Florida tries to end slump against USC, Muschamp

The Bradenton Herald - - College Football - BY MARK LONG

Fac­ing former Florida coach Will Muschamp is the least of Dan Mullen’s con­cerns th­ese days.

Mullen and the 19thranked Ga­tors have a two-game los­ing streak in which no­body played well, chaos at quar­ter­back, ru­mors of a locker room scuf­fle and spec­u­la­tion that a few up­per­class­men are con­sid­er­ing shut­ting it down in prepa­ra­tion for the NFL draft.

As for Muschamp’s re­turn to Gainesville?

“I guess that’s big, right?” Mullen said.

Not re­ally for Florida any­more. Muschamp and his Game­cocks (5-3, 4-3 SEC) can only pile on Satur­day af­ter all that’s hap­pened to the Ga­tors (6-3, 4-3, No. 15 CFP) lately.

Florida has dropped two straight by a com­bined 40 points, in­clud­ing a 38-17 home­com­ing de­ba­cle against Mis­souri last week. Feleipe Franks was booed and benched in the Swamp, prompt­ing Mullen to open up the quar­ter­back job.

But backup Kyle Trask broke a foot prac­tic­ing a trick play Wed­nes­day and is out for the sea­son, leav­ing Franks to re­claim the start­ing job against South Carolina.

If that wasn’t enough to deal with, there were re­ports that Franks got into an al­ter­ca­tion with team­mates in the locker room af­ter the loss to the Tigers and then whis­pers that some play­ers, in­clud­ing highly touted ju­nior de­fen­sive end Jachai Po­lite, is con­sid­er­ing turn­ing his at­ten­tion to­ward get­ting ready for the draft.

“You got to play for so much more,” said tight end R.J. Ray­mond, who de­liv­ered a pas­sion­ate speech to team­mates af­ter the lat­est loss. “You got to play for your­self. You got to play to win the game. You got to play for ev­ery­body else that’s been on this team be­fore. And that’s re­ally just kind of the mes­sage I gave and that you got to play for pride.

“If you don’t want to go out there and win the game, I don’t re­ally know what is wrong with you.”

South Carolina has won three of its last four games, all of them de­cided by four points or less.

The Game­cocks erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quar­ter at Mis­sis­sippi to win con­sec­u­tive games for the first time in 2018. If they make it three in a row Satur­day, it would give Muschamp a se­cond straight vic­tory against his former team.

“I’ve got noth­ing but great mem­o­ries of Florida,” said Muschamp, who grew up in Gainesville and coached Florida for four sea­sons (2011-14). “Ob­vi­ously, you don’t win enough games, they fire you. That’s part of our pro­fes­sion. There are no hard feel­ings. That’s just the way things go in that sit­u­a­tion. I’ve got a great op­por­tu­nity at South Carolina. I’m glad I’m a Game­cock.”

There are six cur­rent Florida holdovers from Muschamp’s ten­ure. De­fen­sive tackle Khairi Clark, of­fen­sive line­man Kavaris Hark­less, tight end C’yon­tai Lewis, kicker Jorge Powell, tight end R.J. Ray­mond and tight end Mo­ral Stephens all signed with the Ga­tors be­fore Muschamp’s fi­nal sea­son in 2014.

South Carolina has sev­eral other coaches who also worked at Florida, in­clud­ing lineback­ers coach Mike Peter­son and de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Travaris Robin­son.

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