Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp faces Nick Saban, who gave him his first break

GAINESVILLE — Saturday marked the first coaching matchup between Florida's Will Muschamp and Alabama's Nick Saban.

Saban hired Muschamp as his linebackers coach at LSU in 2001 after Saban was introduced to Muschamp by current Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher.

The Tigers were practicing for the Sugar Bowl, and Muschamp had been working as the defensive coordinator at Valdosta State.

"I probably wouldn't be standing here today if it weren't for the opportunity he gave me at LSU to be a position coach and then the coordinator," Muschamp said last week.

"He does a great job of managing his program top to bottom, from recruiting, his philosophy, offense, defense, special teams. And I have great respect for that."

Muschamp served as LSU's defensive coordinator from 2002-04 before following Saban to the NFL's Dolphins.

"Will just was a real good person, real genuine, and you could tell he was hardworking and has a special intensity about him in terms of what he wanted to do and a passion for football and how important it was to him," Saban said of their first meeting. "And that first impression really held true."

Saunders missing: Florida S De'Ante Saunders was suspended for the game for violating unspecified team rules.

Saunders started the first four games.

Muschamp said Saunders will return this week.

First-play fireworks: John Brantley's 65-yard touchdown pass to WR Andre Debose on the opening offensive play was the longest gain from scrimmage allowed by Alabama's defense this season.

The previous high was a 39-yard pass by Arkansas' Tyler Wilson last week.

The catch was also Debose's first touchdown of the season.

Early offense: When Caleb Sturgis connected on a 21-yard field goal to give the Gators a 10-3 lead, it ended a streak of nine games in which Alabama had allowed opponents to score no more than seven points in the first half.

The Tide had given up just 10 first-half points all season.

Pick six: Saturday marked the second straight season Brantley had a pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown against Alabama.

Last season, C.J. Mosley (injured for this season's game) intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

On Saturday, Courtney Upshaw intercepted Brantley's pass intended for Trey Burton and returned it 45 yards to give the Tide a 17-10 lead.

five honored: Former Gators WR Carlos Alvarez was honored by Florida and the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame during the first quarter Saturday. Alvarez was selected as a first-ballot inductee.

Former UF basketball players Mike Miller, Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Lee Humphrey were honored during the second quarter.

Noah, Horford and Humphrey were part of the 2006 and 2007 national championship teams.

Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp faces Nick Saban, who gave him his first break 10/01/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 2, 2011 1:40am]

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