Florida Football: Gators' Great Escape Shows Heart of Muschamp's Team

Neil ShulmanCorrespondent INovember 11, 2012

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 10: Coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators celebrates after a 27 - 20 victory against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns November 10, 2012 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Urban Meyer and Will Muschamp may not have a whole lot in common, but one aspect of the game they both emphasize heavily is special teams. 

That never came more in handy than on Saturday against Louisiana when Louchiez Purifoy blocked a punt with 13 seconds left, and Jelani Jenkins caught it and took it 36 yards to the promised land to give Florida its ninth win of the season. It was perhaps the second most important block in Florida history, after Jarvis Moss blocked the game-winning field goal against South Carolina in 2006. The rest of the day was pretty awful, including a special teams miscue that led to a blocked punt touchdown for Louisiana, but the special teams made amends and bailed the Gators out.

Purifoy's block ensured that the Gators didn't fall victim to perhaps the biggest upset on a day filled with them.

On a Saturday in which the No. 1, No. 9, No. 11 and No. 24 teams in the nation all got upset, the Gators remained perfect and kept hopes of a BCS Bowl berth alive. Now, all the Gators need to do is beat Jacksonville State next week, and then go on the road and knock off Florida State, and they'll be sitting at 11-1, 7-1 in the SEC, with the lone defeat at the hands of a Top Five Georgia team, and a likely BCS bid. Not bad for Will Muschamp's second year, one that had major question marks surrounding the team for the entire offseason, and most of the first three games.

At the same time, the Gators want more. The loss to Georgia hurt, but that can be fixed next year. Now, the Gators want to ensure that it turns out to be their lone defeat of the season.

In order to do that, the Gators are going to need to play four quarters. Not two, not one, not three minutes, but 60 minutes of real football—the kind of physical, smashmouth football Muschamp wants his team to play.

But on the flip side of that coin, it goes to show the heart of his team. Where last year his team would have quit down 20-13 in the fourth quarter, this year, they found a way to win. This isn't anything new. The Gators erased second-half deficits to Texas A&M, Tennessee, Louisiana State and Missouri, and came back to win them all. This team may not play pretty, but damn do they come through in the clutch (except of course against Georgia).

It's almost like having 22 Tim Tebows on your starting lineup. Obviously, they all do different things, but the Tebow mentality of "win no matter what" has worked wonders for both Tebow and the Gators. It doesn't matter how poor or downright awful they play, winning is all that matters. I honestly thought Florida was dead yesterday, but that's what I get for doubting them. I also thought Tebow was dead against the Bears last year, and I was wrong that time too.

That's really all there is to it. The Gators win games. It's that simple. And this is a great sign for future years, because of the playoff. With four teams being selected to compete for the championship, the committee is going to really like Florida. With this exact resume, Florida is almost a lock for a four-team playoff. There aren't going to be three unbeaten teams every year. 11-1, even 10-2 in the SEC, will more often than not get the Gators in the top four. 

And with Will Muschamp at the helm, I expect this to be the typical Florida season—one or two losses, sometimes three and unbeaten every once in awhile. This should get Florida into the playoffs more often than not, and with the heart and refusal to lose that I've seen all season—especially yesterday—I can't imagine Florida not winning championships under Muschamp.

If only we could beat Georgia.

But forget about the future, because Florida still has two more regular-season games to play. The Gators have to forget about trying to establish the passing game. It's too late now, and besides, if they couldn't do it against the third-worst defense in college football, they can't do it against FSU, and they can't establish it in just one game against FCS opponent Jacksonville State. But I'm not even sure they could throw it against JSU if they wanted to.

The Gators need to keep relying on the stifling defense, clutch special teams and a heavy dose of Mike Gillislee. Without Driskel, Gillislee is our best weapon. The Gators don't have the pieces for a championship team, but they do have the pieces for a BCS team, so they Gators just need to ride it for the duration of the season, and then get some help in recruiting for future years' success.

But in all honesty, did anybody see this type of season coming in Muschamp's second year?