Loss could have Florida pondering Muschamp’s fate
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida coach Will Muschamp trudged across the field and into the locker room amid a scattering of boos Saturday night.
There were still a couple “Fire Muschamp” chants in the distance, too.
Those could become reality soon, maybe in the next few days.
Marcus Murphy scored three touchdowns, including two on special teams, and Missouri embarrassed Florida 42-13.
The Tigers (5-2, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) scored on a kickoff return, a punt return, a fumble return and an interception return. They managed just seven first downs and 119 yards, including 20 passing, but won by essentially letting the Gators self-destruct in nearly every way imaginable.
And they did.
The Gators (3-3, 2-3) turned the ball over six times and lost at home for the second time in eight days, fueling speculation that Muschamp has coached his final game in Gainesville. The “Fire Muschamp” chants broke out in third quarter and could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field.
“I’m really worried about this football team right now,” Muschamp said when asked about his job security. “That’s really what I’m worried about. I’m not getting concerned about things I don’t have any control over, other than this team. I think that’s the most important thing right now.”
The Gators have dropped 12 of their last 19 games and trail the division-leading Bulldogs by two games with three remaining.
Athletic director Jeremy Foley said in September that he wouldn’t make any decisions about Muschamp’s future until after the season finale. But he also has said repeatedly over the years that if something must be done eventually, it must be done immediately.
The Gators could be 0-5 in conference play. They eked by Kentucky in triple overtime and edged Tennessee 10-9 two weeks ago. Their latest setback was their worst home loss since falling 37-7 to rival Florida State last season.
So questions surrounding Muschamp have lingered and may have reached an apex Saturday. Missouri led 20-0 at halftime despite gaining just 99 yards, and Florida looked like it had no idea how it wanted to use a two-quarterback system featuring Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris.
With a bye week on tap and Georgia up after that, few would be surprised to see Foley make the move by Monday. Then again, there doesn’t seem to be a number of strong candidates out there for the choosing.
“It’s one of those losses where you just have to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you were mentally prepared to play this game or if there was anything else you could have done to win this game,” Florida center Max Garcia said.
The Gators looked lost at times.
Murphy returned the opening kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown and added a 5-yard scoring run later in the first — after one of Florida’s six turnovers. He added an 82-yard punt return for a score early in the third.
“That was the dagger,” Muschamp said.
Driskel fumbled on Florida’s first series and threw an interception in the second quarter that led to a field goal. He also had a fumble returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Markus Golden and an interception returned 46 yards for a score by Darvin Ruise — both in Missouri’s 22-point third quarter.
“That third quarter, I wish that could happen every game,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “That was amazing.”
Harris, a freshman who played for the first time since a female student withdrew a sexual assault complaint that kept him off the field last week against LSU, fumbled on his first drive and threw an interception in the fourth.
He finished 8-of-12 passing for 98 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass to Tevin Westbrook late in the third. Harris threw the ball up for grabs to avoid a sack, and Westbrook came down with it in a crowded end zone. He also scored from 3 yards out in the final minute.
Driskel completed 7 of 19 passes for 50 yards, with two fumbles and two interceptions. He also was sacked four times. He now has 12 turnovers in the last four games.
“At the end of the day, you’re not going to win many games turning the ball over six times,” Muschamp said.