Before his signature blue polo had even dried from the ceremonial Gatorade shower, Will Muschamp had moved on.
Players were still passing out “Gator Bowl Champions” hats and celebrating with their Lombardi-esque trophy when Muschamp, speaking to the roughly 10,000 fans lingering in the stands, didn’t fully buy into the revelry.
Addressing those who had only recently paused chants of, “It’s great… to be… a Florida Gator,” Muschamp could’ve rode the wave. It was the perfect platform to praise his senior class and talk about how great UF’s win was.
Instead, he said 7-6 is “unacceptable,” promised improvement and asked for patience. He later elaborated on those comments.
“The realization of this whole thing, if you want to see big pictures, in the last two years of the University of Florida we’re 15-11,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes I think you’ve got to put your realistic glasses on where you are as a program right at this point. It’s not where we’re going to be very long. I can assure you of that.”
Like everyone else in the program, Muschamp seems to want to move forward and wash his hands of this disappointing season.
The sooner Gators fans can forget 2011 and get back to winning, the better.
But, in flushing away this season, Muschamp and the fans are also tossing out memories of this senior class.
The fact of the matter is John Brantley, Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps, Jaye Howard and the rest really don’t have a place in Florida history.
Each of the last five years will be remembered for entirely different reasons. From 2007 to 2009, it was Tebow time. Then 2010 was the year Urban Meyer retired, and 2011 was when Muschamp laid the foundation for whatever his era eventually becomes. No Rainey. No Demps. No Howard. Not even Brantley.
Rainey said he thinks the senior class will be remembered for this game — for going out with a win. Howard felt the same way, adding that at least the 2011 Gators won’t be known as the first team since 1979 to finish with a losing record.
“We don’t want to be remembered as a team that lost,” Howard said. “It was a big game for us – not only for the seniors, but the program as a whole.”
It’s fair for Howard and Rainey to hope that, but people won’t remember this game past next season, if that far. Florida sold just 8,000 of the 15,000 tickets it was allotted, and it’s hard to call this a particularly memorable game. Neither offense reached 300 yards but neither defense was truly dominant, and the Gators won because of two big plays on special teams.
So what was Monday’s win? Many Gators hope it was a stepping stone. Matt Elam, Ronald Powell and Sharrif Floyd, among others, said the victory was a good way to build momentum going into the offseason.
“We’re not building a team, we’re building a program,” Muschamp said. “That takes a foundation to start.”
And that’s just what Brantley and Co. will go down as: a foundation. Buried and forgotten under the next era of Gators football.
Contact Greg Luca at [email protected].