Sunday, February 18, 2018
Colleges

Is Florida Gators football coach Will Muschamp making the move from hot seat to ejection seat?

This was absolutely Zookian in nature.

Actually, this was worse than any loss Ron Zook ever endured.

Much, much worse.

It was homecoming, but it may well have been a coach going.

Can Florida Gators coach Will Muschamp survive getting hammered in a bumbling, stumbling 34-17 loss to Vanderbilt — the first defeat to the Commodores in 22 years? Can he survive what is almost sure to be the Gators' first losing season in 34 years? Can he survive what will be a massive home beat-down from powerhouse Florida State to end the most miserable season in the modern history of the program he grew up idolizing?

But there was some good news: Vandy just saved the Gators a trip to Shreveport.

I have written that Muschamp, who won 11 games last year, should get another year to try to get his program back on track, but losing to Vandy might well have turned his coaching hot seat into an electric chair. To save his own job, Muschamp needs to fire offensive coordinator Brent Pease by the time he holds his weekly news conference today.

"I'm a lot harder on myself than y'all or anyone else in Gator Nation is going to be," Muschamp said when questioned about his job security and fan unrest. "I need to do to be better, and I don't need to hear any fan from the outside telling me what we need to do with this football team. I can assure you of that. … I'm a competitor. I don't like losing. I certainly don't like the product we are putting on the field, and that's my responsibility.

"I'm not asking for anybody to be happy. I'm not asking anybody to give us a pass. This is the real deal. This is the University of Florida. I'll guarantee you my expectation is as high or higher than anyone sitting in those stands."

Painted on the wall behind in the team meeting room where Muschamp spoke was the motivational message: "Create An Edge. Be The Edge."

On Saturday, the Gators fell off the edge.

And Gator fans are ready to jump off the ledge.

Muschamp better quickly do something to appease the fractured fan base. If he survives, he should go hire former UF quarterback Kerwin Bell — the passing-game guru and head coach at Jacksonville University — to be his offensive coordinator. Bell has the nation's No. 9-ranked FCS offense — and he's at a non-scholarship program.

This year, Florida's offense is ranked 110th in the country. Injuries or no injuries, that's inexcusable. Committing four turnovers and scoring only two touchdowns on Vanderbilt's pitiful defense is equally unacceptable.

Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley has said Muschamp's job is safe, but that was a couple of weeks ago. That was before the Gators lost to Vanderbilt at home for the first time since 1945.

When Steve Spurrier coached the Gators, the offense was called the Fun 'N Gun. Now it's called, The Fun Is Done. Spurrier named the Swamp, and Vanderbilt drained it. On Homecomin.

Or should we say Home Leaving?

Fans were booing and leaving the stadium at the outset of the fourth quarter with Vandy leading 31-10. This Gator offense has it backward. It is supposed to take the road crowd out of the game; not the home crowd.

After losing to Georgia last week, Muschamp got into a verbal altercation with a UF fan as he left the field. After losing to Vandy, he said fans have a right to say whatever they want.

And are they ever.

Said Chris Andres, a Gator fan from Deltona as he filed out of the stadium Saturday:

"When I get home, I'm going to start up a website — BringBackZook.com."

— Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel

'NOLES CONTROL THEIR DESTINY

No. 2 Florida State knows its offense can score.

Turns out the defense and special teams can, too.

Points are coming from everywhere for the Seminoles these days, and that's a big reason why they've sewed up a spot in one championship game and kept themselves on track to reach the much bigger one.

"I really hope that we just keep doing what we're doing," quarterback Jameis Winston said, "because the way that we're playing right now, we're playing like a championship team."

It's tough to argue otherwise.

The Seminoles (9-0, 7-0) took care of the formality of clinching a berth in the ACC title game, scoring three non-offensive touchdowns in a 59-3 rout of mistake-prone Wake Forest on Saturday.

In the process, they moved up to a spot in the AP Top 25 and kept themselves in line to play for the BCS championship.

The league title game berth prompted "a little excitement in the locker room," defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. said, "but our goals are much higher than that."

Taken together, it became even clearer that these Seminoles have all the pieces necessary to contend for a championship.

"I don't think there's any question, from my standpoint, in 13 years, this is the best (team) we've faced," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.

It would be easy for the Seminoles to start mentally packing their bags for Southern California and the BCS title game. They've scored at least 41 points in every game. Only Boston College has kept it within two touchdowns or scored more than 17 points against them.

And none of Florida State's three remaining regular-season opponents — Syracuse, Idaho and Florida — began the weekend with a winning record.

And before the Seminoles settled in Winston-Salem for this game, they knew they had control of their BCS fortunes after Oregon, then-No. 2 in the AP poll, lost Thursday night.

They didn't show any signs of a letdown against the Demon Deacons (4-6, 2-5), and now the challenge is to bring that same level of focus the rest of the way.

The loss by the Ducks "was talked about a little bit," Edwards said. "But (coach Jimbo Fisher) just said, 'That's part of the clutter.' We have to get rid of that."

And all of a sudden, their path to Pasadena has a lot less clutter, too.

— Associated Press

HEISMAN WATCH

FSU's Jameis Winston had a quiet day while Florida State was putting up another blowout, throwing for 159 yards and two touchdown passes as No. 3 Florida State pounded Wake Forest 59-3. He also threw an interception

Johnny Manziel's 446 yards passing and five TDs helped 11th-ranked Texas A&M to a 51-41 victory at home against Mississippi State. Manziel is trying for his second consecutive Heisman and Winston is trying to become the second straight redshirt freshman to win the award.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota seemed to be the frontrunner for the Heisman, but he had an off night as Stanford beat the Ducks on Thursday.

— Associated Press

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