Florida coach Will Muschamp knows the Gators let a golden opportunity get away Saturday night, holding a lead over South Carolina until the Gamecocks rallied in the fourth quarter for a 19-14 win.
"We needed to get that win there, and that was very frustrating," Muschamp said Monday.
The desperate need for the win wasn't just about ending a four-game losing streak. With a victory, the Gators would have needed just one more win to become bowl eligible. Instead, Florida needs to win its final two, including the season finale against undefeated No. 2 Florida State, to have any shot at a bowl.
It's not the holiday trip Muschamp will miss. Coaches believe bowl practices are an important springboard into the next season because of the extra practice time leading up to the bowl. The later the bowl date, the more practices teams can have.
"I think the extra practices are critical," Muschamp said.
Muschamp has often said that the extra practice time leading into the 2012 Gator Bowl was when then-freshman CB Loucheiz Purifoy emerged.
"It's a great time for the young players to continue to develop in the program and practice the game of football," he said. "It's a developmental game. You can get a lot out of the weight room, you can get a lot out of running and all that good stuff, but you've got to play the game. And the number of snaps and reps you get in situations is critical."
It's likely Muschamp won't have the opportunity to develop new players this season.
MURPHY UNCERTAIN: It's unclear who will start at quarterback for the Gators on Saturday. Muschamp said they're preparing as if redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg will start, and if they get injured Tyler Murphy back, that'll be a bonus. Murphy, who took over for injured starter Jeff Driskel in September, missed the South Carolina game with a re-aggravated AC sprain in his throwing shoulder. Muschamp said Murphy would not practice Monday.
"I'm still kind day to day, just kind of going with the flow," Murphy said. "Still getting treatment, stuff like that. I'm hoping to get back out there, if not (Monday) then sometime for later on this week. You know, I'm still day to day, and I'm still trying to get as healthy as possible and get back out there."
SEMINOLES AT NOON: The Florida-Florida State game on Nov. 30 will kick off at noon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN2.
A CLARIFICATION … SORT OF: After the loss to South Carolina, Muschamp defended his players, saying they don't deserve the negative criticism they're facing and saying some Florida fans need to "get a grip." On Monday, Muschamp reiterated that he was talking about a select few. "We have great fans here," he said. "It's a small percentage. It's just frustrating for me. Anybody that knows me, I care about the kids. It's just frustrating for me. I'm fine with it (public criticism). That's part of the profession. But for our kids, it's frustrating. They're working extremely hard, and that's who I hurt for. We have great fans. I mean, I'm talking to a small percentage of our fans."
DID YOU KNOW? When it plays Florida on Saturday, Georgia Southern will be playing its final game as a Division II school. The program will move to Division 1 in 2014 and join the Sun Belt Conference.
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TBTimes_Gators.