the same amount of penalties. That came in 2002 when each team had nine penalties accepted.

In Gainesville, Florida the penalties have at least appeared to be more balanced, although Florida has been called for more penalties in four of the last seven games at Florida Field. In 2007, the Gators had 11 while the Seminoles had 3. In 2005, both teams had seven. In 2003, it was six for Florida and five for Florida State. In 2001, both teams had five. In 1999, Florida had 15 as compared to nine for Florida State.

Whether favoritism actually exists is debatable, but the number of penalties called on Florida when it plays at Florida State is intriguing.

Of course, this is not the first time a similar issue has come up after a non-conference game.

In 2006, the Pac-10 suspended the crew that worked Oklahoma’s game at Oregon. A questionable ruling on an on-side kick and pass interference penalty in the final 1:12 helped the Ducks rally for a 34-33 win. Reportedly, the replay official received a death threat and Sooners coach Bob Stoops threatened to yank his team’s contract to play at Washington in 2008 if the Pac-10 did not change its rules of allowing Pac-10 officials to call non-conference games at Pac-10 venues.

Oklahoma still honored its contract and made the trip to Pac-10 country even though a Pac-10 crew called the game. Oklahoma and Sam Bradford hammered Washington and Jake Locker 55-14 despite 11 penalties being called on the Sooners and only three on the Huskies.

The solution would be using neutral officiating crews that have no ties to either conference. Another may be using “split crews,” but the NCAA did away with that with in 1990. Before the rule change, the home team provided four of the seven official calling the game while the other three were from the visiting team.

Regardless, the Gators overcame the adversity on Bobby Bowden Field on Saturday to record the fifth 11-win season in the school’s history.

They’ll find out their destination during the BCS Selection Show next Sunday. If Alabama beats Georgia in Saturday’s SEC Championship game, the Gators likely are headed to the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans.

Muschamp credited his coaching staff and his players with turning the program around. The Gators finished the regular season 6-6 a year ago.

“The last time we were in this stadium it was a 31-7 (loss), and it wasn’t tonight,” Muschamp said. “That team showed you their resolve and their toughness and their oneness and their togetherness. And I’m very proud to be a part of them.”

He’s especially proud because they were able to overcome the adversity on the field — again.

Florida’s next meeting against Florida State is scheduled for Nov. 30, 2013, with an SEC crew calling the action on Florida Field.

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Mike Capshaw brings a wealth of experience to the Gator Country team. He’s been overseeing all editorial aspects of GatorCountry.com and Gator Country magazine by managing our team of staffers, interns and freelancers. He is now moving into a bigger role as a reporter by covering the football and basketball beats as well as providing coverage of all sports on campus. Mike’s 15 years in the business has included more than six years of covering SEC sports and recruiting at a daily newspaper in Arkansas. He has also helped launch a newspaper, magazines, websites and even a sports talk radio show. Because Mike puts family ahead of his career, he left the place where he was established when his wife received an opportunity to further her career at UF. He took a leap of faith that he could find a job in the Gainesville area and worked for a year at a newspaper group before joining the Gator Country family in November, 2011. Mike has won Florida Press Association awards for Best Sports Game Story and Best Sports Feature Story in the past two years as well as a company-wide award at his former newspaper group that includes some 60 publications, for Excellence in Sports Reporting. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeCapshawGC.