Ga­tors des­per­ate to end skid at 2 games

Mullen: Muschamp, Game­cocks present ‘a huge chal­lenge’

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEEKEND - By Edgar Thomp­son

GAINESVILLE — The Florida Ga­tors were in their seats five min­utes early for Mon­day’s team meet­ing.

But a pos­i­tive sign for coach Dan Mullen af­ter his team’s worst show­ing on his watch will mean noth­ing un­less the No. 15 Ga­tors show up at noon Satur­day against South Carolina.

Mullen’s team sud­denly is in dis­ar­ray and run­ning out of things to play for this sea­son just two weeks af­ter the SEC East ti­tle was in Florida’s sights.

Quar­ter­back con­fu­sion, rum­blings that some key un­der­class­men are eye­ing the NFL and one-sided losses to Ge­or­gia and Mis­souri leave the Ga­tors (6-3, 4-3) scram­bling as for­mer UF coach Will Muschamp and the surg­ing Game­cocks (5-3, 4-3) come to town.

“Go­ing to be a huge chal­lenge for our guys,” Mullen said. “We ob­vi­ously have a lot of our things we have to im­prove on.”

Mullen’s squad looks to avoid a three-game skid and third loss this sea­son in the Swamp, where Mullen lost just twice in 27 games dur­ing his four-year stint as the Ga­tors’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor (2005-08).

Muschamp was fired in 2014 largely be­cause of his strug­gles on Florida’s fa­mous home field, los­ing six of his fi­nal eight home games as Ga­tors coach.

A win by Muschamp Satur­day in his sec­ond visit with South Carolina would be a bad look for Mullen as he tries to re­build the UF pro­gram and re-en­er­gize the fan base.

With so much on his mind, though, the 46-year-old has given lit­tle thought to a Mullen-Muschamp show­down.

“I guess that’s big, right?” Mullen said. “I haven’t thought about it in terms of that that much, to be hon­est with you. I’ve thought more of it in terms of I want to win the game be­cause I want to win the game.”

Mullen’s Ga­tors need a win or risk a late-sea­son swoon that would un­der­mine a promis­ing 6-1 start.

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