The Florida Gators opened up the 2013 season at #10 in the polls and many were giving them a shot to make another National Championship run after coming so close last season. Three months later, the Gators found themselves at 4-8 and on the bad end of a seven game losing streak. 2013 will be regarded as one of the worst Gator football seasons to date. Head Coach Will Muschamp is on a seat that is hotter than ever, but athletic director Jeremy Foley is giving him one more season to fix things. So how exactly did we get here? Well for starters, the Gators were averaging more injured players a week than any other team in the nation. By the end of the year, the Gators were fielding a team that consisted of freshmen and walk ons. This injury bug is the only reason that Muschamp is still around and many Gator fans are hoping it is why the 2013 season went as bad as it did.
Now, it is time to take a look back at every Gator football game this season:
Toledo: The Gators welcomed in the 2013 season with a home opener against the Toledo Rockets. In a rather unconvincing manner, the Gators only won the game 24-6. I was not convinced by junior quarterback Jeff Driskel's play, and did not think he should be the one under center for the Gators. I learned from this game that the offense had some kinks to work out, but the defense was in top form. The Gators would drop to #12 in the polls after this game.
at Miami: The Gators went back down to Miami for the first time since the 2003 miracle comeback by the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes pulled the upset and defeated the Gators by a score of 21-16. Jeff Driskel and the offense played horrendously. The loss was upsetting but winning the SEC was still a very tangible goal at this point. The Gators would drop to #18 in the polls after this game, and everybody in the country began to believe that Miami was a better team than it actually was.
Tennessee: After a bye week, the Gators extended their winning streak against Tennessee to nine games with a 31-17 victory. Jeff Driskel suffered a broken tibia in the game and his backup, redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, took over for him and shined in the limelight. Driskel would be sidelined for the year and many Gator fans were excited to see how the team would fare with Murphy at the helm. Even though they won, the Gators dropped to #20 in the polls after this game.
at Kentucky: The Gators went on the road against Kentucky and defeated the Wildcats 24-7, extending the Florida winning streak against them to 27 games. Tyler Murphy played well and the defense shut down Kentucky all night. The Gators moved up to #18 in the polls following this game.
Arkansas: On my birthday, the Gators took care of business against Arkansas as they defeated the Razorbacks 30-10 to improve their winning streak to three games. It was the first night game at The Swamp in 10 games and the crowd was rocking in this very electric environment. The Gators moved up to #17 in the polls after this game. It was also their last win of the 2013 season.
at LSU: The Gators could not muster any type of offense against the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge and they lost 17-6. The SEC was still in reach though, but the Gators had to get the offense going soon. The Gators dropped to #22 in the polls after this game.
at Missouri: The Gators were doomed from the get go as safety Cody Riggs was tossed after the first play because of a targeting penalty. Missouri was in control the entire game and won 36-17. The Gators dropped out of the polls after this loss and would remain there for the rest of the season.
Georgia: After their second bye week of the year, the Gators looked liked they were going to get whipped by the Bulldogs when they went down 23-3 at the half. However, they came storming back and cut the lead to within three before the Gator offensive woes kicked back in. After what looked like a defensive stop late in the fourth quarter that would give the ball back to the Gator offense for one last drive, a dumb defensive penalty gave Georgia a first down and sealed a 23-20 victory for the Bulldogs. Talk began to spring up about Muschamp's job status as the coach fell to 0-3 against Georgia. With this loss, the Gators kissed their SEC hopes goodbye.
Vanderbilt: In a Homecoming game that saw many empty seats in The Swamp, the Vanderbilt Commodores finally ended their losing streak against the Gators when they won 34-17. This was Vandy's first win in Gainesville since the end of World War II and I am still having a hard time letting that fact sink in. After this embarrassing loss, many calls began to arise for the firing of Muschamp and Jeremy Foley responded with his infamous "I support Muschamp 1000%" statement.
at South Carolina: Tyler Murphy did not play this game due to a shoulder injury, and now the Gators were down to redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg. The Gators ran a very unconventional offense that revolved around Mornhinweg not having to throw the ball. This game plan worked for three quarters against the #10 Gamecocks, especially since the Gators were leading for most of the game. When the #10 Gamecocks took a 19-14 lead late in the game however, the Gators had no choice but to throw the ball and Mornhinweg threw an interception to seal the Gators' fate and a sixth straight loss. After this game, a sign appeared on Bull Gator that said, "Fire Muschamp, Fire Pease."
Georgia Southern: This was supposed to be a tuneup game before the big matchup with Florida State the following week. This game was was supposed to make everyone feel a little better about themselves. The University of Florida had to pay the Eagles half a million dollars to come down and get smacked around for four quarters. But the Eagles did not get the memo and gashed a depleted Gator defense for 400 rushing yards. They beat the Gators 26-20 WITHOUT COMPLETING A SINGLE PASS! This was by far the worst loss in Gator history and I was happy that I was not in The Swamp to see it live. After this game, tons of Muschamp hate began to circulate on social media as the Gators were officially eliminated from bowl contention this year. The last time the Gators had not played in a bowl game was 1990. The Florida Gators had hit rock bottom.
Florida State: It was one of the most overmatched UF/FSU games in recent memory as the #2 Seminoles, led by future Heisman winner Jameis Winston, came into Gainesville as 27 point favorites. The Gators surprised everyone by sticking with the Seminoles for a quarter and a half, then the flood gates opened. Winston returned to Heisman form and torched the Gators as he led the Seminoles to an easy 37-7 victory. I was just happy to see the Gators score, and I was impressed and proud of how hard this undermanned team fought in a game it had no chance of winning.
And now the stat leaders:
Passing Yards: Tyler Murphy (1,216) (Junior)
Passing Touchdowns: Tyler Murphy (6) (Junior)
Rushing Yards: Mack Brown (543) (Junior)
Rushing Touchdowns: Mack Brown/Kelvin Taylor (4) (Junior/Freshman)
Receiving Yards: Solomon Patton (556) (Senior)
Receiving Touchdowns: Solomon Patton (6) (Senior)
Tackles: Michael Taylor (62) (Junior)
Tackles For Loss: Dante Fowler Jr. (10.5) (Sophomore)
Sacks: Ronald Powell (4) (Junior)
Interceptions: Vernon Hargreaves III (3) (Freshman)
Fumbles Forced: Dante Fowler Jr. (3) (Sophomore)
Fumbles Recovered: Michael Taylor (3) (Junior)
Field Goals Made: Francisco Velez (6) (Junior)
Longest Field Goal: Francisco Velez (44 yards) (Junior)
PAT's: Austin Hardin (15) (Freshman)
Kickoff Return Touchdowns: Solomon Patton (1) (Senior)
Overall, it was a season that many Gator fans want to forget as soon as possible. Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease was let go following the end of the season. Watching his slow, run-oriented offense was just one of many low points this year. Going into next year, hopefully the Gators can stay healthier as players were hurting themselves left and right.
I have been in both camps in regards to Muschamp's status as head coach and I would have to say at this point that I am on the fence about him. He did lead the Gators to a Sugar Bowl last season and this year was ridiculous with the amount of injuries that his players suffered.
I think the future looks bright for the Gators in 2014, but we will have to wait and see. There was some questionable coaching decisions throughout the course of this year, and I will be interested to see if these first quarter two point conversions and quarterback punts will continue next year.
*Stats accredited to Gatorzone.com