Style points aren't UF's goal

Muschamp says Gators will win ugly games -- and team must embrace it

Updated: September 12, 2012, 6:40 PM ET
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  Florida coach Will Muschamp was physically exhausted when he walked off Kyle Field following the Gators' 20-17 victory over Texas A&M last Saturday.

He was pretty whipped emotionally, too.

Nothing came easily for the Gators against the Aggies. They overcame a terrible first-half defensive performance, rallied from a 10-point deficit, then secured the Southeastern Conference victory by running the football against an eight-man front in the game's final three minutes. So it's understandable that Muschamp was drained.

He knows it won't be the last time, either. He pretty much expects it to be that way every week.

"I told the guys at the end of the game, 'We're going to have to win some games like that this year. This is kind of who we are,' " Muschamp said Monday as the No. 18-ranked Gators (2-0, 1-0 SEC) began preparations for Saturday's game at No. 23 Tennessee (2-0, 1-0). "I know nobody wants to hear that, but that's the facts of life. Sometimes you've got to put your realistic glasses on and see who you are."

What the Gators are now is a run-based, conservative, grind-it-out team. They're not the high-scoring, fling-it-around version that revolutionized the SEC in the 1990s under Steve Spurrier. Or Urban Meyer's spread-option teams that were stocked with future NFL talent such as the Pounceys, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Aaron Hernandez.

The 2012 Gators aren't pretty to watch. But nobody -- not Muschamp or the players -- cares about style points as long as they're winning games. There's no such thing as an ugly win, linebacker Jon Bostic said.

"Regardless of how you get it, a win is a win," he said. "By 40 points, a point, half a point, a win is a win."

By Florida's standards over the past two decades, though, the Gators are winning ugly. That especially true on offense, which is what most Gators fans identify with because of the success of Spurrier and Meyer.

Florida is sixth in the 14-team SEC in rushing (181.0 yards per game) but 11th in scoring (23.5 points per game), 11th in total offense (336.0 yards per game) and last in passing (155.0 yards per game). Those are Doug Dickey, 1970's-type passing numbers.

"There was Spurrier, then you went straight to Coach Meyer and Tebow and all these high-powered offenses," Bostic said. "There' hasn't been a grind-it-out type of coach here in a while. So it's kind of different than what fans are used to."

It's not going to change any time soon, either. The offense is built around running back Mike Gillislee, who is leading the SEC in rushing (231 yards) and has scored four of UF's five touchdowns. Quarterback Jeff Driskel is a sophomore who made his first career start against Texas A&M. The receivers have been disappointing for the past two-plus seasons and the player Muschamp called the Gators' most consistent receiver -- redshirt senior Frankie Hammond -- has five catches and three drops in two games.

Forget blowouts, unless the Gators are playing a radically inferior opponent. Close games decided in the fourth quarter, especially in the SEC, are going to be as much the norm as blowouts were under Spurrier.

So get your Xanax refilled, Gators fans.

"Guys, we're going to have a lot of games like this, now," Muschamp said. "That's just who we are. We're going to grind it out. We're going to win and that's what we kind of are as we continue to grow and mature through the year."

Mike DiRocco | email

ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter